It's interesting to read a book in the Thursday Next series that doesn't involve the Bookworld in one way or another. It's a part of what makes the series so creative and enjoyable, and I love to see how Fforde takes a part of fiction and applies it to real-world standards. The Woman Who Died a Lot references the Bookworld, and even has a significant plot point that concerns it (of course), but it doesn't take place there at all. The real focus of this novel is dealing with avoiding being smited by God and working out the intricacies of time travel when time travel is no longer a thing in their universe. And it's really not that much about Thursday at all.
The Woman Who Died a Lot focuses much more on Thursday's family and the other people who revolve around her in the SpecOps organization. She's become the head librarian at the Swindon All-You-Can-Eat-at-Fatso's Drink Not Included Library (which, of course, is akin to being hired to play major league sports, which may account for the not-so-subtle jab at the current trend of stadiums being named after their sponsors), but the major plot points involve Friday and Tuesday, her children, Joffy, her brother, and Phoebe Smalls, who is now the head of SO-27. It makes me wonder if Fforde is wrapping up the series, or at least passing the focus of the novel from Thursday to the rest of the cast. I seem to remember reading somewhere that there are two distinct Thursday Next series — the first spanning The Eyre Affair to Something Rotten, and the second starting with First Among Sequels and still going — and I wonder if the next book will be the last one. It seems to be heading in another direction, that's for sure.
The book isn't a disappointment, by any means. There are some truly memorable moments here, especially with the mindworm that infects the family, forcing them to remember a daughter who never existed, and there's the usual silly wordplay and chaos that readers will recognize, but the focus seems to be shifting with this novel. There might even be a plothole or two relating to the first-person narrative and the way that the Dark Reading Material is accessible to the characters, but who knows? Maybe that will be covered in the next novel. I'm not any less eager to keep reading to see what happens next.