The Well of Lost Plots (Thursday Next #3)
Jasper Fforde, 2003
*Some spoilers for previous books in the series might be present in review*
Thursday Next lives in a world a little different from ours. For one, she owns a pet dodo bird. For another, she can travel inside books. She’s actually on trial in the Book World for having altered the ending of Jane Eyre (even though everyone likes the new ending better). Most recently, she’s become a member of Jurisfiction – the law enforcement agency that patrols the Book World. Her mentor – Miss Havisham (yes, the one from Great Expectations) – has her helping on an investigation relating to the upcoming launch of the new book software, UltraWord, which may not be as perfect as it appears.
There is really too much going on in this book to give a good plot summary, but that will have to do.
Unlike the first two books in this series, in which Thursday lived in the “real” world and only occasionally jumped into books, this story takes place solely inside the Book World. Thursday is hiding from the people in the real world, so she goes on a sort of Witness Protection Program inside of an unpublished novel. Because of this,all of the characters we meet in this book are fictional. I point this out, because it seems to me that reviews fall on one of two sides: those that hate the parts that take place in the Book World and those that love them. If Book World scenes annoy you, this will be your least favorite of the series and you will probably stop at this point. If Book World scenes make you giggle with glee, then this book will be a welcome treat. I fall into the latter camp, fortunately. I love the Book World. And it doesn’t bother me that characters are thrown in as one-liners and passing jokes. If it makes me laugh, I enjoy the references.
That being said, there is a plot to this book. And I thought that the author did a pretty good job of giving this book a stand-alone plot (the investigation and murders surrounding the release of UltraWord) as well as continuing the ongoing plot relating to Thursday and Landon. One thing I can say for these books is that, plot-wise, the author never gives you a chance to get bored.
Another aspect that I liked is that – aside from the first two books in the series, which you really have to read before starting this one – there are no books required for understanding of The Well of Lost Plots. There are countless books referenced, and obviously if the reader has never read the book being referenced, the joke won’t be funny. But unlike the previous books, the plot of this book will make sense without any previous classics knowledge. Specifically, I don’t recommend reading The Eyre Affair without first having read Jane Eyre. You can, but a big aspect of the plot will go over your head. And Lost in a Good Book introduces Miss Havisham as a main character, meaning that you’ll get a lot more out of the story if you know who she is, having read Great Expectations. (I even put aside my supreme dislike of Dickens to read this book in order to get the references.) WithThe Well of Lost Plots, there is an ongoing joke regarding Anna Karenina and a whole chapter dedicated to an anger management within Wuthering Heights. But the plot doesn’t need you to have read these books. I haven’t read either yet, and I still followed the plot, although I know I missed out on some of the jokes not having the back story. Point being, read this book without worrying about what classics you need to know before going in; just know that some of the jokes might go over your head.
Overall, I really enjoy the Thursday Next series, and I definitely plan on continuing. I like the tongue-in-cheek references and find them highly amusing. My recommendation is that if you like a good satire, check out The Eyre Affair. If it amuses you, keep on with the series. Sometimes I like a serious read. Sometimes I just like an interesting story that makes me laugh.