Book review: Thursday Next #7: The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde (Hodder & Stoughton, 2012)
The BookWorld’s leading enforcement officer Thursday Next is at a low point in her life: she is four months into an enforced semi-retirement following a near fatal assassination attempt. She is yet to walk without a stick, has double vision more often than she doesn’t, and limited mobility in her left arm.
A time, then, for relaxation, recuperation, and rest. A time to spend with her beloved family, avoid stress, take it easy, meet old friends and do very little.
If only life were that simple …
Following on from the events at the end of the previous adventure, in which she only featured briefly toward the end, the real Thursday Next is licking her wounds. One of her legs (not arms as suggested above) hasn’t healed properly and she’s hooked on painkiller patches.
As if that’s not bad enough, God has made a surprise return to the world and has announced that on Friday, Swindon’s due for a smiting. Tuesday, Thursday’s genius of a daughter, has to try and make the anti-smiting shield work before then or downtown Swindon is going to be history.
Meanwhile, after the existential collapse (of sorts) of time travel, the ChronoGuards were disbanded. Those who would have been ChronoGuards have all received letters saying what their lives in the ChronoGuard would’ve been like – and how they’ll turn out instead. Unlucky for Friday, Thurday’s son, his letter says he’s going to murder someone. This week.
To top it all off, SpecOps are being reinstated to get rid of the stupidity surplus, someone’s destroying old manuscripts, Aornis Hades is on the loose and Thursday keeps finding she’s not herself. It would have been easier to just sit back and let time run its course, but if she did that, she wouldn’t be Thursday Next …
I was overjoyed to hear there was a new Thursday Next book coming out so soon after the previous one, and poured over this one with ill-concealed glee. As I love the whole concept of the BookWorld, I was a little disappointed with The Woman Who Died a Lot, because while there’s a fictional character who works for her, and they’re trying to get inside the elusive Dark Reading Matter, Thursday never ventures into the BookWorld. Then again, I suppose this is how people who prefer the alternate Swindon probably felt after One of Our Thursdays is Missing, which was set nearly exclusively in the BookWorld.
We get to see the nefarious Jack Schitt again, Aornis Hades makes an appearance – or does she? – and it’s nice to see the old LiteraTecs as well. I enjoyed Phoebe Smalls, a new character, although she did do her best to be too perky. The SLS agent who wanted to go on dawn raids to retrieve overdue library books was hilarious. Millon de Floss makes an appearance, as do Joffy and his partner. Joffy has turned into something of a bigshot over at the GSD, which might go some way to explain why God has taken a sudden interest in human affairs again after all these years.
Oh yeah, and there’s something about Jenny too. And Pickwick. Plock.
What I like about these books is that they’re so imaginative, and while they’re an insane rollercoaster they’re also funny and mind-bending in just that sort of way that makes you feel really clever. Needless to say this is another great story from Mr Fforde, and if it had had a little more BookWorld in it, it would have been even better. Which is a bit strange to say, considering this novel is a great example of why people who don’t read need to get into reading. It exercises the imagination and keeps in tip-top condition, better than any film could ever hope to achieve.
I found it a little hard to get into at first, because the subject matter is kind of tricky to get your head around, but I think it was mostly down to starting to read it when I was way too tired. It picked up as soon as I was fully rested and had brain capacity restored to normal.
4.8 out of 5 tattoos.
The Woman Who Died a Lot is available in the UK in hardback eBook today. (Paperback’s due early next year.) Stateside release in the fall.
Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing me with a review copy! 🙂