Refocusing the Conversation: Thoughts on E.L.James’s Shades of Grey Trilogy

Yes, I admit it, I too have eaten of the apple, devoured it and two more, actually. And those three juicy fruits were delicious – yes, that Fifty Shades Trilogy, designated “Erotic Romance” fiction.             jacket art

I want to talk here about the fun of these three novels, why they are successful, in my opinion.  Let me note that  E.L James wrote Fifty Shades… for adults, for readers who are all too familiar, perhaps,  with the landscape of adult relationships.  The novels’ characters, like their readers, are past the age of consent.  (Contrast this with Nabokov’s Lolita – definitely a male-centered erotic novel in which the main female character is a girl of twelve.  And her seducer, Humbert is “middle-aged”.)

E. L. James’s three novels are fun to read for several reasons.  For one, the characters are young, idealistic, sometimes funny.  Second,  in the novels sex is consensual, often playful and plentiful.

Third, the heroine is a smart, funny, confident young woman whose fitting last name is Steele.   The all-too-perfect hero -yes, