Archive for the ‘Jasper Fforde’ Category

It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit and ended up with my being eaten by a carnivorous plant.  It wasn’t really what I’d planned for myself – I’d hoped to marry into the Oxbloods and join their dynastic string empire.  But that was four days ago, before I met Jane, retrieved the Caravaggio and explored High Saffron.  So instead of enjoying aspirations of Chromatic advancement, I was wholly immersed within the digestive soup of a yateveo tree.  It was all frightfully inconvenient. (p. 1)

 So begins Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde.  My goodness, but the man knows how to write an intriguing opening and what follows is a wonderfully imaginative and rather bizarre book.  Would you expect anything less from Fforde?

 The world of Eddie Russett is not as we, the reader, known it.  It is a world ruled by a Colourtocracy and your place in it is determined by what you can see.  Eddie, as his surname would suggest, is a Red and, as the novel begins, he and his father are on their way to East Carmine, his father to fill in for the recently deceased swatchman (a healer) and Eddie to conduct a chair census (punishment for having tried to improve queuing methods).  However, isolated East Carmine is not as simple as the regimented, rule-compliant world Eddie is used to and the beguiling Jane, with her retroussé nose, is a far cry from Constance Oxblood, the socially superior Red that Eddie is on half-promise to.  No, there are strange things afoot in East Carmine and, for the first time in his life, Eddie begins to wonder about the world he lives in, the rules that structure society, and his place in it.

At the best of times, I am a poor critic and here I am even worse.  I loved this book.  I love our naïve hero Eddie, I love the fierce and caustic Jane, and I adore the many supporting characters who people East Carmine – particularly Tommo with his many schemes and his marriage fantasy league.  There was never a point at which I wasn’t entertained while reading this, though it does take some time and concentration to wrap your head around the rules and structure of the colourtocracy.

One of the most important rules, from narrative point of view, is the importance of strategic marriages.  Almost from the beginning of the book, we see Eddie worrying about his dowry.  In Chromatacia, marriages are based not on affection (with a few eccentric exceptions) but on your mate’s potential to improve your offspring’s colour perception.  The greater your perception, the more valuable a commodity you become and enterprising individuals, like the aforementioned Tommo, can make quite a nice profit negotiating dowries on behalf of families.   Historically Red families who have been losing perception with each generation seek out spouses with high perception while Purples that are swinging too far toward Blue seek high Reds.  It’s all very interesting and the one hard and fast rule is that complimentary colours cannot marry.  This is mentioned quite early in the book, repeated several times, and yes, by the time you’ve been beat over the head with it a few times, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that it is significant.  Who doesn’t love a nice Romeo and Juliet set-up?

Already, I’m eager for Fforde to continue this series.  Please Mr. Fforde, stop writing the new Thursday Next novel (I continue to find her very annoying) and focus on this instead?  Much appreciated.

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