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Thursday Next is the main protagonist in a series of comic fantasy, alternate history novels by the British author Jasper Fforde. She was first introduced in Fforde's first published novel, The Eyre Affair, released on 19 July 2001 by Hodder & Stoughton. As of 2012[update], the series comprises seven books, in two series. The first series is made up of the novels The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots and Something Rotten. The second series is so far made up of First Among Sequels, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing and The Woman Who Died a Lot.
Thursday is the daughter of Wednesday Next and Colonel Next (whose first name has not yet been revealed), a former agent with Special Operations Network department 12 (SO-12), the Chronoguard. She has two brothers, Anton and Joffy. Anton, however, was killed in the Crimean War.
In her parallel universe, England is a republic, with George Formby as its first president, elected following the success of Operation Sea Lion (the mooted Nazi invasion of Great Britain), occupation, and liberation. There is no United Kingdom, and Wales is the independent "Socialist Republic of Wales". The Crimean War is still being waged in 1985, Russia still has a Czar, and the Whig Party still exists in the House of Commons.
Genetic engineering is far more advanced than in our own timeline, and so Thursday has a pet dodo, Pickwick. Re-engineered mammoths can cause damage to local gardens if in their path, and there is a Neanderthal rights movement, given the resurrection of this kindred branch of human evolution. Interestingly, the duck is extinct in this universe. Computer and aviation technology are far behind our own timeline, with the transistor having never been invented (computers are still massive and run on vacuum tubes) and research into the jet engine unfunded as propeller and dirigible technology are viewed as 'good enough'.
The Goliath Corporation is a megalithic company that appears to make many of the goods in this alternate world and also acts as a de facto shadow government, being able to take over important police investigations.
In the world of Thursday Next, literature is a much more popular medium than in our world, and Thursday is a member of SO-27, the Literary Detectives or LiteraTecs. Her work is centred on Swindon, where she, her husband, infant, and mother live. The importance that literature has in this alternate England is reflected in the fact that so many people want to change their name to that of famous authors that some must be numbered, by law- e.g. John Milton 432. 'WillSpeak' machines are often to be found in public places, such as railway stations - these contain a mannequin of a Shakespearian character and will quote that character's most famous speeches upon payment.
In addition, the line between literature and reality becomes increasingly thin, allowing characters in the books and those in 'real life' to jump in and out of novels. This leads Thursday to change the ending of Jane Eyre; the joke being that the plot we know in our reality is the far superior change caused by Thursday. This also happens to other classic novels- Uriah Heep becomes the obsequious, and generally insincere character we know, due to an accident inside the book world, and Thursday's uncle Mycroft becomes Sherlock Holmes's brother.
Thursday also finds that the characters in novels are self-aware, knowing they are in a book. They make comments stating they are not needed until page 'such and such,' rather like actors in a play, and thus have time to help Thursday.
The world of fiction has its own police force - Jurisfiction - to ensure that plots in books continue to run smoothly with each reading. Thursday ends up hiding in a book, and working for Jurisfiction. The book Caversham Heights is a detective novel featuring Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his sergeant, Mary Mary, (listed as Mary Jones in WOLP) who swaps with Thursday. Spratt and Mary get their own Fforde series, The Nursery Crime Division books, and appear in The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear featuring crimes against characters in classic children's literature.
Thursday is in her mid-thirties at the start of the first book, and, by the end of it, had married Landen Parke-Laine. Thursday juggles her work in Swindon and the world of fiction, battling the machinations of the insidious Goliath Corporation, members of the Hades family and other evils at every turn.
Her father, Colonel Next, is a rogue member of the ChronoGuard (SpecOps 12), a temporal policing agency, and officially does not exist, having been eradicated by his former bosses (using the simple but effective method of a timely knock on the door just before his conception; despite this, his children and grandchild still exist, likely due to Thursday's son Friday Next being the eventual head of the ChronoGuard, and/or the extensive powers of Colonel Next himself). The elder Next does, however, remain at large throughout the time-space continuum, and still frequently finds time to visit Thursday, usually by stopping time around her so they can talk without his being arrested by the ChronoGuard. Colonel Next's first name is unknown to everybody but him, a consequence of his eradication. Thursday has two brothers, Anton, who died in the Crimean War, and Joffy, who is a minister for the Global Standard Deity (GSD).
Thursday also has a pet dodo called Pickwick. Although dodos had been extinct for some time, in Fforde's fictional universe they have been reintroduced through cloning, a popular hobby. Pickwick was 12 in 1985, when The Eyre Affair is set, and has some unusual characteristics, including missing wings. She is a version 1.2 Dodo, and the DNA sequencing wasn't complete until the release of 1.7. Although initially Thursday Next believed Pickwick to be male, she later turned out to be female when she laid an egg. Her noise is represented as "plock plock" in the books.
Around Thursday Next a fictional world has been created, reflected in several websites of the fictional organisations.
The sixth Thursday Next novel is called One of our Thursdays is Missing, and was released in the UK on 22 February 2011.
The seventh Thursday Next novel, The Woman Who Died a Lot was released in the UK on 12 July 2012 and in the US on October 2, 2012.
- Special features for First Among Sequels – note that a code word (from the novel) is required to access this page.
- Website of the fictional organisation SpecOps
- Website of the fictional organisation Goliath Corporation
- Website of the fictional city Swindon in the parallel universe