So why bother reading it?
This is a perfectly reasonable question. I suppose it’s because everyone seems to be reading it. On trains, on Twitter, in the hairdresser’s, which is, in fact where I was lent a copy for comment by my friend Lynda. I can’t comment without reading it. And I have to finish it, because it stresses me out to start something and not finish it. Like that over-complicated multi-cabled jumper I’m supposed to be knitting for my husband. So, anyway, that’s how I came to read Fifty Shades of Grey. There are all sorts of reviews and spoofs going around so this post isn’t exactly an original idea, but this is MY blog so I can do as I please. Unlike Anastasia Steele, apparently.
The long review:
This book started to irritate me from the first few pages of its turgid style. It is fair to say that my disbelief was not suspended. For instance, which parents would buy their student daughter a Mercedes CLK? This was a mere detail, however, when applied to the character of Anastasia Steele, who was allowed to borrow said vehicle. Let me examine her in more detail:
She is 21 years old and has never had a boyfriend. She is a virgin and has never been interested in experiencing any kind of sex. (Was that delicate enough for you, dear Reader?) She has been at college for four years and yet has never been drunk. She appears to have few friends and no interests outside English Literature. And how is it possible that she has done a degree without even having her own computer in 2011? How are we supposed to believe this?
And then along comes Christian Gray. A self-made mega-gazillionaire at 27 who has complete and autocratic control of his own company. We are not told what he does for a living, exactly, but it appears to be mergers and acquisitions. Oh and he’s doing something terribly worthy in Darfur too. So he must be a caring guy at heart then. All of this empire is run from his Blackberry with the odd visit to his office between erotic (to him) forays. Christian, in contrast to Ana(stasia) still finds the time to have loads of hobbies: he plays the piano beautifully in the middle of the night (Chopin and Bach of course); he flies his helicopter and he glides. Or “soars.” He shops for instruments of sexual torture. How on earth does he find the time? Oh I know. It’s because he has staff to worry about the inconveniences of life such as shopping, or cooking or commuting. And of course, he lives in a fantastic, completely white and glass flat full of sophisticated easy-clean surfaces, all glamorous and shiny and new-looking. How lovely, to live in such an immaculate place, don’t you think, ladies? I couldn’t help wondering who cleaned his S&M playroom, but best not to dwell on that.
He is beautiful, she is beautiful, everyone is beautiful and they go in a glider and a helicopter. And he urges her to eat because she suffers from that terrible fiction affliction of being too skinny and so aroused that she’s off her food. We can all identify with that, can’t we ladies? *bites lip*
There is no plot, apart from the premise that a hard-wired (ahem) control freak such as Christian Grey can be changed into a cuddly, romantic teddybear by the love of a naive, yet feisty, virgin. Because you can change a person’s whole personality just by hanging on in there. Did you hear that, you victims of domestic violence? You’re clearly not trying hard enough.
Oh yes, and he had a deprived early childhood. That’s it. They have a lot of sex but, you know, the sexy bits are coy yet repetitive and could almost have been cut and pasted from one sex scene to the next. Another of my Twitter friends quite rightly observed that one would have to be made of stone not to be somewhat aroused by reading this book. Well, yes, that’s true up to a point, but after a while I found myself tiring of having to read about so many sex sessions in a 24 hour period. “Not again,” I groaned. I mean, what’s wrong with occasionally sitting down together with a cup of tea and a slice of cake in front of the News? Or even a nice game of Scrabble? But no, on they pound, he with his “impressive length,” and “foil packets,” she with her incessant “Oh mys!” What the actual hell? And I don’t even want to go into the inner angel/devil conversation with her subconscious and her “inner goddess.” Please!
Fifty Shades of Grey is essentially acceptable soft porn. Why do so many people like it? Why are so many reading it and evidently enjoying it? It’s been called Mummyporn, perhaps by the same people who talk without irony about Yummy Mummies or write the adverts for the Daz Doorstep Challenge. The employment of this epithet is quite clever really, as it has brought in a whole new audience of curious middle-aged ladies who think of themselves as open-minded when it comes to sex, and means that this badly-written dross has been snapped up by many who wouldn’t normally bother to read anything. It is an airhead product of an X Factor society. People feel comfortable reading it on public transport or discussing it in suburban book groups or on Facebook. I wonder how those people would feel if every other man you saw on the Tube were reading Penthouse or Nuts. This double standard makes me deeply uncomfortable.
Fairly early on, I started to feel increasingly annoyed with this book. Can you tell? It made me feel as depressed as when I read the impeccable A Thousand Splendid Suns a few years ago. In fact, if you take away the endless money and the the beauty of its central characters (why are people in books never just ordinary-looking?) Fifty Shades… is just a story of the brutal exploitation of a naive young woman. But because this is set in the West and not Afghanistan, we can giggle and call it erotic. The scene in the Greys’ boathouse is tantamount to rape, in my view. It’s so depressing that we can wave away such sinister, violent totalitarianism with an embarrassed giggle. And don’t tell me that they were both consenting adults. Ana is far too young and inexperienced to be in any position to consent to any of this behaviour, no matter what her state of hormonal arousal. Wake up, everyone, this book condones physical and emotional abuse in a relationship. That is no giggling matter.
Fifty Shades… is shiny and expensive and glamorous: a sanitised, air headed presentation of relentless sex with none of the fuss or mess, so clean, and yet a bit naughty. We mummies like that, don’t we? I cannot believe that this is a honest attempt to write a piece of good literature, rather, that it is a cynical publishing tool to exploit the people it titilates. It’s rather depressing that Big Book thinks so little of us mums.
Apparently, the second and third book in the TRILOGY (!) address the characters and their formative experiences in more detail. Whatever. I really don’t care about these totally unsympathetic people and their insulated little bubble so I shan’t be reading them. Do yourselves a favour and go and read a good book by someone who actually cares about the words they write.
Finally, the short review, as recommended by my friend @Number1ScumMum: