The Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy doesn’t take up valuable space on my bookcase. That’s because I got the Kindle version, and I loved it. I read it twice, and then dipped into it again, and again. And (well, I’m weird) I did and still do skip through the sex scenes – just keep an eye on them to see how they’re going but they’re not the meat of the story.
It’s a retelling of every woman’s favourite romance – the ordinary, normal woman we can all relate to meets a damaged (but very rich) man who needs to be rescued. It’s Pride and Prejudice and Pretty Woman. I think that it’s had enough coverage for me to be not too worried about spoilers, but the meat of it is that there is nothing submissive about Ana Steele, (or Vivian Ward or Lizzy Bennet) and that is precisely why Grey (or Lewis or Darcy) falls for her. So when I see a journalist say that someone ‘makes Anastasia Steele look like Boadicea’ I know that he hasn’t read the book. More than one friend of mine has said that she won’t read it because ‘it’s about a submissive woman who meets a dominant man’. It’s not. It’s really uplifting precisely because she doesn’t have a submissive bone in her body.
I don’t know why I feel so strongly about that. Perhaps because I wrote a trilogy of my own, albeit very different on all sorts of levels, but when I’m talking to a friend who hasn’t read Fifty Shades (and who might turn out not to be a friend after all in the end) and she can’t let me finish my sentence when I’m trying to say that the point of the story is (interruption, interruption), I think dammit you really don’t know what I’m going to say, why do people always think they know what I’m going to say when they don’t … the point is that he falls in love for the first time ever! The first time ever in his life! He has never known love. Well, he has, but he hasn’t seen it. His adoptive family loves him, but he’s so far unable to wrap his head around that. So, up to now, he’s dealt with relationships according to the code that a predatory older woman had foisted on him when he was a teenager. That was what Ana Steele walked into. The meat of the story is how she dealt with that.
But if it weren’t for the publicity about the dom-sub business I doubt if the trilogy would have ever had the success that it did. No problem with that – anything that sells a book is great. But, like Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, don’t settle on an opinion until you’ve seen what it’s about.