Ok, so I thought it was about time for a book review... Everyone seems to be reading them, and far be it from me to pass judgment without having direct experience, so I borrowed the trilogy that they are all talking about, and in between trying to get AltD2 down for her naps, I spent some quality time with Mr Christian Grey.
I was shocked, I tellya! But not particularly by the sex, the whips and chains, not even by the repetetive language or confusing use of British English in Seattle.
As I read on, I became increasingly frustrated by the protaganist Ana. She was supposedly an intelligent girl, but she repeatedly demontrated a complete lack of realisation to what the heck was going on. The plot, for those who have managed to be safely under a rock for the last six months, involves a naive university graduate who falls for a troubled millionaire with a penchent for elaborate gadgets in the bedroom and a natty taste in interior design (flogging bench, anyone?). Can she soften his heart? Can she "save him" from himself?... can she change her abuser? Because ultimately that's what he is. Maybe Ana should have checked out "the Couple Connection" before she got in too deep.
I found myself almost shouting at the character when, on honeymoon in London, and left alone for an afternoon while her husband attends a business meeting, the most interesting thing she can think of to do is stay in the hotel room and shave her pubic hair off. So much for "I've always wanted to visit London!". Bristish Museum, British Library, maybe the V&A, but no, instead she reaches for the bic disposable. I think the term is #facepalm !
The sex scenes are repetetive and I found myself skipping past them towards the end. In fairness, without them the books would be a far quicker read!
The hope of course is that EL James' readers are sensible enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality. If not, and certainly there will be some who are not, then some of the scenes, including one where Christian asks Ana to resist him, give a frighteningly damaging message to impressionable readers. This is, as described by Clare Phillipson, director of women's refuge "Wearside Women In Need", an abusive relationship portrayed as a love story.
But at the end of the trilogy the author has written an epilogue. Reading that part was when I got really angry.
Two years down the line, Ana and the millionaire are married with a child, and have one on the way (I'm fairly confident I'm not giving too much away here, after all, it's pretty much the plot of Twilight). The following passage is reproduced here without permission and solely for the purpose of this critique:
"What is it?" Christian tilts my chin back.
"I was just remembering Ted's birth" [first child]
Christian blanches and cups my belly.
"I am not going through that again. Elective caesarian this time." [NB this is CHRISTIAN SPEAKING, not Ana]
"Christian, I -"
"No, Ana. You fucking nearly died last time. No"
"I did not nearly die."
"No." He's emphatic and not to be argued with, but as he gazes down at me, his eyes soften. "I like the name Phoebe," he whispers, and runs his nose down mine.
"Phoebe Grey? Phoebe... Yes. I like that, too." I grin up at him.
So by way of a bit of background, "Ted's birth" involved a caesarian after 15 hours of labour. The mother has been resisting a c-section, the doctors are not impressed, and when she finally agrees, there is much eye rolling all round. "About time." says Christian Grey.
I was interested and surprised when I did a little bit of research into the author of "50 Shades", E L James. She is English, and has two children. The reason I was surprised is that having had two children, she is more than likely to have come across women who have undergone an emergency caesarian with their first baby. For many women, there are health concerns that require subsequent childen to be born also by caesarian section. However, for most of the women I have met where their first baby was a C-section, their hope for subsequent births is that they might be a vaginal delivery.
I was lucky in that both of my children were born by (fairly uneventful) normal vaginal deliveries. I think Ana, in the passage above, would agree with many mothers who say that to have a VBAC [Vaginal Birth after Caesarian] is something they would really like to be able to do. She's trying to argue with her husband for a VBAC and he is an inconsiderate, controlling idiot, in denying his wife the opportunity to bring their child into the world in a way where she has control of the situation. She denies that she almost died - she has no medical reason for a C-section to deliver her second baby.
50 Shades has been criticised all over the media for many things, but as far as I can see, nobody has mentioned the way Christian's control over Ana extends to the delivery of their children. I thought she was supposed to be intelligent, I thought the premise of her character was that she refused to be his submissive... apparently not, after all.
For information on abusive relationships and domestic violence, including how to spot a controlling, abusive partner, see www.hiddenhurt.co.uk and www.refuge.org.uk
If you would like information about VBAC, here are some links that might be of interest:
Homebirths and VBAC (UK site)
Quickfacts (US site)
And if you'd like to read the 50 Shades Trilogy, and make your own mind up about Ana and Christian, there are plenty going on ebay!
I would love to hear your comments.