To discuss Fifty Shades is basically admitting that it seems rather common for us as a society to brand anyone who trend jumps as opposed to setting as a wannabe, hipster or social climber. However we all jump when spurred, to the extend that Fifty Shades, a slightly above the ordinary tale of lust amongst a moderately lurid sexual contract between the two protagonists has us reacting with baited breath.
Reviews have ranged wildly and based on the current trend, it’s clearly much maligned as a novel. It could be jealousy, for the author whose moist mind ran all over the lubricated page has been earning nearly a million pounds at the height of the craze and the global recession. So maybe we’re seething that she’s raking it in. But then people don’t quote that reason, instead they dismiss and tag it as mummy porn, deciding to wedge the blame – and the knife firmly with the housewives of the world. One older lady, author of the camp classic Lace which bought about the deliciously bitchy question ‘which one of you bitches is my mother?’, Shirley Conran decreed it baby porn, a description fairly easy to destroy the fantasy indicated within the novel. Some don’t bother to bookmark the genre, be it positive or negative, they simply refer to it as trash – generally awful as opposed to specifically bad.
For a book to be successful, discussions and word of mouth is key to pushing it towards us from the counter within the store or the virtual kindle library. Let me begin my review by discussing a tea break I was having. I had by this point gotten over/embraced the jerky narrative, accepted the English anachronisms and mentally avoided the clunky, false sounding Americanisms. I’d even laughed several times at the Twinning’s English Breakfast tea odes. The brand, which in the book is billed as the midas of teas in a bizarrely overrated product placement display is referred to several times by our supposedly-intelligent-yet-frequently-very-insipid-heroine as an amazing mark of influence that Christian, the anti-hero can procure the brand at random. She even acts as if it were the great gift of romance that he is able to remember she loves the drink so; it was a twee concept. I was passed the contract – and wasn’t overly shocked by that either. Much of it seemed to like a cross between a rashly written porn script with ‘fuck’ peppered every twenty yards over the page and a less stylised rehashing of Ellis’ seminal text of mediated repression from our dastardly villain, billionaire Patrick Batman from American Psycho. I was in the midst of attempting to understand the rationale of our virginal heroine turned sexual nympho, Anastasia, when I was interrupted by someone asking “If I were reading that book”. Having absorbed several times the verb of the novel, I myself blanched fifty shades of crimson. He continued (of his accord) denouncing the book as ‘shit’ (technically subjective as a view point) whilst giving me tips as to whether I wanted to a “decent dirty book”. The book’s reputation had preceded itself.
Having felt caught like a twelve year old reading a racy Mills and Boons novella, I continued on, through the spanking, the fairy tale cliches regarding Ana’s humble origins and Christian’s exorbitant wealth. I just felt though that there were indeed too many woeful pitfalls that befell the novel. These included Ana as a 21 year old graduate who had yet to get drunk or visit a club (even though her inseparable BBF was supposedly a party animal), yet to own a laptop (the book was set in the present), and was unable to balance properly (she fell at least three major times within the novel – and this wasn’t because of high heels). Our heroine’s vice is paying homage to Hardy’s Tess, a text which is continually alluded to by our star-struck ingenue. And Christian remains the least intimidating anti-hero to surface in a novel for quite a while as his well built structure of power erodes continually within the novel. He becomes more like a wealthier Mr Darcy than a broody, flawed Heathcliff as he manages to drop all of his supposedly urgent commitments to consul our babyish narrator through the wonders of a Mac computer or a Blackberry, or – more commonly, in glorious (and physical) reality.
So there were errors akin to a Pretty Women kind of story, with our Ana hovering between a organised relationship with a billionaire and being a part time home ware worker/wallflower. She comes across as only spoiled, petulant and obtuse to her apparent fortune. All of these qualities means that the central obsession of Christian’s desire for her doesn’t feel realistic for even a chapter. She doesn’t fascinate, she fails to even stir the senses.
But perhaps there is one shining light. Aside from the light, rather tame BDSM element to the book was the nature of emotional exclusivity. Of course, this element of the book, Christian’s reticence to reveal himself is something we would be interested to know just a tad more about. And reading about the abstract concepts of love and respect for another human had me thinking, which to quote the oft used expression post-coitus of the novel, was achingly filling. Here the book manages to carefully curve away from the baby porn genre and covet some questions that we as readers can more easily embrace. And further to that, the biggest question related to the kinky practices within the book, could we be belted to a lever to give satisfaction to another? Could we ever prevail in relationship with a dominant master at hand? I felt reading the book that dedication to a lover could be as a vivid and metaphysical as having a heart of glass – and were the writing more complex, three dimensional and emotionally receptive, this could have been explored worthily. As it were, the book was suitably enjoy to read as a trashy distraction from reality and as a (very basic) introduction to the more physically demanding concept of erotic literature. A moderately deserved three stars.