Welcome to the first Book Review column brought to you by the Bella Coola Book Club. As a new member, I thought it would be fun to combine business with pleasure and pass on some thoughts, ideas, and reviews from the local ladies of literature.
As a Book Club ‘virgin,’ I chuckled to discover the first book on the agenda was the erotic fiction blockbuster, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey.’ Despite not being the typical genre of book I would read, I was glad to give it a try and see what all the fuss is about, which is precisely why the Club chose this book in the first place.
The storyline goes like this. Anastasia Steele: young, virgin, beautiful, smart, self-conscious but scrappy, falls for Christian Grey: young, successful, drop-dead gorgeous, billionaire, cold-as-ice, borderline sexual sadist who wants her to sign a contract outlining their sexual relations. Sound familiar? Apparently not, as this story is well outside the normal boundaries of ‘erotic and/or romantic fiction.’
This could well be the only reason the book is so popular, because, as was the consensus of all the members in the Book Club, it certainly isn’t the writing! While the sex scenes are steamy, a storyline, frankly, doesn’t exist. Anastasia Steele is a feeble character that walks a fine line between being grudgingly likeable or downright annoying, while Christian Grey is so emotionally unavailable even an imaginative reader can’t get through to him. The supporting cast of characters was mere shadows in the background, with all but one, Anastasia’s feisty roommate, Kate, lacking the detail needed to bring them into play.
‘Fifty Shades’ is the brainchild of London-based writer, EL (Erika Leonard) James, and is the first in a trilogy of novels written over a period of just two years. James has said the books are “…my midlife crisis, writ large. All my fantasies are in there, and that’s it.”
Despite being named as one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” by Times Magazine, James herself has admitted she was surprised by the explosion of interest in the books, which began as an internet-based piece of fanfiction based on the hugely popular ‘Twilight’ series.
The book steers the reader through the emotional rollercoaster suffered by Anastasia as she struggles to determine what is ‘normal’ in her first relationship with a cold, controlling, ‘grey-eyed Greek Adonis’ who is only interested in a certain type of sexual relationship, although he makes some exceptions for the ‘innocent’ and naïve Anastasia.
While the reader is increasingly irritated by the musings of Anastasia’s heady ‘inner goddess’ or her self-deprecating ‘subconscious,’ Christian Grey is giving nothing away. There is no clear answer as to why this man is so hell-bent on controlling and dominating women in a way that disturbs most readers, giving James all the more reason to compel the dark romance into two more novels! Book Club members unanimously agreed that they would rather pick up an Archie comic than be subjected to another shade of grey.
To its credit, Fifty Shades has ignited a firestorm of conversations about men, women, sexuality, and relationships, and that is a valuable thing. However, the book itself is painful to read, as there is nothing to hold the ‘story’ together: flimsy characters, repetitive descriptions, predictable outcomes, laughable situations, and a very unsatisfying ending. More than one Book Club member admitted to excessive ‘skimming.’
Unless you are genuinely curious about all the hype surrounding the Fifty Shades trilogy: save your money. James doesn’t need your cash, as the book has now outsold the entire Harry Potter series on Amazon, which Book Club members agreed were a much better read.