Friday, 8 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey/Further/Freed

By E L James

As my sister put it "wow, good title". And the covers are pretty snazzy too, working the moody and mysterious vibe. This is the problem: NEVER JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER.
In a post exam haze I was perusing the books on Asda when I saw the huge display dedicated to The Biggest Best Most Amazing New Blockbuster Trilogy. They looked nice easy reading for lounging around, and as a bonus they were only £3 each. Bargain.
What I should have done was asked one of my internet savvy buddies if they'd heard of them, maybe then I would have heard of the BDSM scandal surrounding the 'novels'. Although in all honesty I probably still would have read them just to see if the hype was true.
If you head over to my friend Laura's Blog you can read her review of the first two novels, I'm going to look at the third.

Basically so far, virginal Ana met screwed up Christian who introduces her into the life of Doms/Subs and they have kinky weird sex dispersed with huge arguments. In book three nothing much changes except that they are married, the arguments are louder, the danger greater and the sex... well it's still not exactly vanilla. 

As far as story lines go it's pretty much identical to Twilight; we got the marriage, unplanned/unwanted pregnancy and psycho villains who are mega evil wanting to destroy the happy couple. We even get an emergency C-Section delivery, although thankfully not via Christian's teeth. Despite this, the books are genuinely better written than Twilight, the characters are more rounded and the back-stories better planned. I like that Christian is screwed up for a genuine reason, and that he doesn't just watch Ana sleep because he's a creepy stalker (you listening Edward Cullen?), but because he was abused as a child leading to massive control issues and nightmares. And I have to say I disagree with Laura's preferring Bella to Ana. I like that Ana balances her feelings to protect and obey with an independent streak, that she insists on retaining her career and that she fights for every concession but knows how to pick her battles. I still hate that every bloody guy she meets falls in love with her, that she looks beautiful all the time and that she is given everything on a plate, but she's DEFINITELY better than dull as dishwater Bella.

As for Laura's hatred of "when the love interest is 'broken' and in need of 'fixing'", if we're honest, most epic classic heroes DO need fixing. And we love to see them change (or at least I do). Think of Darcy and Mr Thornton with their pride. Rochester's dark past. Pip's obsession with class. Gwendolen Harleth and Dorian Grey and their vanity. Alec D'Urberville and his evil intentions. Cathy and Heathcliff and their wild natures. We love and hate these characters because of their flaws which we hope can be fixed. When they can't be we get some of the best tragedies of the nineteenth century. Not that Christian is AT ALL on par with ANY of these characters, but I can forgive him for being broken, so long as it is cohesive and well written, which I'll admit, he is.

We then come to three of my MAJOR issues with the book. 
1) Jack Hyde. The villain. I'm sorry, but as soon as I read that name waaaaaaaay back in book 1 I knew he was going to be the bad guy. Not only a bad guy, but a psycho with two sides to his personality. Call me old fashioned or even demanding, but I like a bit of mystery. I don't like stock characters who are foreshadowed so far in advance that there is no surprise whatsoever. Literally, it's all in a name, especially in a series so concerned with it's meta-literaryness (yes I just made that up). The same with the pregnancy. They both state categorically on book one that they don't want kinds YET. In book two she has a minor pregnancy scare that leads to them reaffirming their earlier conversation. In book three her cancelled appointments with the doctor are mentioned several times. I swear that I realised she was going to be pregnant two full novels before the event. Seriously, there's a lot to be said for a bit of mystery.
2)The whole everyone-must-pair-up-nicely thing. Ana marries Christian. Christian's brother (Elliot) marries Ana's best friend (Kate). Christian's sister (Mia) is dating Kate's brother (Ethan). It's just too... triangularly simple. And dull. And really expected. And in all honesty James is a better writer than that.
3) The epilogue flash backs to Christian's memories. I mean, retelling the same story through his eyes? That is LITERALLY lifted from Stephanie Meyer's whole Midnight Sun nonsense.

But essentially, what Fifty Shades is is a slightly embarrassing but nonetheless ok chic lit. God knows I wouldn't want my sister/mother reading it (wouldn't that be awkward) and it isn't interesting enough that I'd recommend it. It's ok, I won't be reading it overandover but that doesn't make it bad, just a bit cliche. Like a cross between a Mills and Boon and some kinky playboy.

So Catrin Says...

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