P.T. Barnum would be proud.
Three days after the release of Grey: Fifty Shades of Grey as Told by Christian, the first-person rehash of the first installment of the “Fifty Shades” saga was Amazon’s No. 1 seller in print and as an e-book.
Author E L James, whose saga is one of the top sellers in publishing history, has outdone herself with Grey. Told in first person, Grey is Christian Grey’s version of his tortured relationship with Anastasia Steele. From the first page to the last, the story is awful.
The writing is stilted. Christian’s dialogue is more suited to a 70-something Victorian maiden, not a 28-year-old American gazillionaire who buys and sells companies, all while working to end global hunger.
This one story is worse than all three originals, which were little more than a bad Harlequin novel with lots of sex and testosterone — courtesy of Christian, who convinces Anastasia Steele to join him in a BDSM relationship as his submissive.
Critics of the originals, who suggested that Christian took advantage of the young, virginal Anastasia, might be kinder to this version of Christian. In the reworked narrative, Christian is neurotic and insecure, not an arrogant chauvinist with sex on the brain.
He narrates the story and has an ongoing conversation with himself. His inner dialogue and conversations ring false. In explaining how he and Anastasia are going to be seated at a restaurant, Christian tells the reader: “Upstairs on the mezzanine, the liveried young host dispatched by the maitre d’ leads us to the room I’ve booked.”
Or when they walk through a room, he notes: “As we leave the bar, I notice admiring glances from other guests, and in the case of one handsome, athletic guy, overt appreciation of my date. It’s not something I’ve dealt with before…and I don’t think I like it.”
Although the premise of the narrative is that Christian is a dominant man looking for a submissive woman, in this telling, it’s clear she’s the one in control. He worries throughout whether she’ll accept his terms. At one point when she has said no, he tells the reader: “A bubble of hope swells in my chest.”
She may be unsure of herself and naive, but Christian is so desperate to have her, he’s anything but dominant. In one scene where he’s “in charge,” Christian calls Anastasia to him and then remarks to himself, “Please do as you’re told.” Yep, he’s a dom who’s sure of himself.
The retelling also makes it clear that Christian’s sexual preferences have little do with the BDSM lifestyle. Christian is scarred by his early years with his birth mother, a crack addict and prostitute, and that was compounded by the family friend who sexually abused him for six years, starting when he was 15.
Grey is awful, but James’ fans are already flocking to it, and a retelling of the second and third installments is probably in the works. P.T. Barnum would be proud.