“FIFTY Shades of Grey is to literature what catfood is to cuisine”, one particularly snarky French critic allegedly wrote. Whether the quote is genuine or merely one more wildly inaccurate urban myth is immaterial to the 60 million book-buyers who to date have delved into the novel’s erotically murky depths.
Now, four years after the original release threw the publishing world into impassioned debate, a fourth instalment in the series has been unveiled.
The flip-side of the storyline, titled simply Grey, was launched jointly in the US and the UK on June 18 – the birthday of its fictional lead character: billionaire American tech entrepreneur and sadomasochist Christian Grey. In its first five days alone Grey passed the million-copies mark in the US and was snapped up by more than 640,000 would-be readers in the UK, making it Britain’s fastest-ever-selling adult book.
The story is simple: boy meets girl, boy pursues girl, girl discovers – to her fascination, once some initial disgust is overcome – that boy is into some seriously left-of-centre cable-ties-and-riding-crops leisure-time pursuits.
This version, while revisiting the bulk of Fifty Shades’ rather transparent and unrealistic plot, differs from author EL James’ earlier trilogy in that it is written in the words of Christian Grey himself.
Where Fifty Shades and its two direct sequels lack authority and resonance, being filtered as they are through the eyes of a sexually inexperienced and generally naïve early-20s college graduate, Grey offers a deeper, darker and undeniably tormented interpretation of the more worldly Christian’s conflicted feelings and contradictory behaviour.
Fifty Shades created more questions than it answered for many people and painted a decidedly unsympathetic portrait of Christian; Grey, as the counterbalance, is satisfyingly insightful and should to appeal to both men and women for its frank, soul-baring confessions of Christian’s insecurities and fears.
In keeping with its predecessors this is a magnetising read that can be completed in days rather than weeks – an ideal time-filler on a daily bus or train commute for those who dare to be seen with it in their grasp.