Guest Writer: V. Cole
I’m sure many of us heard about the release of Grey by E. L. James in 2015, the companion novel to the Fifty Shades series, which tells us the story of the first book but in the point of view of the apparently the most desirable guy ever: Christian Grey. After reading the trilogy I can honestly say I am terrified. I do warn you all that this review is not short as there is just too much to discuss.
Let’s start with the background of this series that seemed to be what everyone was talking about in 2012. Having started its life as Twilight fanfiction, when the character’s names were changed (not their personalities), Master of the Universe became Fifty Shades of Grey. Or simpler terms: Twilight porn minus the sparkling. (Don’t worry readers, there is still plenty of dazzling!) Some people loved the series and lauded it as a great love story, one that has sparked sales in whips and other BDSM gear. Others, like myself, thought it as a horrifying story of abuse and appallingly written.
So why did I read this rag? I felt that I couldn’t comment about the messages of the series without reading it. So I borrowed it from my Nan’s neighbour and managed to get through the trilogy, even though I needed a dousing of brain bleach afterwards. I won’t comment too much on the series that is written from Ana’s point of view as it has been done to death. No point flogging a dead horse after all. So I thought I would read and review Grey instead as I appear to be a literary masochist.
Why has it taken me so long to review this book? I refuse point blank to buy this new and therefore fund E.L. James’ bank account. So, I waited, hoping to find it in a charity shop so at least the money could go to a good cause. In the end I got it at a boot sale for 50p; I was OK with that.
Now for the controversial statement: I actually thought this was the best book in the Fifty Shades series. Before you get the pitchforks out; it really says a lot that it is easier to read in the point of view of the psychotic Christian Grey than the utter stupidity that is Anastasia Steele. What a relief it was to not have to read with the vapid sex obsessed “Inner Goddess” and the irritating subconscious constantly showing up just to p*** me off. As much as James tries to make Ana intellectual and deep, she is actually dumber than a rock and could easily win the Darwin Awards. I get she was meant to be naive and Grey opens the world of sex to her but her extreme naivety just makes me want to bash my head against the wall! Who seriously thinks when you are round a guy’s place for sex, especially after seeing a BDSM contract, and he offers to show you his playroom, that he actually means you are going to play Xbox, seriously how stupid can you get?!?!
So in a nutshell yes, this book was easier to read but make no mistake, this book is horrible. Christian Grey is a monster in the trilogy: I would gladly see him meeting Ramsay Snow/Bolton as a prisoner but most likely they would just swap stories and tips. It is always beyond me how so many women think he is the ultimate man to be with, and sometimes I feel forced to think it’s because he is pretty and rich as his personality is just ugly. We saw all this behind the vapid eyes of Ana but now we get pure and non-stop Grey. He is even more ugly and vile in this novel. He is a whiny brat within the first few pages because his personal trainer dared to beat him. His treatment of Ana when he first meets her is deplorable; he is purposely making her uncomfortable and frightened because he is once again nothing but a petulant brat. He enjoys it and keeps thinking of other ways to make her uncomfortable. Then we have the lovely line where she asked him if he is gay and his inner monologue is frankly disturbing as he wants to beat her for punishment. Really?!? James, you do realise it’s 2016 and not 1916 right? Why is it so offensive to you to be asked if you are gay? That just screams to me that he is an insecure homophobe who feels he must be a manly man at all times. I wouldn’t say this if this happened once but throughout this book, he keeps ranting on and on about how dare Ana asks if he is gay and again how much he wants to beat her for it. What a charmer! Doesn’t help that the only two gay characters that appear in this excuse for literature is a stereotypical, flamboyant gay hairdresser and the other is Grey’s assistant. Her being a lesbian is the explanation as to why she doesn’t gape like a moron every time Grey looks at her like every single woman to appear. Fear not, Grey is horrible to all of them for daring to stare at his looks. Throughout the book he is just as patronising and condescending to Ana, but it’s made worse as we are privy to his horrid thoughts.
So we have had our lovely protagonist and now it’s time to discuss our heroine. I made no secret that I think Ana is so mind numbingly stupid, however I also find her very self- involved and hypocritical due to her treatment of her friend Kate. Kate is a genuine friend who just wants to look out for Ana as she is honestly concerned alas, no Ana has to go on and on about Kate in unflattering terms. She is hypocrite in the fact she thinks Kate needs to get a room before she is kissing Elliot considering she lets Grey pleasure her in the lift filled with people (how charming). She is also incredibly possessive of Grey and gets insanely jealous of his ex and friend. So to sum up, Ana is a stupid and unpleasant person. Sadly, as we are in the head of Grey, all we hear about is how amazing, beautiful, intelligent and perceptive Ana is. He will break from his condescending tone to switch to bloated flowery prose of how awesome Ana is. Frankly, it makes me uncomfortable as we all know Ana is James’ self- insert, so it sounds like James is using Grey to w*nk about how great Ana and therefore how great James is *shudder*. I may pause to scrub myself with wire wool and bleach.
