Read and Review: The Eyre Affair

Read and Review: The Eyre Affair
  • Title: The Eyre Affair
  • Author: Jasper Fforde
  • Published: 2001

The Eyre Affair draws on a mix of genres, such as humour thriller, sci-fi, detective and fantasy. It tells the story of Thursday Next, a literary detective in an alternative 1985, where everyone is obsessed with literature. The real world and the “book world” overlap, quite literally bringing citizens’ favourite book characters to life, which is all fun and games… until Jane Eyre is kidnapped.

My favourite aspect of The Eyre Affair was its witty references to “pop” literature, such as the Dickens’ books – this reminded me of Dickensian, the BBC drama set within the fictional world of Dickens – or the Shakespeare/Marlowe conspiracy theory. At times, these references seemed a little heavy-handed, but I think this excess paid off, adding to the charm of the alternative reality.

I also appreciated how Thursday’s own narrative, in some ways, mirrored the narrative of Jane Eyre. This was a clever and well-executed idea, and I enjoyed the allusion to how Thursday’s intervention and “reconstruction” of Jane Eyre resulted in the Bronte story we know and love today.

Yet despite its title, The Eyre Affair took longer than expected to focus on its main plot, the Jane Eyre kidnapping.

A lot of time was spent building the world with at times clunky or (dare I say it) cheesy sci-fi abstract descriptions, and introducing characters who, to me, held no significant role in the narrative. Although world-building is a significant part of any series, I prefer books where this description and scene-setting is done more subtly, rather than a heavy exposition.

However, the time spent in The Eyre Affair background and character descriptions may reduce the level of exposition needed further down the line, and these characters may well be more significant in future books in the Thursday Next series, so I can’t complain too much.

Overall, despite my criticisms, I really enjoyed The Eyre Affair. Although he “relies” on existing texts and authors (to an extent) to construct his own story, he blends his own ideas and style with existing characters and texts well, and it was a fun, light-hearted read.

I’d love to read the rest of the Thursday Next series, as well as more books by Jasper Fforde, an author previously unknown to me.

– Judith

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

[BONUS Read and Review] 12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #7: A Christmas Carol

Welcome to 12 Days of Blogmas Day 7! Today I’ve written another Christmas-themed book review.

  • Title: A Christmas Carol
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Published: 1843

A Christmas Carol is, I think, well-deserving of its fame as a Christmas classic. In case you’re not familiar with the story (although I wonder how is this is possible), A Christmas Carol is about one particularly mean old man, Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is notorious for hating all things associated with Christmas, until, one December, the influence of four ghosts initiates a drastic character transformation in him.

Last year, Chris Priestley wrote ‘A Christmas Carol is more than just a story. It is a tirade against greed, selfishness and neglect. It uses the story of a rich man – the startlingly nasty Scrooge – to highlight the plight of those affected by the greed and meanness he exemplifies.’*

*Chris Priestley, Ignorance and Want: why Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is as relevant today as ever (Wednesday 23 December 2015)

For Dickens, social realism and social commentary are reoccurring themes in his work; Oliver Twist focuses on the injustice cast upon the poor (for example, Oliver) by the better-off (for example, Mr Bumble) and highlights the realities of the poor – themes such as violence and crime can be seen in the lives of Fagin, Bill and Nancy. Similarly, in Great Expectations, Pip begins life in a struggling working-class family, with limited provisions, until he is provided with the means to better his chances in life.

Therefore, Christmas seems an appropriate time for Dickens to again draw attention to the impact the “Scrooges of Society” have on others, as people tend to be more charitable, kind and willing to listen around Christmas-time than other times of year.**

**Why this is, I have no idea.

I like the length of A Christmas Carol; it’s quite short compared to some of Dickens’ other books, which makes it an easy read – ideal, if you want to start reading more classic novels but don’t know where to start.

I also liked the idea of mixing Christmas, usually a cheerful occasion, with ghosts, hauntings and a foreboding sense of impending doom. This brings out my enjoyment for Gothic literature! Naturally, then, my favourite ghosts are Jacob Marley (his entrance of groaning chains is enough to spook anyone) and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. I feel like these are some of the best characters drawn out in the various film adaptations too – although I’m yet to find a film adaptation that completely satisfies me.

