Fifty Shades of Grey

I resisted reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ for a number of months for no other reason than I was trying to complete my latest novel, ‘Within You Without You’. When I’m writing, I do not allow myself to read anything other than my local newspaper for fear of getting sidetracked. But I love to read and I was intrigued.

Of course I was intrigued. As an author I am always interested in the success stories of other authors. And ‘Fifty Shades’ is certainly that, whatever your opinion of the writing style or content, it is a success story like no other.

However, on completing my novel and sending it out to be edited by my dear mentor and friend Kenneth G Ross, I booked a long overdue holiday for hubby and I and I headed off to Langkawi, Malaysia, with two chick-lit books in hand and a mindset only on relaxing, swimming, eating, sipping on cocktails and spending time with the love of my life reading by the resort-style pool overlooking the Andaman ocean.

This is exactly what occurred – for the first three days of the trip.

On the third afternoon, thoroughly relaxed, slightly tanned and my once aching writer’s body now humming after a massage and a delicious cocktail served in a coconut shell, I came to the last page of my second book and realised I had nothing else to read. I had only brought the two paperbacks away with me after deciding to leave my Kindle and recharging equipment at home in order to read the old fashioned way without the need for any technology in tow.

 Eeek – what was I thinking? No books! I’m a speed reader!

Throwing on a sarong, I wandered to the main lobby of the resort in search of something further to read. I rummaged through a selection of books other visitors had left behind. There was a myriad of books but all in foreign languages. Panic was setting in, and I wandered back to the pool and decided to annoy hubby who was still on his first novel.

He complied, god bless him, and we spent a whole two hours frolicking in the pool, sweating in the spa, sitting on stools in the swim-up bar consuming more of those delicious cocktails, but finally, he found his way back to his sun lounge – and book.

I wandered back to the lobby. Perhaps an English reader had left a book by now.

And there it was, calling me to it – ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’

Hubby’s eyes widened as I neared him back at the pool, book in hand.

‘Fifty Shades of Grey?’ he asked with a grin. ‘Lucky me!’

Yes, he had heard of the book. Who hadn’t? He had been with me at the many dinner parties and outings where the book’s name had been bandied around by excited women espousing the nature of the erotic book that had taken the world by storm. He had seen the grins on the faces of their partners who had supposedly experienced the benefits of their wives and girlfriends enthralled with the ‘mommy porn’ reading material.

 ‘I’m reading it as an educational exercise – through the eyes of an author,’ I replied. ‘I want to know what the book has that has made EL James an overnight multi millionaire.’

He grinned. ‘Oh, yeah. Kind of like reading Playboy for the articles,’ he replied, and with a roll of his eyes he settled back to reading his own novel.

I started reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’.

 I read through most of the night. I read through the next day. I finished just before Happy hour that afternoon. Slamming the book shut, I sighed and met the expectant eyes of hubby.

‘So?’ he asked. ‘Did it live up to your expectations?’

I swatted him with the book. ‘I had no expectations,’ I replied. ‘Unlike you!’

But I was deep in thought. Whilst it was not the kind of book I would normally have read, I wondered what had caused a world of women to read, absorb, rave about, and recommend ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to others.

I will make no comment on the writing style. I’ve read many of the reviews on Amazon – nearly as many five star reviews as one star – not so unusual for any book. God knows, I’ve had my fair share of contradictory reviews for both of my published novels, ‘Best Friends and Bastards’, and ‘The Girls’ Weekend’. No-one can please everyone, and indeed, no one would want to. Each to their own. I know only too well what it takes to write a novel, so anyone who can publish a book gets my support.

But, still, there was that question – what was the ‘formula’ to the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Twilight’  and ‘Hunger Games’ phenomena?

I grabbed my notebook and pencil.

Hubby realised that I wasn’t about to jump him and beg him to tie me to the bedposts and whip me, whilst I groaned ‘Oh my!’ and allowed my inner goddess to take over. He wandered off to happy hour, with a resigned shrug of his shoulders rather than an expectant ‘Christian Grey’ cock of his head.

I began writing. I recalled friends and acquaintances talking about the book. They didn’t discuss the details but rather they boasted about the fact that they were actually reading it. And they did so with a naughty glint in their eyes – a spark to their manner, a chirp to their tone of voice – almost a cocky attitude.

What was that look in their eyes? That glint? That yearning?

Now, I don’t know about you, but I would hate to think that any woman I know would have chosen to begin their sexual lives as a virgin totally controlled by a sadomasochistic man who is incapable of being loved – or indeed touched. Call me weird but I thought women’s lib had taken us further than that. In fact I skipped over quite a few sex scenes after the first twenty or so. Oh My!

So, I doubt that it was the antagonist or the sex in the book that drew women to read it like moths to a flame. I’m sure there are many more erotic books out there full to the brim with hot scenes full of loving and thrilling nail biting, multi- orgasmic encounters. So what was it about ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?

I thought about another best seller – ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ by Elizabeth Gilbert, and I wondered. And wondered. All the time scribbling down adjectives as I recalled the frenzy that book had caused. Women were up and leaving their homes in the droves – all heading for Ubud in Bali and waiting in long, humid, sticky queues for a medicine man named Ketut to bring them eternal happiness.

I actually know this, as on yet another holiday with hubby, I also went to see the medicine man in Ubud, but that’s another story. Please remind me to tell you about that in another blog.

 Anyway back to the likes of Ms Gilbert and EL James.

What was it about their books?

Eureka! I think I got it.

We women are still looking for something risqué in our lives. Some cliff hanging experience. An escape into fantasy.

Do we all want to be beholden to a sexual dominator who controls our every move and demands the use of nipple clamps (and other equipment I had to look up on the internet to understand)? Of course not. Do we all want to up and leave our marriages, homes and everyday lives and head off on a year-long sabbatical to Italy, India and Bali to eat, pray and love in search of our inner selves?

Perhaps….

No, really, of course that’s a tongue in cheek comment.

But fantasising about a world of possibilities and sharing the written word whether a novel or a true story which engages us in conversation whatever the subject – that’s exciting. A rumble of titillation which gains momentum when shared with our girlfriends. A whisper which gathers sound as it rolls along down phone lines, over Skype, or over a girls’ lunch until it becomes a roar of female unity. To shock ourselves out of our mundane lives and enter a world of pure risk.

Yes, like it or hate it, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ has made us all think. Talk. Laugh. Cry. Scorn. And judge. And for that, I for one, take off my hat and offer my congratulations to the likes of EL James and her characters Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

Now about those clamps… Hubby’s a builder, so I’m sure there must be something around here…

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