I’ve heard it said that every woman has one great love in their life. Well, I disagree. Yes, Dan is the love of my life. But things other than people can leave a permanent fingerprint on the criminal record of life.
For me, books are a great love. From sneakily reading Mr Majeika on my lap during boring maths lessons when I was seven, to being introduced to Alexander Pope at university and wishing that grumpy hobbit could be my friend, they have provided many memorable moments.
Some books leave such an indelible mark you can remember what the pages smell like. You can recall music you heard in the background, or what you were eating at the time. For instance, one particular Radiohead song brings back to me the heartbreak I felt when reading The Time Traveller’s Wife. And it should be made compulsory to have a bag of Maltesers to hand when reading Chocolat.
Some books, however, don’t leave such an imprint. But that’s ok – some books are steak. Others are McDonalds – quick, a little bit dirty and soon forgotten.
50 Shades of Grey is one of those books.
Now, I know some people will judge me for reading it. Hell, I judge me a little bit for reading it. But I have a rule – never say mean things about a book you haven’t read. I thought lots of mean things before I read this book, but I figure that if someone took the time to sit down and write it, I should at least give it a whirl before mentally throwing it in the bargain bin.
So, is it as good as everyone is saying? No. Of course it’s not. Books that entrance millions of people and make the author billions are rarely good books. You don’t see people queueing up to buy the latest Booker prize winner, do you?
Is it as filthy as everyone says? Yes. It definitely is. My inner Victorian was pretty shocked. And she accidentally revealed her ankles in public last week – she is no stranger to a bit of scandal. If you are slightly prudish or easily shocked then don’t read this book. I, however, had to analyse a poem called Signior Dildo at university and then discuss it in a tutorial. There aren’t many things that make me do a double take. But it is comforting to know that in the world we live in, with sex at every turn, that people can still be shocked. Even by sex in a book – which is incredible, if you think about it. After all, I’m pretty certain people have written about it before. Ian McEwan is obsessed with it.
Is it as badly written as everyone says? Yes. And I don’t say this lightly – I found it extremely annoying that during The Da Vinci Code’s heyday, the world and his wife waded into the debate with: “But it’s not very well written, is it?” No, but do you think the author cares – he’s sunning himself in the South of France on a yacht. Not every book is meant to be well written. That might seem like an odd thing to say, but it’s true. Sometimes the story is more important, and you don’t want to be distracted by flowery turns of phrase or lengthy descriptions of fields (yes, Thomas Hardy, I’m looking at you). Not everyone cares about beautiful words – this book is perfect for them. E L James isn’t about to win any awards for her use of the English language. Abuse, maybe. But I can’t imagine that she cares. She has achieved what very few authors do – she’s got everyone talking about her book.
I must say though, some phrases in the book do draw attention to her writing for all the wrong reasons. I’m not going to write it here, but there is one that is, frankly, unforgivably yuk. If you’ve read the book, you will know which sentence I mean. It shocked me more than Signior Dildo. Which is saying a lot. And there is a lot of repetition (the heroine bites on her lower lip at least 500 times. It’s a wonder she has a lip left by the end).
One debate swarming round is the feminist one, with people saying that the idea of a woman being dominated and controlled by a man is disgusting, and that the more kinky sections of the book condone violence towards women. Well, I have to disagree. The feminist in you does want to hurl the book in the fire – but because of the heroine’s behaviour and thoughts, not the man’s. It is made very clear that the woman has choice and that if she says no, her decision is respected. She voluntarily takes part, and at times actually asks for, everything that takes place. She has a choice – women who experience violence don’t. But it is an obvious target for raging feminists, and if feminists like one thing, its a bit of publicity.
But did I enjoy it? Well, enjoy is strong. I won’t remember it in a few years, and I certainly won’t be writing a review on Amazon about how ‘it is the best book ever written’. But it is compulsive reading. And, as I’m currently struggling to finish about three books, it was a nice feeling to gobble up a book in a couple of days. Some books slowly entice and draw you in. Others grab you by the neck and drag you along for the ride. This is one of them. You’re not sure why you’re there, and you’re not particularly sure you really want to be, but the rush of being swept along with something is alright, so you will hang on for the time being.
I’m not going to tell you to go out and buy it, because it’s not for everyone. But if you’re thinking about reading it, give it a go – you never know, you might just like it.