Facebook has been alight recently with women claiming to be curled up in bed with Mr Grey. Word on the street is that he is the new Edward Cullen, with ladies, young and old, swooning over the impossibly beautiful lead character in Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. The book has been described to me as an erotic novel. It’s not really the type of novel I’d normally read (blushing already), but with all the hype about it, I had to get involved. Once again, I’ve jumped on the bandwagon and spent the last 48 hours, between working, sleeping and eating, curled up with, the indeed mesmerising, Christian Grey.
Where do I start? This love story is a complicated lesson in the world of BDSM (if you don’t know what that is, I don’t recommend you Google it!). I found it degrading and humiliating for the lead female character, Miss Anastasia Steele. An inexperienced graduate with dreams of being swept off her feet by a knight in shining armour or a hero in her favourite English classic novels. Mr Christian Grey holds none of the qualities that may be found in such a knight or hero. Instead he is bossy, mercurial and dark, with even darker tendencies and tastes. As he warns that he is no good for her, I am certainly reminded of the Twilight conversation between Edward Cullen and Isabella Swan, and the comparison is suddenly very clear. However, it is certainly not your traditional romance…
I started reading and was immediately bored by the dull, unchallenging language. Nothing in the text or story gripped me. It read like a ‘chick-lit’ novel. There us nothing wrong with a chick-lit novel, I just don’t tend to read them. Soon, however, I found myself mouth gaping, eyes wide as I read that Mr Christian Grey has a taste for BDSM; he wants poor, naïve Anastasia to be his submissive, and he her dominant. Thrown into a world she doesn’t know or understand, she soon finds herself falling for the man who describes himself as ‘Fifty shades of f**ked up.’ Wonder where they got the idea for the title?
What happens next is a poor plot, lacking any real drama or crisis. With only the hint of a secret and every second page a raunchy sex scene, somehow it became a real page turner. Now, don’t get me wrong, I blushed at every mention of sex. I read through my fingers as I cringed at the words but I couldn’t stop. I finally came to the conclusion that, where E.L. James has failed to write a literary marvel, she has succeeded in accomplishing what Sex and the City did to our TV screens, for our books; she has made sex acceptable for the modern women to read about. The publishers tastefully designed the covers so that they can be read discreetly, so that fellow bus/train passengers, café customers or even work colleagues would never guess it’s a naughty novel. However, the widespread success and notoriety that has surrounded this novel means women can no longer hide behind the tastefully subtle cover design.
It’s been slated by feminists as degrading to women. How can we fall for a fictional character that enjoys demoralizing women, glorifying abuse? What do I say to them? It’s only a book, calm down. If you don’t like it, don’t read it. I’m sure Sex and the City had the same reaction when it first arrived on our screens.
As I was reading, I was telling myself that I wasn’t going to read the next two (yes, it’s part of a trilogy). If I had a pound for every time Anastasia thought ‘oh my’ or uttered ‘please…’ I’d be rich. James has a habit of repeating parts of the story, the contract (yes, that’s right) Christian asks Anastasia to sign is written out in full almost three times. The description of Mr Grey being ‘fifty shades of…’ is also, in my opinion, over-used. It gets tedious after a while. But despite this, Mr Grey is somewhat alluring. He harbours a dark past and a darker secret and I needed to know what they were. I don’t want to like this book, I find it hard to read, tedious and embarrassing, but when I got to the end I found myself immediately downloading the second Fifty Shades Darker to my Kindle. Like any good first instalment, there are loose ends and questions unanswered. Hopefully, by the end of part two, I will be able to walk away from Christian Grey; suddenly I feel I can empathise with poor Anastasia. It’s not a book I think I could share with my mum, or God help me, my Dad! But it is one that I’ve giggled about with my friends. We have all been equally shocked, embarrassed and entranced by Fifty Shades of Grey. So what can be wrong with that?
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a date with a bossy, mercurial, dark and impossibly handsome young man; Mr Grey.