Fifty Shades of Grey

E.L. James

Reviewed by Phyl Morgan 10/2/2013

I certainly wasn’t going to read this book. All the comments I had heard suggested it was romantic pulp. ‘Mummy porn’; S & M. But references kept coming and even friends who don’t read had bought it. It came near the top of the best seller list and it was half price in Waterstones.

E.L. James was a TV executive based in London possibly American. The game plan seems to have been to write a best seller that will make her a fortune. Fifty Shades is a fairy story, a modern Cinderella story, the heroine is a virgin, student, poor, and the fairy godmother is her flatmate. She’s beautiful - innocent, moral, intelligence is emphasised. The hero is a handsome prince, mega rich with a staff to service his commands. The necessary deprivation is in his background - with drugs, violence, child abuse, emotional damage and adoption. If you kiss this prince he turns into a frog. A popular novel must have sex and raise the stakes to sadism and masochism -  a control freak, a dominant and a submissive. Cinderella - the submissive - must be modern and feisty but naturally curious and willing. In fact, Anastasia could be described as ‘ever ready’ while our hero Christian (shades of Pilgrim’s Progress) is on a voyage to salvation.

A compulsive tale of a good woman falling in love with a bad man and redeeming him. The sadism is not sadistic and the masochism doesn’t involve pleasure in pain. The sex play is endless and the book is in danger of turning into a sex manual, relieved by inserts of exotic trips, restaurants, designer clothes, helicopter and jet flights with a downside of jealous spats and moral outrage.

E.L. James says she wanted to write “stories readers would fall in love with”. A bit disingenuous, but the gameplan paid off.

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