As A Christmas Carol is such a popular story, I thought I’d scour Goodreads, to find out why readers love this book so much***:

1. Claudia said: ‘I think A Christmas Carol makes us better people.’

2. Jude said: ‘It reminds us of what is truly important in a life.’

3. Walter said: ‘It showed us how the spirit of the holidays can be humanizing.’

4. Melissa said: ‘For me, it’s not so much the story–which I enjoy every Christmas, sometimes twice – as it is the writing itself. There’s a lyrical quality that hasn’t popped out at me in his longer stories.’

5. Diane said: ‘I think we love this story partly because of how well Dickens portrayed Scrooge as a complex, multi-layered character. Sure, he appears as a greedy stereotype at first, but then we are shown his backstory and how he became that way, and (gasp), suddenly we realize that any of us could become rapacious and bitter if we chose to go down that road. And that’s what raises this tale to a classic–its universality. We are also made to care so deeply about Tiny Tim & his family, who choose to be generous even through their own want, because they realize they will become like Scrooge if they don’t.’

*** If you want to see other readers’ responses, you can find the forum I used here:

Do you like A Christmas Carol?**** Why, or why not? Also, do you have a favourite film adaptation? I’m interested to hear your opinions.

**** If you like audio books, you might be interested to learn that A Christmas Carol, narrated with  Sir Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Cranham, Miriam Margolyes, Jenna Coleman, Brendan Coyle, and Roger Allam is currently available for free on Audible until January 2017! Download it here:

If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ and stay tuned for my next Blogmas post!

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas Day #3: Top 3 Christmas Films

12 Days of Blogmas Day #3: Top 3 Christmas Films

Happy Day 3 of Blogmas!

Today I’m going to write a blog post purely focusing on my favourite Christmas films. My choices aren’t necessarily films adapted from books, which makes a nice change from my What I Watched Wednesday (film review) series, but are the films I grew up with and loved

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1997)

For me, The Nightmare Before Christmas is both a Halloween and a Christmas film, and it is one of my favourite films of all time. It tells the story of Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. He gets a little bored with Halloween and stumbles across Christmas town, falls in love with the winter holiday, then thoughtfully decides to relieve the duties of “Sandy Claws”, giving a traditional Christmas a spooky twist. I think the cinematography of The Nightmare Before Christmas is beautiful, and I love the songs, characters and all its little quirks. It’s a brilliant Halloween/Christmas crossover and if you haven’t seen it, you need to.

Also, there’s now a beautiful book version of The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I want it so much!

2. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard, 2000)

This is another classic that I grew up watching, based on How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (Dr. Seuss, 1956) starring Jim Carrey as The Grinch. I haven’t actually read the book (I’m sorry) but from what I gather, there had to be quite a bit of adaptation/adding in order to create a feature-length film, so if you’re a die-hard fan of the book, you might not enjoy it as much. The film is about Whoville, a town with an unrivalled obsession over Christmas, and how this antagonises The Grinch, an outsider shunned for his unusual appearance (and yet Whovians having ridiculously pointy noses is okay), so much that he decides to steal Christmas. Although it’s a silly film, I still like The Grinch because it’s funny, heart-warming and, as an older viewer, I can now #relate to some of The Grinch’s cynicism – it reminds me of Eeyore’s pessimistic outlook from the Winnie-the-Pooh series.

3. Home Alone (Chris Columbus, 1990)

Home Alone is a Christmas comedy film, starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, a young boy who is accidentally left at home, while his family travel to Paris for the Christmas holidays (that’s the 90s for you), and then has to single-handedly defend his home from two attempted burglars, Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci). I think I have a love-hate relationship with Home Alone; the level of suspension of disbelief you must have in order to accept the plot of this film is quite high, and I got annoyed once they started making lots of – in my opinion, unnecessary – sequels. Nonetheless, this film is good fun (if you can overlook the depressing fact that a child was literally abandoned by his parents at Christmas) and I grew up with it, so I feel a sense of nostalgia.

