JUST when those of us immune to the charms of Mr. Grey thought we were safe from another sequel, E.L. James, author of the controversial Fifty Shades of Grey series, has once again returned to the literary market with her latest novel Grey.
A book that retells the first in the series from the viewpoint of the romantic interest, Christian Grey, James promises her readers “a fresh perspective” to her previous trilogy. The reality of this, however, is that the plot is about as fresh as the food you discover at the back of your fridge when you’re cleaning up at the end of term. If you were hoping to find something new and improved in this book, prepare to be disappointed. Not even her writing has gotten any better.
The only thing that is remarkable about this book – other than the fact that some people actually find the story romantic – is that she has successfully managed to recycle a rehash of a teen novel heavily criticised for its clichéd plot. That’s some truly metafictional fanfiction right there. Stripped dry of the few mysteries and predictable plot twists that made the original trilogy somewhat bearable, the majority of the novel is little more than a copy and paste job, with some pronouns switched around and the phrase “my cock” replacing whatever awful euphemism she used for Ana’s vagina. James also throws in the occasional flashback from Christian’s past and direct thought just to break the serious case of déjà vu reading this book gives you.
While I have nothing particularly positive to say about her new novel, I will admit that I find the sinister undertone that this new perspective gives the story interesting. Christian’s possessiveness of Ana is made much clearer as we are given direct access to the jealous thoughts that bubble beneath his cold and composed exterior in the previous books. His desire to hurt Ana is another aspect of the series that becomes more explicit. “I want to see her marked,” he says, “pink… with tiny, thin welts from a crop maybe.” Yet the feeling of uneasiness and disgust I receive from reading her prose, much like reading an Irvine Welsh novel or Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, is one that I doubt the author intended.
This book is a cheap and easy read, and along with the attention it has been receiving, it is very tempting to go out and purchase your own copy. While it is not for me to tell you what you can and cannot read, I would like to point out that there are thousands of books out there that fall under the ‘cheap and easy read’ category, which are far better written and does not naïvely convey to its readers that abuse can blossom into a loving, romantic relationship. So if you do find yourself in a bookstore, searching for a copy of Grey, I would strongly recommend first looking around at the other books in the same section and seeing if another novel of a similar genre catches your eye.