0 of 1 people found this review helpful
In love with this book !
23 November, 2013
Sweet bondage: despite its sadomaochistic theme, Fifty Shades of Grey is engagingly innocent
Fifty Shades of Grey is the huge erotic breakout novel of the digital download revolution. The idea is that anyone can write on the internet, build their popularity, then get properly published and downloaded on to Kindles and Kobos, so no one has to sit on a train showing the world they're reading about the best ropes for tying a virgin to a chair (natural filament, apparently).
Originally evolving through online slash/fic (fan-published erotic writing at the creepier end of the internet, where Ron Weasley and Harry discover their true feelings for one another and so forth) between Edward and Bella of Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey is now a fully realised trilogy, with Christian Grey as the pretty vampire – sorry, dominant – and Anastasia Steele as his feisty yet innocent partner.
It turns out that Christian Grey isn't a moony vampire at all; he is, in fact, the grey-templed, uber-rich and powerful businessman played by Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. He plays the piano, doesn't like to be touched, loves opera, orders Ana everything from the breakfast menu, makes the rules, doesn't want a relationship, buys her new clothes, stays in a huge suite in a posh hotel and so on.
More of a Frankenstein's monster than a Dracula, the book is similarly stitched together – the flirtatious emails are straight from Bridget Jones; Christian's apartment is, bizarrely, Frasier Crane's Seattle penthouse, floor-length windows, grand piano and all (I kept expecting Eddie to arrive and do something amusing on the expensive furniture); the glider ride is from The Thomas Crown Affair; and the sex owes a debt to Anne Rice – but the Sleeping Beauty novels rather than the vamps.
The fact that a middle-aged woman has written it is also often evident. There's a 21-year-old American college student in 2011 who's never used the internet or received an email, and two chapters are given over to a legal contract explaining how all the really naughty stuff – fisting, caning, sleeping with other people, and so on – won't actually be happening.
To a huge extent, though, this is the novel's charm. Its innocence and freshness are reflected in its heroine, whose litany of "holy crap!" and "holy Moses", once you can get over the Sarah Palinness of it, are rather endearing. The sole "erotic" thing anyone ever does is bite or play with their bottom lip, and Christian, is, frankly, a bit of a nobber in both senses.
While the idea is that now nobody knows what you are reading on your e-reader you can download anything you like, in fact there is hardly any sex in this book. (Certainly less than in most Alan Hollinghurst novels.) There are pages and pages of obsessing over the relationship and getting drunk and having stuff bought for you, like the worst stereotypes of chick lit, with, very occasionally, a bit of zipless bonking.
Statistically, you're extremely unlikely to get embarrassed if someone glances at this over your shoulder – while it may be highly titillating to more conservative US audiences, readers of Black Lace, the naughtier Mills & Boon imprints or Shirley Conran will find it puzzlingly tame. More of a problem, practically speaking, is that the heroine has nine orgasms every time Christian walks past her in a strong breeze, which makes her journey to self-discovery vastly less interesting than it might have been.
But I liked it, and here is why. A woman chose to write it, and did so from the safety of her kitchen table. Nobody had to get naked to pay rent; nobody was forced into anything, Tulisa didn't have to go on YouTube, crying.
It's readable, and often funny; miles more enjoyable than those miserable "literary" erotic books (if anyone had any fun in The Secret life of Catherine M, I clearly missed it, never mind – heaven forbid – Wetlands). It is jolly, eminently readable and as sweet and safe as BDSM (bondage, discipline, sadism and masochism) erotica can be without contravening the trade descriptions act. If this is the future of publishing, things could be a lot worse.
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