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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Speed Librarying

Somebody once said that the library is actually the dominant life form on the planet. Humans simply exist as the reproductive means to achieve more libraries.

'Still on the Westerns, Baroness Thatcher?' I asked, moving slowly down the line of volunteers who were standing at readiness outside our library, a smallish mock-mock-Tudor building in the middle of Much Hemlock, itself more or less in the middle of the county of Hereford, which in turn was pretty much in the middle of the UK.

Much Hemlock was, in pretty much every meaning of the word, middling.

'Westerns are the best when they're not really Westerns at all,' said Baroness Thatcher, 'like when more akin to the Greek Epics. True Grit, for example.'

'Shane is more my kind of thing,' said Stanley Baldwin, who I think fancied himself as a softly spoken man of understated power and influence. Winston Churchill opined they were both wrong and that The Ox-Bow Incident was far better with its generally positive themes of extrajudicial violence. Neville Chamberlain tried to keep the peace and find some middle ground on the issue while David Lloyd George simply sat there in quiet repose, mentally preparing for the adrenaline-fuelled six minutes of Speed Librarying that lay before us.

Perhaps I should explain. The UKARP Government's much-vaunted Rural Library Strategic Group Vision Action Group had kept libraries open as per their election manifesto, but reduced the librarian staffing levels in Herefordshire to a single, solitary example working on greatly reduced hours - which meant that each of the county's twelve libraries could be open for precisely six minutes every two weeks.

And this is where my hand-picked team of faux politicians entered the picture. Using a mixture of careful planning, swiftness of foot, a robust understanding of the Dewey Decimal Book Categorisation System and with strict adherence to procedure, we could facilitate a fortnight's worth of returns, loans, reserves and extensions in the three hundred and sixty seconds available to us. It was known to all and sundry as a Buchblitz.

My name is Peter Knox, but for the next six minutes I'll be your John Major.

'Ready, Stanley?' I asked Mr Baldwin, who oversaw returns and reservations but was actually retired Wing Commander Slocombe, a former RAF officer who famously lost an ear while ejecting out of a Hawker Hunter over Aden. Remarkably, a solitary ear was retrieved from the wreckage of the aircraft and reattached. Even more remarkably, it wasn't his.

'Three times ready, Team Leader.'

'Mr Major?' asked Mrs Griswold, who usually ran the Much Hemlock village shop, post office, gossip exchange and pub combined. 'I can't remember if I'm Winston Churchill or David Lloyd George.'

'You're David Lloyd George,' I said. 'You select the books from the shelves to be given to Mr Chamberlain, who takes them to the counter and to Mrs Thatcher, who offers them up to the Sole Librarian to be stamped. It's really very simple.'

'Right,' said Mrs Griswold, 'David Lloyd George. Got it.'

I had devised an Emergency Code system for Speed Librarying, and Mrs Griswold was definitely a Code 3-20: 'Someone who village diplomacy dictated should be on the Blitzer team, but was, nonetheless, useless'. Sadly, no one but myself knew what a 3-20 was, as the system hadn't reached the levels of awareness I thought it deserved - a state of affairs that had its own code, a 5-12: 'Lack of enthusiasm over correct procedures'.

The church clock signalled 10.45 and the chatter gave way to an expectant hush. We had seen the Sole Librarian rummaging around prior to the opening, and while she would permit us to reshelf, log reservations and even use the card index, her stamps were sacrosanct: hers and hers alone. Because of this it was Mrs Thatcher's responsibility to ensure that books and library cards were placed before the Sole Librarian so that her stamping time was most effectively spent. The steady rhythm of rubber on paper was the litmus test of an efficient Blitz.

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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