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Jasper Fforde – The Well of Lost Plots

April 10, 2008

45. The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (2003)
Thursday Next Mysteries, Book 3

Length: 375 pages

Genre: Humor; Mystery

Started: 07 April 2008
Finished: 10 April 2008

Summary: When we last saw her, Thursday Next is a junior-grade Jurisfiction agent apprenticed to Miss Haversham of Great Expectations, pregnant with the child of her husband, who no longer exists except in her memory, victim to attacks from within her memory by Aornis Hades, and proud owner of a marshmallow-loving dodo. With all of that going on, she decides to take a leave of absence, participating in the Character Exchange program with someone from Caversham Heights, a pulpy, unpublished detective novel. Thursday may have exchanged the real world for the world of fiction, but that doesn’t mean she’s going to get a break – something very strange and sinister is going on within the Well of Lost Plots – the place where all novels are born.

Review: Admittedly, I haven’t read the Thursday Next novels in any kind of logical way – I read the first, then then fourth, then read Jane Eyre, then re-read the first, then read the second, then waited a year, and then read the third. So it’s entirely possible that this novel suffered through no fault of its own, but through a combination of a) not remembering everything that had happened in previous novels, and b) vaguely remembering what was going to happen in the fourth novel. But, even ignoring that angle, this is my least-favorite one in the series so far. It’s incredibly creative, that’s for sure – Fforde’s description of the way in which novels are built is imaginative, witty, and clearly from the brain of someone who loves literature. However, it sometimes felt like that’s all there was to this novel – a lot of description of what goes on in the Well of Lost Plots and a lot of literary in-jokes that ranged from witty to actually funny, but there wasn’t enough that actually happened. The mystery wasn’t as mysterious, wasn’t as involved, and wasn’t as dangerous as those of previous (and subsequent) Thursday Next novels – perhaps the plotsmiths in the Well of Lost Plots were taking a smoke break during this one. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: If you enjoyed the first two, it’s worth reading, even if it’s not quite up to their standard.

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First Line: Making one’s home in an unpublished novel wasn’t without its compensations.


  • p. 4: ““I’ve left a précis of the story taped to the fridge and a rough idea of what you have to say, but don’t worry about being word perfect; since we’re not published, you can say almost anything you want – within reason, of course.”” – a concise summary.
  • p. 6: “The Perspex windows had clouded with age, and high in the massive wing untidy cables hung lazily from the oil-stained cowlings of the three empty engine bays, their safe inaccessibility now a haven for nesting birds.” – A removable metal covering for an engine, especially an aircraft engine.
  • p. 51: “A workbench in the middle of the room was liberally piled with glass retorts, test tubes and other chemical apparatus; the walls, I noticed, were lined with shelves that held tightly stoppered bottles containing small amounts of colorful liquids, all with labels describing varying styles of backstory, from one named Idyllic childhood to another entitled Valiant war record.”” – A closed laboratory vessel with an outlet tube, used for distillation, sublimation, or decomposition by heat.
  • p. 94: “Out of print since the thirties, Bradshaw entertained himself in his retirement by being something of an éminence grise at Jurisfiction.” – A powerful adviser or decision-maker who operates secretly or unofficially.
  • p. 201: ““Thrice-montly garden fetes, weekly harvest festivals and tombola four times a day were not enough; we wanted . . . the hard stuff.”” – a lottery in which tickets are drawn from a revolving drum.
  • p. 250: “He turned over a page on his clipboard. “Investigation of _______’s death. Commander Bradshaw, doesn’t this come under your remit?”” – the topic that a person, committee, or piece of research is expected to deal with or has authority to deal with.
  • p. 302: ““I need to ask for more exemptions from the ‘I before E except after C’ rule.” … “Reigate.” “Approved.” ” – A municipal borough of southern England, a residential suburb of London.
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