The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

Second paragraph of third chapter:

I opened the drawer of my desk and pulled out a small mirror. A woman with somewhat ordinary features stared back at me. Her hair was a plain mousy color and of medium length, tied up rather hastily in a ponytail at the back. She had no cheekbones to speak of and her face, I noticed, had just started to show some rather obvious lines. I thought of my mother, who had looked as wrinkled as a walnut by the time she was forty-five. I shuddered, placed the mirror back in the drawer and took out a faded and slightly dog-eared photograph. It was a photo of myself with a group of friends taken in the Crimea when I had been simply Corporal T. E. Next, 33550336, Driver: APC, Light Armored Brigade. I had served my country diligently, been involved in a military disaster and then honorably discharged with a gong to prove it. They had expected me to give talks about recruitment and valor but I had disappointed them. I attended one regimental reunion but that was it; I had found myself looking for the faces that I knew weren't there.

I had read this ages ago, probably soon after it came out in 2001 (and before I started bookblogging in late 2003). It didn't hold up quite as well as I had hoped. It's still funny to have an alternate version of England where literature is to an extent real, and people are annoyed by the way Jane Eyre ends with the title character going to India with her cousin, with lots of throwaway lines about culture and memory in Fforde's parallel world. But (not Fforde's fault) war in the Crimea is a lot less funny now than it was then; and (more his fault) the book now seems very white and the humour a bit more laboured in general. So I'm revising my opinion of it downwards, alas.

This was the most popular book on my shelves not yet reviewed online. Next up is The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury.

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