Fifty Shades of Grey by EL James – 2011
This is one of only three novels that I’ve started and failed to finish. The other two are classics that I intend to go back to one day. Fifty Shades of Grey is no classic. It’s easy to believe that this started life as a piece of fan fiction for the Twilight saga, because this is poorly written even for a first draft, let alone something that has (allegedly) gone through several.
I’ve only read the first seventy pages of this novel, so this isn’t a review, nor is it my opinion of the book as a whole. It is however, a place for me to say how awful I believe those first seventy pages are, and how head-scratchingly annoying it is that the author made many millions of dollars off the back of something that quite blatantly pandered to the lowest common denominator.
I feel the colour in my cheeks rising again. I must be the colour of The Communist Manifesto.
Fifty Shades of Grey was sold as the most sexually charged and hedonistic mainstream work since Caligula, and if that is true and not just crass marketing hyperbole, then the genre of erotic fiction is in a lot of trouble. Now, have I fed into this whole thing by even starting the novel in the first place? Yeah, probably. But I had to find out what all the fuss was about.
His lips part, like he’s taking a sharp intake of breath, and he blinks. For a fraction of a second, he looks lost somehow, and the Earth shifts slightly on its axis, the tectonic plates sliding into a new position.
I had an open mind going in, but that soon became very difficult. The lead character, Anastasia (yes, that’s her name) is fascinated by the older and more experienced Mr Grey, although she hardly knows him at all and lacks the confidence to say much of anything to him.
And from a very tiny, underused part of my brain—probably located at the base of my medulla oblongata near where my subconscious dwells—comes the thought: He’s here to see you.
Going in I thought this was going to present a strong female lead, but instead, Anastasia comes across as nauseatingly weak. She is the single most pathetic, insipid, can’t-make-her-damn-mind-up protagonist that I have read in any novel. And for a novel that’s sold as being all about sex, there sure as shit isn’t so much as an exposed thigh in those first seventy pages. I know Anastasia is all about her flower, but goddamn woman!
Perhaps the four hundred pages that follow is filled with the most mind-blowing coitus ever commited to paper, but I doubt it.