Ellan Read

sometimes witty book reviews

Shades of Grey

Title: Shades of Grey
Author/Year: Jasper Fforde, 2009
a cousin’s bookshelf (next to the Thursday Next series)
Read time: 
A day in bed (additional bout of pneumonia not recommended)


Eddie Russett can only see the colour red. Or at least his father can, which means it’s most likely that he can too. He hasn’t sat the government test (the Ishihara) yet to determine exactly which hues he can see, but he will soon.

This is the world of Chromatacia; a post-apocalyptic society based on which natural colours you can see. Munsell (of the Munsell colour chart) is the revered founder and each colour and hue is ranked in a cast order. The more hues you can see and the purer they are, the higher up the hierarchy you belong. But no one knows quite what their station is until they take the Ishihara.

Russett and his father (a Swatchman – sort of like a doctor who uses swatches artifical colours instead of medicine) have just been sent to East Carmine. While awaiting the scheduling of his testing, Russett is falling in love with a Grey named Jane (Jane G23 – too low down the colour chart for a last name). Violet deMauve is trying to wed Russett to bring her family’s dangerously blue-side-of-purple hues back to a purer colour. The manufacture of spoons is banned and certain swatches of artificial colours, like Lincoln Green, are limited due to there addictive qualities.

But, as ordered as this world appears, Russett has questions. Dangerous questions that the government doesn’t like being asked. Where do criminals go? Why exactly can’t a Green and Red marry? Who is Zane? Why does Jane G23 have  inexplicable gifts? This Shades (to me, and I’m not judging genres in the slightest) is a far more engaging read than the other Shades. (You know, that light-BDSM book? 50 Shades of Gray?

Fforde, known for his eccentric (and somewhat erratic) plots, stays quite focused in this book. The characters are written well into this unique take on dystopia. Also, an ability to think of the world in black and white develops over the time spent reading this novel – as does a distrust of single lane tarmac roads…but I won’t spoil anything.

If you see the release date of Book II before I do, tell me. PLEASE.


The HSV Colour Chart on which the hues used in Shades of Grey is based.

One comment on “Shades of Grey

  1. Pingback: Even Silence has an End | Ellan Read

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2015 by in British, Fiction and tagged , , , , , .

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