I had heard quite a lot about Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James. A number of women on sites I belong to have apparently enjoyed it. And I had also heard it started life as fanfiction for the Twilight saga, which I found moderately entertaining. So I decided to give it a whirl.
It's about this college student called Anastasia, who goes to interview a drop dead gorgeous bachelor billionaire called Christian Grey, for her college newspaper. Mr Grey, who as well as being gorgeous and fabulously wealthy is apparently unattached at present (we all know how hard it is for gorgeous billionaires to get girlfriends), takes an inexplicable fancy to the demure Anastasia, and offers her the role of his part time 'submissive'. He wants to be able to do kinky things to her at the weekends; the rest of her time is her own.
Anastasia is shocked but intrigued, and eventually agrees to give it a go. She is given a contract to sign which goes on for pages and pages. I'm amazed she has the patience to read through it, because I certainly didn't. Anyway, she decides to take him up on his offer. A few weekends are spent doing some mildly kinky activities, then she decides to end the relationship, because as she explains to Christian, “You can't give me what I want, and I can't give you what you want.”
And that is the story in nutshell. the characters never really come to life. The author makes a half-hearted attempt to give them some personality by making Anastasia interested in classic literature, and Christian a classical music fan, but you can't breathe life into cardboard characters by giving them unlikely interests. Let them fly a plane if they like (and at one point they do)—they remain obstinately one dimensional.
There are authors who can create improbably gorgeous hot men and make you believe in them, like Janet Evanovich in her Stephanie Plum series for example, or the late Georgette Heyer in her historical romances. But Christian Grey is not of their number. His allure is non existent. A robot of a man, he simply goes through the motions. Not for a second did I believe in him as a real person.
It is perhaps unfortunate that the name Grey was chosen for the male character. Some of you will recall that Grey is the name of the genuinely intriguing hero of the film Secretary, a man who has a real personality. Christian Grey remains but a pale shadow (a lighter shade of grey perhaps)
The book is incredibly repetetive, and most of all on the subject of Christian Grey's grey eyes. His grey eyes are mentioned at least once a chapter, sometimes several times in the course of a chapter. Sometimes they are hard and speculative, sometimes intense and smoky, sometimes narrow, but always grey. Most of all though, they burn. In fact, his burning grey eyes are mentioned so often that you wonder if perhaps he should see a doctor, or at least get some eyedrops.
I am not sure what it is about this book that has managed to excite so many people, but it totally failed to excite me. There is nothing here to inflame the senses. Christian's burning eyes do not arouse so much as a flicker of warmth. Stephanie Myers's prose style in the Twilight sage has been much criticised, but she is Charlotte Bronte by comparison to the grey author of this grey book.