Honourable Mentions:

These are some Christmas films I still enjoy, but haven’t seen as many times as I’d like.

  • Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003), starring Will Ferrell
  • The Muppet Christmas Carol (Jerry Juhl, 1992), based on Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol*

*I’m yet to find a live-action film version of A Christmas Carol that fully satisfies me (Scrooge never feels “quite right”), and so The Muppet Christmas Carol is the best adaptation of the story for me.

Those are my favourite Christmas films; what are yours?

– Judith

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

12 Days of Blogmas 2016 Day #1: Christmas Cracker Book Tag

Happy Blogmas! This is Day 1 of my 12 Days of Blogmas.

I decided I didn’t want to blog every single day of December because I was worried I wouldn’t get posts written in time so instead, I’ve chosen to blog continuously in the 12 days running up to Christmas.

December is essentially the month of Christmas, so what better book tag to do than a festive themed one? I found the Christmas Cracker Book Tag on Pretty Book’s blog and thought it looked fun.

Let’s get cracking (see what I did there?)!

1. Pick a book with a wintry cover

Although I don’t own this copy, I saw this beautiful cover of A Christmas Carol in Waterstones. I don’t buy books just for their covers though – as much as the idea of having shelves full of stunning books appeals to me, I just don’t have the money for that. You can find A Christmas Carol in Waterstones here:


2. Pick a book you’re likely to buy as a present

This really depends on who I’d be buying for. I’d be more likely to buy someone a book I know they love but their own copy has seen better days and they’re in need of a new one, or perhaps they never had a copy anyway.  For my mum*, I’d probably get her a pretty copy of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1847), which I know is one of her favourite books. For my dad*, I’d probably get him something The Phantom of the Opera themed (Gaston Leroux, 1910) because he really likes the musical.

* Mum and Dad, if you’re reading this, these answers are hypothetical only 😛

3. Pick a festive themed book

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843), obviously. If I had to choose more childhood classics, I’d pick A Nightmare Before Christmas (2007), a beautiful book by Tim Burton, based on the 1993 film of the same name.

4. Pick a book you can curl up with by the fireplace

I do this with almost every book! My favourite books to curl up with are lengthy novels I can savour for longest. For length, I’d say Tolstoy’s War and Peace (1869) but I don’t think I’ll ever read it again! My next instinct is probably Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) because it’s sufficiently chunky, and is one of my favourite Harry Potter books.

5. Pick a book you want to read over the festive period

I have so many I want to read! I want to finish all the fiction books on my “currently reading” list – I measure this by how many books are on my bedside table – which are It by Stephen King (1986), The Rover by Aphra Behn (1677) and The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890).

6. Pick a book so good it gives you chills

I feel like I’m repeating myself when it comes to talking about favourite books (!). I would say Sharp Objects (2006) by Gillian Flynn (I regularly cycle through her novels and love them every time) or anything written by Stephen King.

7. Pick a book going on your Christmas wishlist

I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to ask for any more books for Christmas, as I already have plenty I still haven’t got around to reading yet! However, I want to read more of C.S. Lewis’ books, and I want to collect and read more Stephen King (once I finish It, I plan on reading 11.22.63). I also want to read and watch some more Shakespeare. As you can see, I’ve made a lot of plans, but it’s finding time to carry out these plans that’s the issue!

Have you read any of the books on my list? If you enjoyed this post, please click ‘Like’ or leave a lovely comment below.

I haven’t tagged people to do book tags in ages, so I’m going to tag 5 bloggers to do the Christmas Cracker Book Tag too. They are:

  1. Cait @
  2. Vicki @
  3. Sophie @
  4. Sasha @
  5. Inspired Teen @

Happy Blogmas!

– Judith

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Monster Book Challenge Day #4: Ghosts

Hi! This is Day 4 of my Monster Book Challenge. If you’ve missed my first three posts (where have you been?) you can catch up on Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3 here. Today’s chosen monster is… Ghosts!

  • Title: Northanger Abbey
  • Author: Jane Austen
  • Published: 1817

Northanger Abbey is a satirical Gothic work. The protagonist Catherine, travels to Northanger Abbey and imagines her life as parallel to the plot of a Gothic novel, although her real life brings her back down to earth.

