Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Little Ffamily Ffun

I've been reading Katie Fforde's books for years.  She writes charming, witty, cozy British chick lit.  Her style is predictable but reliable, and I know there's a good chance I'll enjoy whatever she puts out.  Her latest, Love Letters, certainly fits the bill.  A somewhat shy bookseller gets roped into planning a literary festival in the English countryside.  In order to get financing, she has to convince Ireland's version of J.D. Salinger (only younger and more handsome) to attend.  Predictably, misunderstandings, chaos, romance, and a few large dogs ensue.   Equally  as predictably, I really enjoyed it.  (Of particular note, if this book hadn't been released in the UK in 2009, I would've thought for sure a dinner party scene was taken directly from the Jennifer Weiner and Jodi Picoult v. Jonathan Franzen and the literati brouhaha this past summer). 

Somewhat (by which I mean completely) tangentially, several years ago while browsing the shelves I noticed another author with the last name Fforde, this being Jasper, cousin-in-law to Katie.  I ignored him for years because I thought he wrote straight science fiction and, with all due respect to you sci-fi types, it's not on the top of my reading priorities.  But as I was putting together some book recommendations for a friend who was looking for witty, upbeat, literary fiction (it's a fairly short list) one name kept popping up.  I'll give you a hint: it rhymes with "lord" and is spelled with a few extra letters.  I realized that his books are much more difficult to define, and far more intriguing than I had given credit for.  I've just finished The Eyre Affair, the first of the Thursday Next series.  It's an alternate history in which literature is the most important part of culture, time travel is routine, and the third-most wanted man in the world is kidnapping fictional characters.  Thursday Next is the special ops literary detective assigned to finding Jane Eyre.  He's also got a series on nursery crimes (and, yes, they do include Humpty Dumpty's infamous fall). 

Of course, this is the part where readers everywhere are wondering: what is the connection?  How will she pull these together?  What is the tie that binds?  Well, ffrankly, these two Ffordes' books have nothing in common with each other.  But, really, when I read two books by two Ffordes in the same week, do you expect me to be able to ffight the temptation to sprinkle the blog with a ffew extra "f"s?  Ffat chance. 

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