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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Well of Lost Plots

Jasper Fforde

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To purchase The Well of Lost Plots

Title: The Well of Lost Plots
Author: Jasper Fforde
Genre: Novel
Written: 2003
Length: 373 pages
Availability: The Well of Lost Plots - US
The Well of Lost Plots - UK
The Well of Lost Plots - Canada
The Well of Lost Plots - India
Le puits des histoires perdues - France
Im Brunnen der Manuskripte - Deutschland
Il pozzo delle trame perdute - Italia
El pozo de las tramas perdidas - España
  • A Thursday Next Novel
  • The American edition comes with a: "Bonus chapter exclusive to U.S. edition"

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Our Assessment:

B+ : good, inventive fun

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Daily Telegraph B+ 10/8/2003 David Robson
The Guardian . 26/7/2003 John Sutherland
The Independent . 25/1/2004 Murrough O'Brien
People A 1/3/2004 John Freeman
Sydney Morning Herald . 16/8/2003 Keith Austin
The Washington Post . 21/3/2004 Michael Dirda

  Review Consensus:

  Good fun

  From the Reviews:
  • "The novel is a treasure-trove of similar gems: sly little cracks that whiz past almost before you notice them. It is nonsense but, at its best, inspired nonsense. (...) If the basic concept is ponderous, there is a lightness in the execution which makes the comedy take wing. (...) Not all Jason Fforde's flights of invention are equally well-judged, and there are times when greater rigour would have brought dividends. But if not quite a laugh-aloud author, he is certainly a giggle-aloud author -- a rare species." - David Robson, Daily Telegraph

  • "The usual jokes are present in (over)abundance." - John Sutherland, The Guardian

  • "The book is essentially an extended literary riff, in which the kind of puns most of us come out with only under the influence are given free, diabolical reign. It's great fun, and often thought-provoking, but makes no concessions to someone who hasn't read the previous two books. You feel like Alice, being forced to run by the Red Queen, breathless after the effort, and puzzled by the fact that you haven't really got anywhere." - Murrough O'Brien, The Independent

  • "The well of Fforde's imagination is bottomless in the delightful third installment of his Thursday Next series. (...) But what keeps this series humming is Fforde's lively engagement with books and the indefatigable woman he's created to defend them." - John Freeman, People

  • "(M)y favorite in the series so far (...) In many ways, The Well of Lost Plots is a far more ramshackle novel than its predecessors, with a hasty finale and the convenient introduction of a deus ex machina. Not that it matters much" - Michael Dirda, The Washington Post

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Well of Lost Plots is the third novel in the Thursday Next-series. Set in an alternate (near-)present (around 1985), Thursday's world is a bit different from the one we know -- most notably in its devotion to the literary world. But almost none of The Well of Lost Plots is set in the so-called Outland (what passes for reality), but rather inside the very unusual literary universe Fforde has conceived.
       After her previous adventures (with included the eradication of Landen, her husband and the father of the child she is expecting), Thursday wants to get away from it all. She enters the realm of fiction, which includes the Great Library (where all published fiction is stored) and, beneath that, The Well of Lost Plots, "where books are constructed, honed, and polished in readiness for a place in the library above". A rare Outlander in these parts, she finds what she hopes is an obscure, quiet little book to rest up in (Caversham Heights) -- but winds up embroiled in an incredible number of new adventures.
       Thursday Next is a Literary Detective in the real world, and she is now working towards becoming a full-fledged member of Jurisfiction in this other world: "It was the same job I had undertaken at SpecOps, just from the other side" -- i.e. it involved policing the literary world from within the fictions. Apprenticed to Miss Havisham, Thursday soon finds that there's a lot to do to keep order in the book world. Nefarious dealings are common and dangers (to literary works, characters, and Thursday herself) abound.
       Fforde is at his best with the sheer audacity of his inventiveness. The beginning of the book is a marvel, as Thursday gets her bearings inside the book-world. From the Generics billeted in Caversham Heights (who are transformed into full-fledged characters over the course of the book) to the difficulties the locals have in holding Caversham Heights together to The Well of Lost Plots itself Fforde has created an incredible, appealing, and often highly entertaining fantasy-world.
       It is a wonderful world, where, for example, Lucy Deane from Mill on the Floss suffers from a "repetitive character disorder" and has to be regularly replaced, and the Wuthering Heights ensemble are required to attend mandatory rage-counselling sessions because, as Miss Havisham explains:

If this book is to survive, we have to control the emotions within it; as is, the novel is three times more barbaric than when first penned -- left to its own devices it won't be long before murder and mayhem start to take over completely -- remember what happened to that once gentle comedy of manners Titus Andronicus ? It's now the daftest, most cannibalistic blood fest in the whole of Shakespeare.
       Among the many major plotlines is Thursday's struggle to keep alive the memory of her husband (since he was literally eradicated no one else remembers him), and the much-anticipated release of a new Story Operating System, UltraWord™ to replace BOOK V1, which has been the standard for some 1800 years (replacing SCROLL, which had succeeded the earlier ClayTablet V2.1 and OralTrad) Among the dangers Thursday faces are grammasites ("a parasitic life-form that lives inside books and feeds on grammar"), a Minotaur on the loose, and a few members of the evil Hades family. And she's also on trial for changing the ending of Jane Eyre. And someone is murdering Jurisficition agents.
       The Well of Lost Plots is action-packed, and the biggest problem with the book is that it so relentlessly moves from adventure to adventure. Thursday moves back and forth (often entirely too easily and conveniently) between books, dreams, and the fantastical world she's in (with only a very rare excursion to the Outland), and while all of these are impressive, it gets to be a bit much -- and a bit confusing. Occasionally, Fforde seems to send her off somewhere just to indulge in more inventive play. It's fun, but occasionally he piles it on faster than one can enjoy it.
       What turns out to be the main plot, uncovered by Thursday at the end (and connecting many of the incidents from along the way) is a very clever idea, but makes some of the padding seem excessive.
       The book lacks in continuity, and Fforde even acknowledges his sometimes strained plot devices, as when Thursday yet again finds herself on the cusp of recognition:
       And then the mallet struck my head. Blackness and oblivion. As usual, just when I got to the good bit.
       "The formulaic," one of the characters says, "is our one true enemy"; Fforde can't entirely escape it, but the Thursday Next novels continue to be an impressive attempt to transcend the formulaic. The Well of Lost Plots, like the earlier volumes, is much stronger on detail than it is as a whole, but the detail and the invention are so clever and enjoyable that it is certainly well worth reading.

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The Well of Lost Plots: Reviews: Jasper Fforde: Other books by Jasper Fforde under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       British author Jasper Fforde was born in 1961.

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© 2004-2024 the complete review

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