Although Northanger Abbey isn’t strictly a Gothic novel, or in fact wholly a ghost story, I wanted to talk about some more Jane Austen, and I didn’t feel like discussing Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was entirely appropriate in the run-up to Halloween!

I’m a huge fan of the Gothic genre, and so I went into reading Northanger Abbey with great excitement, eagerly waiting for Austen to satirise the genre as much as she could.

However, I was disappointed in how long it took Austen to start talking properly about the Gothic; I was halfway through the novel and Catherine hadn’t even arrived to Northanger Abbey yet! I did appreciate the references to some more Gothic classics though, such as Matthew Lewis’ The Monk and Ann Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho.

The character of Henry was also really amusing – he painted fantastic Gothic images in Catherine’s mind, images which reminded me of Brontë’s Jane Eyre, of haunted rooms, and hints at mysterious family deaths, raising the question of ghosts.

It’s particularly ironic to read Northanger Abbey as a Gothic-loving English student, because it makes me even more aware of the stereotypical Gothic conventions. I can only imagine how Austen’s readers felt at the time, when the Gothic genre was so popular.

All in all, I did enjoy Northanger Abbey but it’s definitely not my favourite Austen novel.

Do you have a favourite ghost story? What book would you have chosen? Share some thoughts in the comments!

Stay tuned for the final day of my Monster Book Challenge tomorrow!

– Judith

The Halloween Book Tag

The Halloween Book Tag

Happy Halloween!

Okay, so it might not be Halloween just yet, but there’s no reason we can’t get into the spirit of things. I found this tag on and I thought it was just perfect for the occasion.

1. Pumpkin Carving: Which book would you carve up and light on fire?

Hmm, a book I really dislike… I would have to say The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (2003). I’ve already discussed my strong dislike to The Kite Runner already on ReadandReview2016, and the idea of seeing it on fire is somewhat amusing, if not a little Hitler-ish…

*Honourable Mention: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925). Another book I’d love to take apart.

2. Trick or Treat: What character is a trick? What character is a treat?

In terms of a ‘treat’, I would pick a really lovely, heartfelt character. My natural instinct is to say someone like Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series, or Jane from Pride and Prejudice (1813), both of whom are brilliant women that have lots of admirable qualities.

As for a ‘trick’ character, I want to talk about someone who is misleading, evil and duplicitous. I want to say Macbeth, from Macbeth (1611) but other villains such as Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series also spring to mind.

3. Candyfloss: Which book is always sweet?

I’m tempted to say Candyfloss by Jacqueline Wilson (2006) for fun! I think I’ll pick Anne of Green Gables though, by L.M. Montgomery (1908).

4. Ghosts: Which character would you love to have visit you as a ghost?

I’d be intrigued by any character that decided to bridge the gap between fiction and reality, as well as the gap between life and death! I like the idea of chatting with The Ghost of Christmas Past from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1843).

5. Fancy Dress: Which character would you want to be for the day?

A really evil, sassy woman; I think they are so well-portrayed in literature. I think I would choose Bellatrix Lestrange from the Harry Potter series. Then again, I also really liked the characterisation of Amy in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (2012) and I liked her sinister plotting and cleverness.

*Honourable Mention: The Evil Queen from Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs by Jacob & Wilhelm Grimm (1812).

6. Witches and Wizards: What is your favourite Harry Potter moment?

How am I supposed to choose?! I really like Harry Potter and rhe Deathly Hallows (2007) – particularly the scenes in Malfoy Manor and Hermione’s interrogation and torture. Grim, I know, but it was gripping.

7. Blood and Gore: Which book was so creepy that you had to take a break from it for a while?

The goriest book I’ve ever read so far is ‘Salem’s Lot by Stephen King (1975), but I didn’t have to ‘take a break’ at any point. In fact, I was captivated by King’s work and could hardly put it down!

Those are my answers! Would you choose different books? I tag anyone who wants to do this tag (and I’d love to see some of your responses in the comments).

That’s all for now!

– Judith

Read Along With Me Day #5: Paradise Lost

Read Along With Me Day #5: Paradise Lost

Welcome back to my Read Along With Me Challenge!

