Review: Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

I have now officially finished Something Rotten and thus the first series in the Thursday Next series, and I’m incredibly keen to get my hands on the rest of the series which I believe will focus more on Thursday’s son Friday. Something Rotten showcases Jasper Fforde at his absolutely perplexing best, and thus makes a fitting ending for the series.

Graveyard for the living

At the beginning of Something Rotten Thursday Next decides to return to the real world for a break from her job with JurisFiction in the BookWorld. Hamlet also wants to travel to the real world in an attempt to discover what the world thinks of him, so Thursday takes him with her and he joins Otto von Bismark, and Lady Emma Hamilton as a guest in Thursday’s mother’s house. When Thursday returns to the real world she discovers that her enemy the fictional Yorrick Kaine is trying to install himself as dictator with the help of the morally dubious Goliath Corporation, who were responsible for the eradication of her Husband Landen (they went back in time and murdered him as a child so he technically only exists in Thursday’s memory). Thursday’s plate is full from the moment she returns to the real world. Yorrick Kaine is trying to take over England and is ordering the burning of all Dutch literature; Goliath Corporation is trying to turn themselves into a religion; the Armageddon is possibly nigh; Thursday has a stalker; Goliath refuses to un-kill her husband; someone is trying to kill her. Worse than all that, she can’t find a reliable sitter for her son Friday who only speaks in Lorem Ipsum. 

The plotline is almost impossible to summarize accurately, and it is beautifully absurd, but the blasé way in which Thursday accepts all of the madness stops it from becoming over the top. Thursday is such a grounded and easy to identify with character. If she wasn’t I don’t think the series would work. She’s incredibly competent but not to the point of perfection, and more importantly she generally makes things up as she goes along. She is happy to rely on others for help, especially if they have skills that she doesn’t, but views her friends and family with slightly bemused affection. She is complex and multifaceted (as all good A-1 fictionals should be), and deep down determined to help the people who need it.

The alternate reality version of England that Thursday exists in is almost completely different to our own world, but is the completely logical product of a few changes of history as we know it with a bit of extra enchantment thrown in. The environment of this alternate universe allows for both social commentary, and due to its particular idiosyncrasies, delightful amounts of meta-fictional commentary. Because some of the characters within the Thursday Next universe are aware that they are fictional and Thursday has seen ‘behind-the-scenes’ of books, there are many excellent moments were the characters make commentary on the book that they are in without breaking the fourth wall.

 

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