by Jasper Fforde



366pp/$25.95/March 2011

One of Our Thursdays is Missing

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the sixth volume of Jasper Fforde’s metafictional detective series and it not only focuses on the secret lives of books more than any of the previous volumes, but also reverses the basic model of the first novel, The Eyre Affair, in a satisfying manner, which demonstrates that the concept of the series still has plenty of room for Fforde to play with the characters and settings.

Rather than focusing on the version of Thursday Next the readers are already familiar with, Fforde chooses to present the Thursday Next who portrays the real Thursday in her books, setting up a parallel between the fictional exploits of a real person and their portrayal in a film made about their lives.  This particular version of Thursday has altered the way she plays the role of the heroine to make it more true to the real Thursday, but less interesting to the readers, which has resulted in a decrease in readership (and, playing to the metafictional theme, she notes that the ghostwriter of the series isn’t very good anyway).

The fictional Thursday must neglect her place in the book, however, when she is asked to investigate the breakup of a book coming into BookWorld proper from the island of Vanity publishing.  Leaving behind subtly different versions of characters Fforde has introduced in previous novels, along with Scarlett, her newly acquired, and undertrained understudy, Thursday begins her investigation and quickly starts to suspect that things are more complex that they seem and that her real life counterpart has gone missing just as she was supposed to take part in peace talks to stave off a war caused by incursions of Racy Novels into its neighboring genres. This discovery leads her to attempt to make the difficult passage between BookWorld and the Real World.

During her brief sojourn in the Real World, the fictional Thursday meets Landon Parke-Laine, the real Thursday’s husband, who suspects that she might be his wife.  Fforde’s description of a fictional character’s reaction to the Real World is one of the high points of the novel, as Thursday must deal with the necessity of breathing, gravity, and the wonders of everything being detailed, not just the most important objects in a scene. The different in details between the two realms is something Fforde does address with his introduction of the Feedback loop, which offers one of several very funny moments of exposition in the novel.

One of Our Thursdays is Missing offers a welcome return to form for Fforde, whose previous novel, Shades of Gray never quite came together. The metafictional elements are wonderful, even if they don’t hold up to detailed dissection. The introduction of a faux Thursday allows Fforde to play with his character in a variety of ways while keeping the basic underpinnings he has set forth in the earlier books, of which this Thursday is very much aware. Fforde has written a wonderfully funny book filled with ideas which build on his innovations from earlier novels in a fresh and humorous manner.

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