Excerpt: Jasper Fforde's Shades of Grey

On 'normal days', the Excerpt Reader consider itself a right expert in everything literary, especially when it comes to fiction..

There are are a few cases, though, when the Excerpt chooses to stick to the ninth amendment, and opt for the right to remain silent, rather than blabber on about literary works adhering to genres relatively obscure to the Reader.

Those genres may vary from science to science fiction, say (fantasy included), thrillers (espionage or crime novels, the Reader can do without reading most of them..) or Historical novels, baah.

The novels of Jasper Fforde, versatile as they may be, adhere to none of the above genres, yet they would still featured high on the Reader's reading-priority list, if it had one..

So much so, that the Reader has actually purchased, a few years back and on a half-whim, Fforde's third published novel, The Well of Lost Plots (2003), placed it in its library, and has almost completely forgotten all about it since, let alone read it. It stand there ever-since, lonely, a living monument of the Reader's inability to think outside the box, or read outside the box, for that matter.

When news of a 'new' Fforde novel, Shades of Grey, published late last year, came to its ears, the Reader had to call in the experts.

A Jesper-Excerpt came immediately to my rescue, in the form of a dear friend, writer and blogger

Here's what she thought of Fforde's novel:

First some background.. 

When I heard there was a book about a literary detective called Thursday Next, where people move freely between our world and fiction, and where fictional characters like Jane Eyre are kidnapped from her book, I simply had to get my hands on it at once and read it.. 

I love English literature, and the world created by Jasper Fforde, where Shakespearians have fist-fights with Marlovians on the street, and "Richard the 3rd" is a cult show with audience participation, made a lot of sense to me. 

Coming from a 'decorous' yet at-most-times informal cultural background, I also think that what people refer to as 'high-culture' should not be something revered and admired from afar, but rather something to love, have fun with and enjoy. 

And Fforde sure knows how to do that..

There is a wonderful world to be found in Fforde's writings. For example, in the Thursday Next quadrilogy one discovers that Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations is addicted to car racing and that David Copperfield killed his first wife Dora, and was arrested and replaced by a clone – which, as literary criticism, is actually very much to the point! 

The fourth Thursday Next book appealed to me less than the first three, maybe because – although it has some Hamlet in it – it is more about politics than about literature. 

I haven't read the second series by Fforde, the one featuring Jack Spratt solving nursery crimes. Maybe it was my laziness and maybe Humpty Dumpty and other nursery characters didn't appeal to me as much as Mr. Rochester

And now to the chase..

At the Excerpt Reader's request, I have read a few of the opening pages of Fforde's new book, Shades Of Grey, which "imagines a screwball future in which social castes and protocols are rigidly defined by acuteness of personal color perception. Centuries after the cryptically cataclysmic Something That Happened, a Colortocracy, founded on the inflexible absolutes of the chromatic scale, rules the world. Amiable Eddie Russett, a young Red, is looking forward to marrying a notch up on the palette and settling down to a complacent bourgeois life. But after meeting Jane G-23, a rebellious working-class Grey, and a discredited, invisible historian known as the Apocryphal man, Eddie finds himself questioning the hitherto sacred foundations of the status quo". 

Sounds witty and brilliant, but didn't it make you a little bit dizzy? 

And as for the excerpt, it was very vivid, starting in medias res, piling up adventures and then going back to relate the circumstances, and it was apparent that Fforde is no less brilliant than he ever was, but I guess for me the Ffordian ffun and ffrolic are a little too much when they're not directly connected to my favourite subject.

Instead of reading Shades of Grey, I might just take a candle to my bedside and read some Victorian literature, fondly remembering Heathcliff's bad behaviour during group therapy in Wuthering Heights


VERDICT: BUY IT (because every book by Fforde is loads of Ffun)

& Tx again, Lee, for this insightful reading.


  1. Do you reveiw poetry? If so I'd like you to reveiw my latest and 2nd collection of poetry intitled "That Dark, Glorious State". Its now on Goodreads.com and has been published by lulu publications.(lulu.com) I have been getting published since 1981, writing since 1974. My name is Carlus L. Wilmot. My first book, An Addicts Tale, a collection of poetry is on Barnes & Noble, Flipchart.com, and www.publishamerica. I'd like a reveiw if possible.

  2. I don't normally do poetry, Carlus, but I will definitely have a look and let you know. Thank you for leaving a comment and letting me know