Yes, I’ve read it. I’ve read all three books in the much-talked-about trilogy. Nothing appeals to me more than Mummy Porn. Not that I knew there was Mummy Porn until I started reading 50 Shades of Grey. Who thought that up? It’s an annoying categorisation because it does a disservice to those of us who have children. Are we so special, so cotton-wool-brained, that we need our very own brand of porn? Are we not the right readership for real porn?
And is it really porn? Not in my house it isn’t. It’s called escapism. I kind of thought that this was the point of reading books in general. A chance to escape the confines of your life for a moment and walk in someone else’s shoes; live their story.
It’s true that I’m not entirely sure I want to live in Anastasia Steele’s shoes, since she does seem to attract trouble and an overbearing boyfriend, but who wouldn’t, even for a day, like to live with that kind of wealth? To be spoiled, to have staff and a wardrobe filled with beautifully tailored clothes? It sounds like fun. 50 Shades of Grey is that classic girl-plucked-from-obscurity-falls-in-love-with-wealthy-batchelor story that has been around since Cinderella. I grew up with those kind of fairy tales, and am still a sucker for that kind of romance that has a gushy happy ending, whether on the page or the screen.
Then there’s the, y’know, *blushes*, s-e-x. Which is a bit of a departure from the Chick-Lit, Jilly-Cooper-loving, pan-up-to-sky, love-making I usually read about and, these days, skip over to the next page. The 50-shades- stuff I devoured. Carefully, and sometimes more than once. I found it, let’s say uplifting, shall we? I enjoyed reading it: it wasn’t so terrifyingly far removed from sex as I recognise it that it was impossible to comprehend why someone would do it. It didn’t make me feel appalled or dirty or ill. I rather assume that the people who are really into the S&M scene would laugh at the Red Room of Pain as a Hollywood version of the real thing, although I have no evidence to back my theory up. But what is the key with the sex is not how they did it, but that they did it in a way that was unusual enough for you to read every word. Suddenly sex was at the forefront of your mind rather than in a dark cupboard marked “Sometime in the future when I am no longer a shell of my former self and when my children are sleeping through”. And I have had conversations with more than one friend who said that this had a very positive effect on their ‘adult cuddles’.
But, if I could change a few things?
1. Delete every single use of the phrase “Holy [insert noun here]“ It’s not a 1960′s episode of Batman, for goodness sake. This will probably reduce the size of the book by a third.
2. Give a more plausible beginning. It’s very hard to get past the first few chapters. Worth it, but hard. The way in which they meet: Ana, with no experience of journalism, takes the place of her room-mate, who is Editor at the kind of once-in-a-lifetime interview that student newspapers rarely get. That would never happen. Never. Even if she had to drag in the third-freelance-contributor whose piece was never published, she would never have sent someone with no experience, who should have been revising and who had done bugger-all preparation. It’s a poor reflection of the newspaper.
3. Get the thesaurus out. I am deeply prudish about such things, but even I know that there is more than one expression for what Ana describes as “my sex” , which incidentally makes it sound like a commodity. Very annoying.
4. Cut every single tedious cliche: phrases like “pedal to the metal” and “terminal velocity”. That one really annoyed me actually. In one of the first few chapters she described a lift as ascending with “terminal velocity”. I’m no expert on such things but wouldn’t that make her dead?
5. This is quite controversial, but I reckon that you could edit all three books together to create a top “Bonkbuster”, thus saving paper, trees and the environment, and making an altogether better reading experience.
All of which is a little ironic (yes, you can hum the Alanis tune if you wish), since Ms. Steele actually scores a job as an Assistant Editor at a publishers….Anyhow, to those who wonder whether they should read it, I would say that the books, fundamentally, are a love-story with more-than-average-sex thrown in. It’s not scary or tawdry. It is escapism. It is an easy read which you can pick up and put down quite easily, if you need to (as we Mummies so often do.) And it could have a surprisingly positive effect on your life. If you are expecting Prize Winning Fiction, you will be deeply disappointed.
Perhaps they should redesign the cover: