It’s the most talked about book of the year, it’s sold 20 million copies since April and it’s made its unpublished fan-fic author, E L James, a multimillionaire. So what is all the fuss about? This week my curiosity got the better of me and I downloaded Fifty Shades Of Grey onto my iPod.
I have to say, as I read it I was really underwhelmed by it. Linguistically, the book bored me. It’s crudely written, and the use of clichés is repetitive, even during the steamier parts of the novel. If you missed Anastasia, the protagonist, saying that she “blushed crimson” the first time, you certainly would read it again. In fact, the novel as a whole is repetitive. Each of its 26 chapters involves some angst on Anastasia’s part, a new sexual revelation from Christian Grey, and a not so exciting sex scene. I would have been fine with only fifty pages of Grey. This is the first time that an erotica novel has entered the mainstream market, and it would have been excellent to see the author experiment with the language she used, as well as sexual element of the book. In fact, after hearing the hype about the novel’s graphic sex scenes, I actually felt that they weren’t as graphic as I believed they would be (or possibly hoped!)
Moreover, the storyline is very unoriginal. Anybody familiar with Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series will notice the undoubted similarities, thought E L James herself has said that these books inspired her. I also couldn’t help thinking “what’s actually happening here?” Ana and Christian are having a lot of sex and they seem to be enjoying it, but there was no movement in the rest of the story.
But something about the book made me carrying on reading. I wanted to know if Anastasia would submit to Christian Grey and sign his bizarre sex contract. I began to be interested in the psychological theme of the novel, which hints at Christian Grey’s traumatic childhood. Was I going to find out what created this darkly unique character? This enigma, like many others, was left unresolved, maybe to entice readers to buy the second and third novels in the series.
However, it’s clear that Christian Grey is the sole reason for the book’s success. He’s the stereotype of the “perfect” man. He’s the man that every woman wants, and as a guy, I can say he’s the man every man would like to be. Christian Grey is extremely wealthy in money as well as good looks, and he’s completely irresistible to women. Which guy doesn’t want all of those things? This fantasy is what has made the book successful, as readers are allowed to bring their own imagination to it. (Though, it does lead me to question why so many women in the post-liberal world are happy to read a novel about female submission to men.)
I find it hard to see much success for a film version of the Fifty Shades. It will be difficult for a director not to disappoint when so many readers have a vivid image of what the scenes look like. (Especially female readers, Christian Grey is not real!)And it will be almost impossible to create a good plot out of the book’s limited storyline. Moreover, as graphic sex scenes are integral to the novel, it’s hard to see mainstream cinema’s playing what will essentially be porn.
So to summarise, Fifty Shades of Grey is hardly the most impressive book I’ve read. I can see why they have been particularly successful, and I’d probably read the other books just to see how the rest of the story pans out, but for now I only give it two stars out of five.