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A Reader of Fictions: Review: The Woman Who Died a Lot

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review: The Woman Who Died a Lot

The Woman Who Died a Lot
Thursday Next, Book 7

Author: Jasper Fforde
Pages: 363
Publisher: Viking Adult
Source: Publisher for review

Description from Goodreads:
The newest tour de force starring Thursday Next in the New York Times bestselling series

The Bookworld’s leading enforcement officer, Thursday Next, has been forced into a semiretirement following an assassination attempt, returning home to Swindon and her family to recuperate.

But Thursday’s children have problems that demand she become a mother of invention: Friday’s career struggles in the Chronoguard, where he is relegated to a might-have-been; Tuesday’s trouble perfecting the Anti-Smote shield, needed in time to thwart an angry Deity’s promise to wipe Swindon off the face of the earth; and the issue of Thursday’s third child, Jenny, who doesn’t exist except as a confusing and disturbing memory.

With Goliath attempting to replace Thursday at every opportunity with synthetic Thursdays, and a call from the Bookworld to hunt down Pagerunners who have jumped into the Realworld, Thursday’s convalescence is going to be anything but restful as the week ahead promises to be one of the Next family’s oddest.

Series Up to This Book:
1: The Eyre Affair (Goodreads)
2: Lost in a Good Book (Goodreads)
3: The Well of Lost Plots (Goodreads)
4: Something Rotten (Goodreads)
5: First Among Sequels (Goodreads|Review)
6: One of Our Thursdays Is Missing (Goodreads|Review)

First Sentence: "Everything comes to an end."

Thursday Next and I have been on quite the journey in the last week or so. As I've mentioned, I have generally either not much liked or nigh loved all of the prior Thursday Next books. The Woman Who Died a Lot finally proves that I can actually like two Thursday Next books in a row, so huzzah for that. While this one did not entertain me quite so much as 1, 4, and 6, I found it a solid read without any slow spots.

This Thursday Next book starkly stands out from the rest. The entirety of this book takes place in the real world. Of course, it's Fforde's version of the real world, which reaches high levels of ridiculousness on a slow day. Seriously, there is no BookWorld in this novel, by which I mean the reader doesn't get to go to the BookWorld which does still exist. Since the BookWorld has generally been my favorite part of the series, I was really bummed when I figured that out, but, surprisingly, it worked out.

The saving grace here was that The Woman Who Died a Lot successfully weaves together a few overarching plots, something that failed to happen in First Among Sequels. Rather than feeling like a bunch of jokes welded together artificially, this felt like a story. I will say, though, that there seemed to be a bit less humor in this one overall, as well as less of the literary references, so, if that's what you loved, you will perhaps be disappointed.

Thursday Next is not her usual, gun-slinging, hardcore self. At the end of the prior book, she was discovered injured and her wounds have not yet healed. To walk, she must lean upon a cane and she's developed a Dr. House level addiction to painkillers. Our girl does not have all pistons firing. Because of her physical torments, she doesn't have the strength to read herself into the BookWorld. On the plus side, Spec Ops is reforming, so there will be plenty of work to do. Unfortunately, the job she gets offered is not head of the literary detectives but head librarian.

My favorite bits had to do with the library. Fforde certainly nails some aspects of library service, but I think the librarians of our world would love to live in his. In Swindon, librarians receive huge salaries (and get chauferred to work where a chef cooks the meals) and the libraries get huge budgets. On top of that, librarians have huge political sway and are among the most respected and intimidating people in the community. Librarians, what say you? Shall we decamp to Ffordelandia posthaste?

Another delightful plotline deals with the imminent smiting of Swindon by God, pissed off by Joffy's insistence upon a meeting. A good smiting always proves who's the boss. To prevent this, Tuesday races to complete her Anti-Smite shield, while Goliath Corporation offers a backup that is, of course, nefarious. One fun litte nugget of info to come out of this is that this is an alternate universe from our own likely, since Joffy references that in some alternate realities people are stupid enough to think homosexuality is a sin. Never have I been prouder of my home universe. (Hint: heavy sarcasm)

The final arc involves Friday, who, along with the rest of the people who would have been in ChronoGaurd, receives a letter informing him what his life would have been and what it will be. He discovers that in a few days he will murder one of his classmates, go to prison, and get out just in time to be murdered with a baseball bat. Even with ChronoGuard shut down, it still manages to mess with lives and event lines in rippingly confusing ways.

The Woman Who Died a Lot is perhaps the most mainstream and accessible of Fforde's books, though, of course, trying to pick up the series here and understand anything would be like trying to understand LOST without watching every single episode. The ending makes it clear that at least one more Thursday Next book is in the works, and I suspect there will be lots of BookWorld action. Holla!

Rating: 3.5/5

Favorite Quote:
"'My only companion from the outside world during nineteen years of isolation has been my personal hatred of Thursday Next. It's kind of like the old me suddenly taking over, and I promised myself that this was how I would act if I ever saw you.'
   'I have the same thing, but with Tom Stoppard,' I said.
   'You'd kill Tom Stoppard?'
   'Not at all. I promised myself many years ago that I would throw myself at his feet and scream "I'm not worhty!" if I ever met him, so now if we're ever at the same party or something, I have to be at pains to avoid him. It would be undignified, you see—for him and for me.'"

For my US readers, I have a hardback copy of The Woman Who Died a Lot to give away, thanks to the generosity of Penguin! Just fill out THIS FORM by October 25th at 11:59 PM.

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