I recently read Fifty Shades of Gray. I wasn’t going to read the book at first, certainly not all three in the trilogy. But I have to admit that once I got started, I couldn’t put it down. That sounds like a cliché, so it probably is, but that does describe what happened.
I think many readers picked up the first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, out of curiosity because of the hyped erotica. At least, I did, at first and because I wanted to know what made this book stand out and beg to be read. Since I’m a writer, I want to know these things. What makes a reader pick a certain book? What makes it a best seller? What made readers go on and finish all three books?
If it was just erotica, I would have been bored and lost interest immediately. The erotic scenes would not have sustained my attention for three books. For one thing, there was no sex in the beginning. I became involved with the characters. Anastasia Steele is a memorable character. In the beginning we meet her in her ordinary world, learn what her goals are, who her friends are, how she thinks of herself. She’s likeable enough to go the journey with her to meet Christian Grey.
She stumbles literally into his life. He is everything she is not. She resists. He chases her, and she resists again. He is rich beyond her dreams, powerful, controlling, gorgeous and magnetic. She doesn’t understand why he is attracted to her. She doesn’t see her own possibilities or who she really is inside.
It is the ultimate love story. The attraction, the ensuing resistance on both their parts, the inevitable clashing of two attractive, strong individuals. Their love affair is two powerful as they discover each other and, at the same time, themselves.
Their story is also part mystery, thriller and suspense. We learn about Christian Grey’s childhood, his crack whore mother, the pimp who abused him so terribly, the woman who took advantage of a disturbed and unhappy teenage boy. All these events, along with his loving adoptive parents, are what made Christian the man he became, the man Anastasia grows to love.
There is tension and conflict throughout. Christian is a dominate looking for a submissive. But Anastasia is no submissive. There are people in Grey’s past looking for revenge and would do anything to destroy their search for happiness. These are the ingredients that make us turn the pages, go to the next book and read to the finish to find out what happens to them.
The one thing that does disturb me about their relationship is Christian’s need for control, his jealousy, his need to punish. Women who get attracted to such men most of the time end up getting abused or even killed. There is such a fine line between Christian and the way this book portrays him, and the mirror image of this model in real life.
In the books, Christian learns to accept and to give love, but he does not know he’s capable of feeling love in the beginning. This man could be dangerous to women in real life. In the beginning, he liked to beat women with a whip. We know the women were submissives and we are told they wanted this and they had to sign a contract first and could stop him by giving a safe word. But what if he didn’t stop? What if he got so jealous of his wife that he flew into a rage and punished her and couldn’t stop?
The author was very careful about how she portrayed Christian Gray, making him a philanthropist, a decent and caring employer, reaching out to feed the world, caring for ex-submissives financially, and being a loving and caring son and brother to his adoptive family. These traits set him apart and made us believe that Grey could be rehabilitated to a loving husband.
But in real life, if a woman thought she saw Christian in her controlling and jealous boyfriend and he didn’t have the good traits that Christian had, she could be in real trouble.
Another aspect of the book that has attracted so many women and men is the sexual S&M flavor that can be experimented by two consenting adults. The author teases and teaches many avenues of pleasure. I cannot or won’t comment on these personally, only to say that there are many different tricks to learn if one is open to them.