Page count: 400 pages
“One of our Thursdays is missing” is the 6th book in Jasper Fforde’s series about Thursday Next. The series is set in a parallel reality where Swindon is the centre of the universe and Wales is a socialist republic trafficking illegal cheese. Thursday Next is a literary detective working for Jurisfiction, the squad policing what is known as the Bookworld. Bookworld is a separate universe consisting of all the literary works ever created as well as all the fictional characters populating them – paradoxically, this obviously also includes the previous 5 books about Thursday Next and hence also a written Thursday Next! Every time a reader in the real world (i.e. Swindon or thereabouts) picks up a book, the characters of Bookworld re-enact the chapters of the relevant novel, and so only when no readers are about can the characters in the books go on with their “off-screen” lives: dating characters from other novels, visiting other genres, etc. (If you are new to the series, this is bound to be confusing, but suffice it to say that the first TN novel, “The Eyre affair”, comes highly recommended!)
In this 6th TN book, the real Thursday Next is missing. Instead, we follow the written Thursday’s investigation of a seemingly insignificant traffic accident in the Bookworld, which has left the remains of a badly written novel in the middle of the popular Lola Vavoom death books in the Bookworld. Along with Sprockett, a robot butler Thursday rescued from a group of irate aliens and Elvises in Conspiracy (the island grouping all conspiracy-genre books in the Bookworld), Thursday soon realises that something far more nefarious is afoot: someone has conspired to make the real Thursday disappear because she is the only one who can prevent the hostilities between Racy Novel and the rest of Bookworld from erupting into full-scale war. The written Thursday therefore goes on a reconnaissance mission to the real world to find the real Thursday, only to discover that she must in fact be stuck somewhere inside the Bookworld. With millions of books as potential hiding places, finding the real Thursday will be like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack…
Please excuse the rambling summary above; it is indicative of the extremely intricate plots that are the hallmarks of a Jasper Fforde book, and I struggle to see how any of this can possibly make sense to someone not already intimately familiar with his universe of books. Suffice it to say, however, that overall I really enjoyed this book. I started out fairly sceptical, as I remembered the written Thursday Next as a tree-hugging, dull and beige character in the previous book (“First among sequels”). I therefore thought an entire novel revolving around her would test my patience immensely. Thankfully, Fforde soon lets the written TN develop more character so that she begins to resemble the real deal. Also, the introduction of Sprockett is fabulous – equipped with only an eyebrow to express his emotions, he is nonetheless one of the best sidekicks I’ve come across so far, and I can only hope that Sprockett will feature heavily in any future TN novels. The plot was also a vast improvement over the previous novel which dragged on so long that I thought Fforde had lost his touch, even if this book, too, takes a while to really hold your attention. All in all, though, “One of our Thursdays is missing” was a thoroughly enjoyable read.