Last night I revelled in the silence of Christmas, finally over.  Gifts are unwrapped and paper and packaging is neatly recycled in the garage, waiting for the next pick-up.  I took this opportunity to relax and finish reading the penultimate in best-sellers of 2012, Fifty Shades of Grey.

If “Grey” were a term selected to refer to the vibrancy or skill of author E.L. James’ writing, it would be far more apt.  I must say that, at the very least, I am stunned by the success of this novel.  At the most, I am deeply dismayed.  To find that Fifty Shades of Grey is a #1 New York Times Bestseller is rather more than a sad commentary on the literary acumen of the general public.

To quote my 75 year old mother, Fifty Shades is no more than “a Harlequin Romance with a whole lot of fuck in it.”  Her assessment could not be more exact.  Why the readers of the world have succumbed to this piece of formula writing at its apex, is beyond me.

The Harlequin Romance was once the dirty little secret of the bored and repressed housewife.  This formulaic writing never fails to deliver the desired romantic fantasy.  A smart, breathtakingly beautiful, but shy and virginal heroine, unaware of her effect on men, encounters a masculine, self-assured, and powerful lover who opens her eyes to a new world.  Invariably both the hero and the heroine have some kind of internal conflict which is a source of strife in the storyline. If you don’t believe me, click this link:   Harlequin Formula for Writers

Now to Fifty Shades of Harlequin, ahem…Grey.

Introducing, Anastasia Steele (yes, I said, Anastasia Steele);  a brilliant, newly graduated writer, who has a very poor self-esteem, and believes herself to be unattractive and clumsy.

Oh…and she’s a virgin.

Yes.  Of course she is.

Enter Christian Grey; a controlling, billionaire CEO of his own company, who had a childhood fraught with abuse, resulting in profound sexual deviancy; namely a penchant for dominance.  He is a pilot and a concert-calibre pianist.  He is also tall, broad shouldered, muscular and gorgeous.  Christian is bewitched by Anastasia’s mix of beauty and awkward innocence.  Ultimately she becomes the only woman he has ever loved.  

Anastasia also falls deeply in love with Christian, despite struggling inwardly with her aversion to his BDSM lifestyle and her lack of a submissive personality.  Christian awakens the sexual goddess within Anastasia (to which James refers to ad-nauseum).

With the exception of the soft-porn calibre sex scenes, which were at times, admittedly titillating, and some of the cute-ish email exchanges, Fifty Shades of Grey is so unbearably predictable, that I was audibly giggling at several points in the story.  I can only attribute its skyrocketing success to the effects of social media.  Are we so desensitized to the never ending images of sex in the media that only the shock value of sado-masochism will create hype?

It certainly isn’t James’ unremarkable usage of language.  I was almost compelled to begin a tally to track how many times she used the term “smouldering grey eyes”, or how often she referred to Christian frowning, his eyes growing dark or to Anastasia flushing crimson.


Yet I read on.  Perhaps the influence of flocks of female friends who swear it is one of the sexiest books they have ever read, or reports of a Fifty Shades of Grey baby boom, has coerced me to push through and complete the book.

This is the one place where it finally diverges from the formula.  Fifty Shades of Grey doesn’t have the prescribed happy ending of the Harlequin Romance.  Anastasia decides that she can’t be Christian’s Submissive, and ultimately leaves him.  Both characters are heartbroken.

I don’t need to stretch to guess what happens in the sequel.

But inexplicably, I’ll likely read it.