Excerpt from The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Constant Rabbit

by Jasper Fforde

The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde X
The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde
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  • First Published:
    Sep 2020, 320 pages

    Sep 2021, 320 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Daniela Schofield
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Print Excerpt

Mr Baldwin could reshelve the returned books, assisted by Neville Chamberlain.

'Time check,' I called.

'Ninety seconds gone, Mr Major,' replied Mrs Thatcher.

All seemed to be going well until the Sole Librarian's stamping abruptly ceased, suggesting a clog in the system, and Neville Chamberlain simultaneously announced that she couldn't find a copy of Wind, Sand and Stars.

'Try Aviation, three-eight-seven,' said the Sole Librarian, her deep knowledge of Dewey classification coming to the fore.

While Neville was dealing with the potential mis-shelving of Antoine de Saint-ExupŽry, I went to see what the logjam was with returns. The problem was a Code 2-76: Mrs Dibley had kept her copy of Henry Ford and Other Positive Role Models for Disaffected Youth for eighteen weeks longer than the permitted time, and the Sole Librarian was filling out a form for an overdue fine.

'This lady was clearly not for returning,' said Mrs Thatcher, indicating the overdue book. I grimaced. The Blitz would be tight, but so far the situation was not irredeemable.

'How is it going with Wind, Sand and Stars, Mr Chamberlain?' I called towards the shelves as David Lloyd George pushed the trolley full of picked loans towards the front desk.

'I have in my hand this piece of paper,' replied Neville Chamberlain triumphantly, holding aloft the book.

The Sole Librarian shifted from returns to loans, and moved on to the rhythmic thump-thump, thump-thump of the 'double tap', one on the library card, one on the date return slip pasted in the front of the book. The next step was reshelving, and by the time Mrs Thatcher called out 'two minutes remaining' we were well ahead of ourselves and a sense of ease descended on the small group: we would clear this Blitz with time to spare. I was just placing a copy of the worryingly popular Cecil Rhode's Greatest Speeches as Spoken by Oswald Mosley in the Talking Book section when I heard a voice from behind me.

'May I ask a question?'

I stopped dead, for I recognised the voice. It was one I had not heard for a long time, nor had ever thought I would again. A soft yet very distinctive West Country accent, tinged with questioning allure. I turned slowly, unsure of quite what to say or do, and there was Connie, staring at me with the same intensity I remembered from our shared late-night coffees during freshman year at the University of Barnstaple.

'Sure,' I said, not knowing whether she recognised me or not.

'It's a book question,' she replied brightly, and seemingly without a flicker of recognition. Oddly, I felt relieved. I'd been very fond of her, although unwilling to show it, and I think she might have felt the same. But after a few dates - she never called them that although I did, secretly to myself - she was asked to leave the college following a judicial review of the legal status of her attendance, and that was that. I'd always wanted to see her again, and I would see much of her over the coming weeks. I'd be at her side three months from now during the Battle of May Hill, the smell of burned rubber and cordite drifting across the land, the crack of artillery fire in the distance. I had no idea of that, of course, and neither, I imagine, did she.

'Well, it is a library,' I said, hoping my sudden consternation didn't show. 'What do you want to know?'

By rights, she shouldn't have been there at all, and not because she was a rabbit. The public, although technically allowed to enter the library during opening hours, never did. We were, after all, simply doing our civic duty by way of the community, and the community, in turn, stayed away and allowed us to carry on the work on their behalf. I deemed Connie not just an old acquaintance, but a Code 4-51: 'Unidentified public in the Librarying area'.

'I'm after Rabbit and Rabbitability,' she said. 'Like Austen's classic but more warren-based and with a greater emphasis on ears, sex, carrots, burrowing and sex.'

Excerpted from The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde. Copyright © 2020 by Jasper Fforde. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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