It’s the final post about Paradise Lost! Honestly, I’m so glad because it’s a tough beast of a book to work through.

Chapter 10

You can read Chapter 10 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 10 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

God watches Adam and Eve from Heaven, and sees their Fall. The Son goes down to Eden and tries to find them. Out of shame, Adam and Eve hide, revealing to The Son what they’ve done. He punishes Adam and Eve. He tells Eve that childbirth will be painful and that she must submit to her husband. For Adam, the ground will not be as fertile as it once was.* Finally, The Son curses the Serpent, for deceiving Eve. Adam and Eve have an argument because of the woe that is to come on then, but eventually make up and keep their relationship intact.

Meanwhile, Satan returns from Eden, where Sin and Death are chatting and create a bridge between Earth and Hell, making it easier for the demons of Hell to roam the Earth. Satan meets the others in Hell and relays his triumphant story of The Fall and expects applause, but instead hears hissing. One by one, the demons have turned into serpents and become outraged with Satan.

*Shmoop Summary

My Thoughts:

Again, Chapter 10 was a really long chapter and it really emphasised he tragedy of Adam and Eve’s actions. I felt sympathy towards Adam, who seems so full of remorse, as well as a yearning to have some kind of relationship with God, his Creator. Again, I was impressed by some of Milton’s vivid descriptions – I really liked the metaphor of the bridge between Heaven and Hell created by the character Sin (i.e. because of sin, humans are condemned to Hell, and will subsequently “meet” Death). I also liked the symbolism of turning Satan and his soldiers into serpents, and it highlights how God has power over Satan, even in the depths of Hell.

Chapter 11

You can read Chapter 11 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 11 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Adam and Eve repent and pray to God for forgiveness. God decides to be merciful and plans that The Son will eventually sacrifice himself to redeem them and re-establish a full relationship with Him again. However, God decrees they must leave the Garden of Eden – they are now tainted by sin, and cannot live in a perfect place. The Archangel Michael flies down to give them the news, which is received with wails and cries by Adam and Eve. However, to encourage Adam, Michael shows him a series of visions which foreshadow later events in the Old Testament, promising a hope for the human race.

My Thoughts:

There were lots of classical references in this chapter which I did not understand at all, and skipped over most of them. The theme of sadness and woe was still present in this chapter, although there were glimmers of a brighter, more hopeful future – a “silver lining”, if you like. When Adam was shown visions of the future, it very much reminded me of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, and suggested there would be both positive and negative changes.

Chapter 12

You can read Chapter 12 of Milton’s original work and a sample of Chapter 12 in modern English here:

Plot Summary:

Michael continues to show and tell Adam the events of the Old Testament (in a very condensed way), touching on the genealogies until he reaches the birth of Jesus, which is recorded in the New Testament.  This narrative leads into fundamental Christian theology; he explains how Jesus is both God and Man, who died for our sins – suffering the punishment so we don’t have to. With these joyful news, Adam and Eve lovingly part from the Garden of Eden, to live their lives for God on Earth…

My Thoughts:

I’ve finished Paradise Lost! I’m so proud of myself! With regards to Chapter 12, I thought it was okay to read – a lot of it I could blitz through, like other parts of the poem, because it was summarising Biblical accounts which were already familiar to me. I think it’s definitely worth reading some of the Bible passages Milton draws from – The Creation and The Fall, as well as Satan’s fall from Heaven are all heavily featured in Paradise Lost – and it doesn’t matter if you’re religious or non-religious: what matters is understanding the text.

If you’re interested in reading any passage of the Bible (in any translation – modern or old) I would recommend – it’s an easy to use website that is really helpful in finding the bits of the Bible you want.

And there we have it! Thank you so much for following me on this journey, whether you’ve been reading Paradise Lost alongside me or just following my commentaries. If you’ve missed any of the posts you can catch up here, or if you’d like to read some of my other challenges, you can find them here:

I suppose the crucial question is, after following my blog posts this week, do you think you’ll pluck up the courage to read Paradise Lost for yourself? Let me know your thoughts!

– Judith