OK, I’ll admit it. I’ve been intrigued by Fifty Shades of Grey for a few weeks now. Since books are my thing, it’s especially gratifying when a book makes headlines. Even a book about (gasp) sex. The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey started out as fan fiction on the internet, based on the Twilight books no less, interests me because it is now one of the most talked-about books on the planet. If you haven’t heard of it, where have you been?
Here’s what happened when I decided to see what all the fuss was about. I started casually looking for it at places like Target and Costco. Turns out there aren’t any copies to be had anywhere. I finally went to Barnes & Noble, expecting to find a big display right near the front of the store. When I couldn’t find it, I went to the information desk for help. I would have preferred to find a female employee behind the counter, but of course it’s a guy. A young, fairly attractive guy who looks like he knows what I’m about to ask for. So I ask him if they have Fifty Shades of Grey, and he says, no, there’s actually a waiting list for the book. Really?? I feel like I’m not the first one to ask him this question. He very kindly asks me if I’d like to add my name to the list, with a bit of a smirk, I might add. Putting my actual name on a list for this book seems like the wrong thing to do. So I decline, and decide to just download it to my Nook. It’s more discreet, and hey, it’s available right this second! Now no one will know that I’m going to read Fifty Shades of Grey. Well, except for the nice man at Barnes & Noble.
Now that it’s in my hot little hands, I put aside the other book I’ve been struggling to get through and start to read. I expect the worst. I’ve heard the writing is terrible. But actually, it’s not that bad. The woman can string together the right words to form a well-written sentence, and no matter what you may have heard, the story has a certain compelling quality that made me want to keep reading. The “story” (and I use that word loosely – plot kind of takes a backseat) follows college student Anastasia and her strange and erotic relationship with a young millionaire named Christian Grey. They meet, they are attracted to each other, and for the first ninety pages or so, they dance around each other a lot. I’ll say this for her: James knows how to draw out the anticipation. She gives you a little bit at a time, and then wham, hits you hard on page 102. (Keep in mind, ladies, if you’re using my page numbers for reference, I’m reading this on a Nook.)
And so it goes. Ana is asked to sign a contract with Christian if she wants to enter into a, ahem, relationship with him, a contract that bluntly states that Ana will submit to Christian in whatever ways he asks. Of course she signs, otherwise this book wouldn’t exist. As characters go, Ana is a terrible role model for women, but the book is not about strong women characters. Ana is the submissive in their relationship, after all. And from what I have read so far, the Twilight fan fiction thing is starting to make sense. Ana is very much like Bella from Twilight: young, confused, and smitten with a dangerous man who is bound to damage her in some way. I have only read to page 162, so I can’t actually give you a fair review about how the book ends, but in case you’re wondering, yes, I do plan on reading the whole thing. Not because of the riveting story, but I’m curious to see just how far James goes with Ana and Christian. Plus I haven’t even gotten to the part where he takes her into the “playroom”! And yes, there is a bit of purple prose. It’s actually pretty difficult to write a sex scene without falling into that writing trap.
Two sequels are going to be released this year, and you guessed it, the movie rights have already been sold. James is on the fast track to fame, if not infamy. The bottom line is this: if you’re looking to cut your teeth on soft porn, this could be a good place to start. And if you want to skip all the in-between stuff, then wait for my “only the good parts” post coming soon. I’ll be sure to keep track of them for you.
Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James is available as a trade paperback from Vintage, in addition to the digital version.