Fifty Shades of Grey

I write this review following one week relaxing on the sunny beaches of Kusudasi, in Turkey. As per any beach holiday, some properly trashy beach literature was required. I brought with me I, Partridge (the brilliant Alan Partridge autobiography), Double Dexter (reasonable, but not as good as the telly series) and a William Shatner Star Trek novel. This is not a review of any of those books. As I ran out of reading material, I turned to my lovely ladyfriend's collection of digital books. Enter a sweaty, sordid three days during which I read all three Fifty Shades of Grey books.   

Fifty Shades of Grey makes for incredible holiday reading in that it is complete bollocks (fifty shades of bollocks, in fact). It is to mothers what The Da Vinci Code is to your dad. It lends itself to skim reading because one can skip entire paragraphs pages chapters of the book without losing any sense of what is going on. And the reader's brain only has to put up with but a limited number of words, since EL James just uses the same ones over and over again. I don't think I've ever seen anyone's mouth ever "twist into a line" and yet Mister Grey's does this on practically every other page. Ditto, his ragged breath and Miss Steele's repeated acquiescence.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a book about a student (Anastasia Steele) who, after her tenacious journalist friend (we know she's tenacious because she is described as such many, many times) falls ill, steps in to conduct an interview with mysterious multimillionaire Christian Grey.  She falls over and calls him gay (Fifty Shades of Gay); he sneers at her and acts like a dick. It's a horrible interview; mostly because Ana Steele is a moron and Christian Grey is a cunt.  

But if Twilight has evidenced anything, it's that a large proportion of women swoon for fictional shitty men. They'll lust after the likes of Edward Cullen, Mister Darcy, Sawyer from LOST and Christian Grey whilst at the same time complaining that all men are bastards. If the relationship between Ana and Christian seems very similar to that of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, that's because it literally is the same. Fifty Shades of Grey began life as Twilight fan-fiction (titled Master of the Universe), with EL James just changing the names for publication. So Team Jacob is now a character called Jose Rodriguez. Mexican is not the same thing as Native American, but "whatever", James thought, "they're both shades (GET IT) of brown." Ana Steele is a little too reluctant to feel like the wet, naturally submissive Bella completely, but James has the lip-biting and falling over down pat. Grey is supposed to seem cool and desirable - but this is undermined by his listening to The Kings of Leon and owning a Fight Club poster. The attempts at pop culture are laughable. As is Grey referring to Ana as 'baby'.

It becomes clear immediately that Christian and Ana are drawn to one another. But Mister Grey has a dark secret: he's into BDSM in a big way, and wants Ana as his 'submissive' rather than his girlfriend. Where most men would realise that you might want to be subtle with that sort of thing (a girl is more likely to let you tie her up if you introduce the idea in a sensitive, charming manner. Or, er, just ask first), Christian saunters into the shop where she works and gets her to sell him some cable ties, rope and duct tape. But Ana is a naive soul thick shit and merely assumes that Grey is doing some decorating. James tells us repeatedly that Ana is a highly intelligent, smart-mouthed character, but her dialogue and actions suggest otherwise. Grey wastes little time in stalking Ana; tracking her phone, having her followed and pretty much kidnapping her at the end of the night. Christian Grey is Bruce Wayne if Bruce had dedicated his life to wanting to fuck his dead mom instead of trying to avenge her. I can imagine Grey's own personal Lucius Fox, sweating away in the basement, fixing up some neat new stalking tools for Grey. Grey actually calls himself a Dark Knight at one point.

Morally (and probably legally) it's a pretty shitty thing to do to, manipulating a girl's obvious crush on you by dictating that the only relationship she can have with you is an abusive one. And so when Ana 'misbehaves', she is violently spanked. But it's fine to hit your partner when she 'misbehaves', because you're doing it in the name of kinky-fuckery. Grey justifies his physical and emotional abuse by saying "Ana, I'm fifty shades of fucked up". I escaped a boring relationship once by pretending to have a mental breakdown. I'm just saying, sometimes describing yourself as "being fucked up" is an easy way to act like a bell-end without repercussions.

Because apparently being "fucked up" (albeit in a tremendously emo way) will justify any errant or abusive behaviour on your part. Ana accepts that Grey is "fucked up" and lets him repeatedly control, beat and humiliate her. We all have to put up with things we don't like in relationships (I once watched The Tourist), but the use of phrases like "fifty shades of fucked up" is a hard limit for me.    

Compromise in this case means Ana doing whatever Grey tells her to do, and him hitting her slightly less. He even consents to let her have vanilla sex when he takes her virginity, because he's all heart, that man. Approximately two things happen in Fifty Shades of Grey, interspersed with a number of softcore sex scenes and some mildly kinky bits of bondage and spanky-panky. Throughout, the pair speak in atrocious dialogue (the whole thing reads like the script of a particularly dire pornography) as Ana converses with her own subconscious and - most irritatingly - her 'inner goddess'. This is a cheap way of showing that Ana secretly likes what Grey does to her and makes little sense. You can't talk to your subconscious, Ana, because it's your fucking subconscious. The whole point of your subconscious is that you can't hear it.

I suspect my subconscious is a bit of a moron, since I find it hard to dislike Fifty Shades of Grey. Make no mistake, it is one of the worst books I have ever read. It's better than Twilight, though. And much better than Pride and Prejudice too. Is it romantic? Not remotely. It is, however, the funniest thing I have read in a long time. I laughed more at Fifty Shades of Grey than I did my Alan Partridge autobiography. The book actually reminded me a lot of The Frightened Woman, without any of that film's arty weirdness.

Still, I'm hardly the target audience. People evidently like this sort of thing, and if that leads to a flush of kinky moms, then I suppose it's a good thing (aside from the fact that Grey is the worst poster boy for any lifestyle, ever). It's no revelation - it's just a crappy piece of erotica with passable sex scenes but a truly terrible story, characters and writing. For all of Christian Grey's fifty shades, I would argue that Ana is equally fucked up. What sort of imbecile, after all, continues to date a man who forbids her from doing as she wishes, dictates when she should eat (Christian's obsession with food is hilarious) and chastises her constantly for biting her lip? The pair deserve one another.


  1. Thanks to "Fifty Shades of Grey" my wife's Kindle smells like 50 cans of tuna.

  2. This review made me laugh out loud. This book is so laugable and so awful. This woman doesn't even understand the basics of American speech. Americans do NOT use words like "pram" or "ring someone on the telephone" or "going to University." Who edited this? And for goodness sake, someone buy this woman a thesaurus. She uses the same words over and over again.

    Why exactly was Ana so interesting? She's an idiot. I think you hit the nail on the head about women wanting to romanticize, mythologize, and ultimately "tame" jerks. It's not possible. A jerk is a jerk. WOMEN YOU CAN'T CHANGE HIM!! Thank you for making this point.

    And thank you for brininging up the point that being in an emotionally and physically abusive relationship should NOT release an "inner goddess." It's just maddening.

    This is why I married a nice guy. Nice guys are amazing!!!

    I heard this will soon be turned into a movie. Supposedly Ian Sommeholder (sp?) and Alexander Skarsgard are interested in playing Grey. I hope that Skarsgard runs for the hills and does not embarass himself with this tripe.

    However, I disagree that this book has anything on 'Pride and Prejudice.' If 'Pride and Prejudice' took a dump this would be it.

    The only good thing to come out of this is the realization that if she can get published, anyone can.

  3. I flat out refuse to read this one. I am not particularly into books like that. Also, every woman I know talks about this book like it's the second coming. No pun intended.

  4. I completely agree with you!

  5. Joel, where are you??? Come back to receive a blog award from me!: