Monday 30 July 2012

The Scotsman Abroad | An Ode to Fforde

With the recent release of the latest Thursday Next novel, my wrangler over at put out the word that she was interested in some sort of introduction to the works and worlds of one Jasper Fforde.

I need not add that I jumped at the chance to burble about the various series he has on the go. I put together a primer on the first volumes of all four — two of which I've reviewed on The Speculative Scotsman, here and here. Then I got my thinking cap on, wondering which of The Eyre Affair, The Big Over Easy, Shades of Grey and The Last Dragonslayer would be the best candidate for new readers to begin with.

My answer might surprise you.

Or, if you've been reading TSS carefully, it might not! :)

Here's a bit, in any event, from the first part of the article, which went live on late last week:
This month alone saw the release of the seventh volume of Fforde's most singular saga: The Woman Who Died A Lot stars the former and presumably future literary detective Thursday Next, whose sublime shenanigans through time and text led, at the last, to the loss of her odd employment. It’s a terrific new novel, but if you haven’t read Fforde before, know now that this is not the introduction you or indeed he deserves.

Nor, in all likelihood, will Fforde’s next book be, whether it’s a sequel at long last — or indeed a prequel — to Shades of Grey, or The Return of Shandar, which is to say the conclusion of the Dragonslayer trilogy.

What I’m saying is: if you aren’t already reading Jasper Fforde, you should be, but it can be difficult, as has become apparent, to determine where, exactly, and with what, one should start. This may or may not be because Fforde lives and works in Wales, the undisputed Kingdom of confusion, and home, of course, to the community of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.

In any case, that’s what An Ode to Fforde is all about. It’s essentially a primer, not so much to help you make up your mind whether or not Jasper Fforde’s fiction is for you — if you ask me, and self-evidently somebody did, it’s for everyone — but rather to answer that eternal question: which of this imaginative madman’s many and various books would you be best to begin with?
There's been a healthy amount of discussion in the comments as well, which is always a pleasure.
So if you do click through, please, take a second to tell us all about your first, or your favourite, Fforde.


  1. I'm a huge fan of Thursday Next, a big fan of The Last Dragonslayer, and a very upset loather of Shades of Grey. 3 times I've wrestled with it, and 3 times I've really not enjoyed it. I'll let him off though..after all, he gave the world Miss Havisham and Mr Toad racing each other up Highworth Hill. I used to live in Highworth. I've never been so proud...

    1. Your three attempts amount to approximately two more than I would usually give a book I'm not enjoying, so fair play to you there, Zoe... but I'm still tempted to suggest you try again!

      I'll say this: Shades of Grey does take quite a bit of getting into - The Eyre Affair is certainly more accessible - but once you're in, there's no way out. I've been chomping at the bit for Brunswick and deMauve's return ever since.

      Next year, please? :)

  2. Is the road to high saffron the sequel to shades of grey? I too had to get in shades (also because English is nog my motherlanguage but I have it in English), but ater finishing it I can't wait for the story Brunswick and deMauve to unfold!

    1. If I recall correctly, The Road to High Saffron is actually the subtitle of the first Shades of Grey. According to the back page of my paperback edition, the sequels, if and when they happen, are supposed to be called Painting by Numbers and The Gordini Protocols.

      I still have my fingers crossed we'll see something Shades of Grey-related in 2013, but nothing's been announced even now... though there has been word of a potential prequel in 2014.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting, Annemieke. :)