52 Books: 50 Shades of Grey by E L James

I hadn’t planned to read it. I downloaded the sample a while ago and couldn’t even finish it – I found it dull, badly-written and, if it was all about the sex, why weren’t they getting on with the sex already? Marian Keyes, who I love, was appalled by it and described it as “Mills & Boon with nipple clamps”. A Twitter friend saw a man reading it on the tube and putting his briefcase in his lap. I thought that was all I needed to know.

But then everyone started talking about it. Everyone. One of the school mums, who’s never mentioned books to me before, asked me about it. I went over to my sister’s and she said all her Facebook friends were reading it (one had written “I can never look at my beautiful children again with the dirty dirty eyes I used to read this book”). We went to a friend’s house and it was there on the table. We went round to family and everyone had either read it or was planning to read it. “Nipple clamps,” I said. “Briefcase. Dirty, dirty eyes!” But I knew I was defeated.

So I downloaded it. And… I enjoyed it. Mostly. Yes, it was badly written, but I’ve read worse. A lot worse. No, really. (However, if you are interested in a takedown on the writing, Fifty Things that Annoy Me about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ is a very funny one.)

I don’t get why it’s become such a phenomenon, but sometimes these things happen. I don’t know why The Da Vinci Code took off either.

I was going to write a defence of the whole thing, but then – hurrah! – bookseller Nicole Burstein wrote a brilliant one so I don’t have to: On Fifty Shades of Grey

I do want to add two little things. One is that by “properly published”, Nicole means “traditionally published” because it hasn’t actually been properly published at all. It hasn’t been edited or even copy-edited and a lot of the issues with it (repetition, the infernal “inner goddess”) would have been whisked right out in the edit. The author is taking a lot of flack that should really be aimed at the publisher. I wouldn’t want an unedited manuscript published, thank you very much. (Even typing that makes me feel a bit sick.)

The other thing is in addition to Nicole’s “Fantasy is fantasy” point. Why do people think that the success of this book makes some point about women? I refer you to The Da Vinci Code above? I don’t remember article after article investigating what the success of that book said about masculinity. (In fact, that book was probably predominantly read by women too, wasn’t it. Since most books are.)

Mainly I’m just glad I can now join in every conversation for the next few months. I do hate to feel left out.


3 thoughts on “52 Books: 50 Shades of Grey by E L James

  1. You’re much more scrupulous than me – I don’t feel constrained at all by not having read it to sound off whenever it’s mentioned!!!

  2. totally agree with you that I think it is crazy that everyone is making such a big deal about what the popularity of the book says something important about women.

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