BOOK REVIEW: ‘Grey’ by E.L. James

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Reading has always been my passion closely followed by writing. I’ve read a wide range of genres and depending upon my mood it could be Fyodor Dostoyevsky (‘Crime and Punishment’ is one of my favourite books!) or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. However I easily got caught up in the 50 shades hype in 2012. I don’t normally read the latest craze but the publicity and attention this book was getting (a carefully executed plan) I couldn’t ignore. I’m not ashamed to admit I thoroughly enjoyed the trilogy…cue embarrassing flashback! My in-laws had come to visit and we were all sitting quietly in the living room when my then 10 year old piped up “So who’s read 50 shades of Grey?” (yes even primary school children had heard of it!). Please note my in laws are both Baptist ministers. I hastily replied “that’s inappropriate”…”why mummy you’ve read all three!” Wow the intense silence that ensued spoke a thousand words and I literally wanted the ground to swallow me whole.

I eagerly anticipated the film this Valentines and enjoyed it. So it’s no surprise that I’m currently reading ’Grey’ which is the story re-told from Mr Greys perspective. I accidentally stumbled across #AskELJames on Twitter (I’m a Twitter newbie) and was astounded to read the abuse that the author was getting. An example Tweet read: “Which do you hate more 1) Consent 2) The English language 3) Strong independent women 4) All of the above”. I’d been vaguely aware of some people not being entirely happy with the content but hadn’t realised the extent to which the hate went. It even sparked a healthy debate between my best friend and I. So it got me thinking, to what extent do authors have a moral responsibility to their readers? I truly believe that writing is a form of art and a creative expression of freedom of speech. One day I hope to write my own book and for the most part I’ll be writing about what interests me and what I care about. Reader’s satisfaction really will come second. However I also don’t believe authors should go out of their way to antagonise, offend or ostracise a particular group of people. Remember the fatwa put out on Salman Rushdie for writing ‘The Satanic Verses’? And even more recently ‘Charlie Hebdo’? Where do we draw the line on freedom of speech? And more importantly should there be one?

It’s sad to hear that impressionable young women are justifying their boyfriend’s controlling and/or abusive behaviour by referring to ’50 Shades’. I should make it clear that I do not under any circumstances condone any behaviour of this kind. Yes the writing could be a lot better, yes the storyline is unbelievable, yes the female protagonist is depicted as weak and perhaps emotionally controlled and yes if this was real life Mr Grey would probably be arrested…but it’s not real life it’s fiction! I’ve read a lot worse. I am probably in the minority here but personally I find the books light-hearted harmless fun…but I also appreciate that this is my own interpretation and like art we all take something slightly different from it. Perhaps I’ll even nominate ‘Grey’ next at my book club instead of James Baldwin’s ‘Giovanni’s Room’. Now what page was I on…

Angie’s Note:

We are reading ‘Grey’ at Feeling Fab. WIN A COPY OF ‘GREY’ COURTESY OF RANDOM HOUSE BY CLICKING HERE BEFORE 7TH JULY 2015 and join in. Hear what I have to say on ‘Grey’ in the newsletter and hear E.L. James speak all things ’50 Shades’ when we spoke here.

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