In the Thursday Next series, Jasper Fforde clearly takes great delight in wordplay and puns, most often represented with literary constructs and characteristics which are personified or otherwise made to exist in the real world. Part of me thinks he would appreciate the conversation I had with the library clerk when I checked this book out, where she mentioned reading the first two books in the series and then never going back to it. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing opens with Thursday (the character) in the Bookworld bemoaning her lack of readership. And the story just gets better from there.
Much of this book is centered on looking at the Bookworld, where all of the fictional characters from all of literature live, through the lens of an outworlder. Fforde turns metaphor into a controlled substance, lest it lead to the downfall of all fiction, he separates genres into different islands in the Bookworld, where most of them live peacefully, save for the odd occasions where genres bump up against each other and even start wars over the infringements, and he even takes a literary character and moves her from the Bookworld to the real world, where all of her conventions and understandings (as well as the reader’s) are turned upside down and made brand new. It’s all wonderfully clever, but anyone who’s read the previous novels in the series won’t be surprised in the least.
The book diverges a bit from the standard Thursday Next novel, in that this time around, Thursday Next the person (i.e., the one who’s been the protagonist in the last five novels) isn’t the main character; Thursday Next the character (i.e., the one who plays the part in Thursday’s books in the Bookworld) is. So when Thursday (the “person”) goes missing, then Thursday (the “character”) winds up taking her place to solve the mystery. Since she mystery takes place within the Bookworld, it makes sense that she be the one to take on the mantle of solving it, but the story takes her in and out of the Bookworld, and other people and characters constantly confuse her with the “real” Thursday. Make sense?
Fforde takes advantage of the character being a character in a story, and creates some clever metafictional references throughout the book. I think that cleverness is what Fforde’s readers have come to expect, and so long as he can maintain that characteristic in his fiction, he’s going to remain successful. I wasn’t sure about First Among Sequels, since Fforde seemed to have wrapped up the series so perfectly with Something Rotten, but he proved that he could still take the series in unexpected directions and still maintain the theme of the series. I’m pleased to say that he managed to do the same with One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.