Ah, that’s better! I feel clean again even though I may need it again as it’s time to discuss the sex. I got so bored of the sex in the trilogy since it just seemed the same thing over and over, adding a whip and clamp here and there. The sex is still just as boring but to spice things up we now have the psychotic thoughts of Grey to see us through this tedium. One improvement is that Grey doesn’t have the mind of an immature 10-year- old looking and giggling at the reproduction chapter in a science book like Ana does. It seriously p***ed me off that she would constantly say things like ‘down there!’: it’s your vagina you immature bint, for God’s sake!! So yes, at least we get the anatomical names and slang for genitals. On the other hand, sex through Grey’s eyes just creeped me out. He sounded really pervy and every time he said “good girl” I died a little inside. Maybe that’s people’s “thing”, but considering how much he treats Ana like a child in the books it just makes me feel icky.
Then we have the darker side to the sex scenes in this book. The scene that comes to mind is when Ana sends him an email saying no to the relationship after her “research”, which consisted of one whole Wikipedia page. She sends it as a joke because she is stupid, so instead of Grey doing the sensible thing like, you know, calling her to discuss it he just breaks into her house and has sex with her. Who said romance is dead? She dares to roll her eyes at him and that’s when it gets disturbing. He uses sex as a way to humiliate and use her and his thoughts are just vile. He uses the fact that she is wet to prove in his sick head that she loves it even though they practically stopped rutting ten minutes before, so no s**t! He does this constantly; the times that he forces punishment sex on her, he constantly blames her for this and thinks that he is right. We know from her POV that she is terrified and upset. Nice way to victim blame, Grey. Even when she dumps him after he whips her brutally, it is naturally all her fault in his psychotic brain. Why do women lust after this man!?! I honestly want reasons.
The rest of the characters are unsurprisingly just as flat as they were in the trilogy. Can’t waste time with character development when we can spend pages and pages of w*n***g over Ana after all. Mia is still a carbon copy of Alice Cullen which irritates me since I loathe Alice. The only development Mia gets is that she is even more of a petulant child as the more we saw more of her, whereas Elliot just carries on being one of the most likeable characters which to be fair is not hard. The rest are honestly just cardboard cut outs to make our couple look good.
The background character I want to discuss is Ella, or as Grey so charmingly calls his birth mother: the crack whore. In the trilogy, I honestly found her a sympathetic character. She was clearly very young with a four-year- old child who most likely had a very tragic background that caused her to become a drug addicted prostitute. Her pimp constantly beats her and abuses her mentally, she reminds me of Merope Gaunt in the way that she is so downtrodden that she fell to rock bottom and couldn’t live to save her son. However, there are hints in the text that she did love her son, he had toy cars and it is said she made him a birthday cake. Considering it is described that they are extremely poor then that is a kind thing for Ella to do for her son. He says how he loves stroking her hair and there seems to genuine love for her in the irritating child chapters. Yet, in Grey he has a few flashbacks and she calls him ‘maggot’ a few times. This to me screams retcon. I think James realised that she was actually sympathetic and this takes away from the limelight from the amazing Cullens, oh sorry I mean Greys (seriously James, try and make your characters not carbon copies of the Cullens, it’s just lazy). It also made Grey sound like the raging arsehole that he is because the way he talks about her is spiteful – evidence shows that she did love him. Can’t have the Christian Grey seem horrible, so I believe she added that nickname to justify Grey’s horrible attitude towards her.
Overall, this book is just horrible. The prose is sloppy and bloated, it is clear that James abused a thesaurus to make us think she has learnings. I hate Christian Grey with a passion as he is just a vile human being. He is so much worse in this book, he is a petulant, abusive a***hole who uses the guise of BDSM to humiliate and abuse women. This is deeply offensive to the BDSM community where trust, consent and respect are paramount. When it comes to Ana, as much as Grey tries to tell me that she is just oh so intelligent and wonderful it just doesn’t work. She is still just as stupid and no amount of bloated and flowery prose will convince me. If you fancy being enraged, then go ahead and read this book. Just don’t buy it new as we don’t need to fund James who honestly thinks this is a great love story and that Christian Grey is the greatest man ever. Now I’m going to read Life and Death: Twilight Reimagined as like I said I am a literary masochist and then I will most likely rip it to shreds. I think I may need wine.