Awkwardness of some setting pieces of this book in conjunction with current events aside, "The Eyre Affair" is a cute, sometimes clever, but also personally frustrating and largely forgettable introduction to the Thursday Next series of books.
I feel like a lot of this review could be copied and pasted from the review of the other Fforde book I read, "Shades of Grey." Fascinating and unique ideas populate the world and I love a lot of the use of language. But the first half of the book is terribly slow and it doesn't really pick up to where I'd like it until the final third, a few of the characters were interesting but for the most part I didn't care about the cast, the narrative has a certain disinclination to explain its world... it was a little deja-vu-ish.
I felt like despite being in Thursday's head, I never really got a clear understanding of who she was and why she did what she did. Her love life is a completely baffling mystery beyond the surface, her weird jump into action girl status felt strange and I finished the book without a solid feel for her relationship to any character except the one who was dead before the start of the book. I really wanted to like her, because she's smart and competent in a battle and a little bit awkward. But I couldn't seem to get in enough to really care.
The same went for her old flame and the seemingly endless parade of coworkers at three different offices. I could barely keep even the most oft-repeated names straight in my head and kept getting the ones at her final office muddled. The only four people whose actions really distinguished them as unique individuals were the guy from Goliath, the book's big bad, and Thursday's father and uncle, both of whom were quirky in a pretty good way. I get the feeling a lot of what's going on is series setup, but it's made this book so lackluster that I'm not sure I'll move on.
The obsession with literature was a fascinating if confusing worldbuilding choice, and I think the specifics of this were probably my favorite part of the whole experience. And the book gives us a trippy but amusing answer to one of literature's oddest questions.
As a fan of camp, the over-the-top bad guy didn't bother me too much, given the general surreality of the whole book, but I sort of felt like the arch-nemesis stuff felt forced instead of organic. I suppose this is an extension of not really getting Thursday's character.
In the end, this was not a bad experience or something I'm sorry to have read, but I think I'm going to have to let this world sit a little and maybe check out some reviews before I decide whether or not to try book 2.