Review by Lauryn Angel
With its cameos from major characters in British Literature and a protagonist who is an English professor with a specialty in Victorian British Literature, it’s hardly surprising that I liked The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep. That’s not to say that a reader has to have a degree in literature to enjoy this book – but a working knowledge certainly helps.
This novel falls into the trope of literary-characters-come-to-life familiar to readers of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next and Nursery Crimes series of books, but in this case, the setting is New Zealand. Robert Sutherland is awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from his brother, Dr. Charles Sutherland. Charley has once again read a character out of its book. In this case, the character is Uriah Heep, from Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield. Heep is returned to his book, but not before he issues an ominous warning of a “New World” coming. Thus begins a literary adventure that not only threatens Charley’s job and Rob’s relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia, but also the existence of Wellington, New Zealand and probably the world.
Filtering the action through the perspective of the very non-literary Rob Sutherland takes the pressure off for readers who aren’t familiar with Victorian literature, as Rob either finds himself turning to the internet or to the novels themselves to learn about the characters he and his brother encounter – thus explaining the connections to the readers themselves. However, most readers will find the humor in a Victorian neighborhood in which Matilda Wormwood, Heathcliff, the White Witch, and a slew of Mr. Darcys (all with a forehead curl that is very Colin Firth) are thrown together. Throw in a few plot twists and turns, and this is a riveting read for a rainy afternoon.
The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I thoroughly enjoyed it, and recommend it for fans of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series and of Genevieve Cogman’s Invisible Library series.
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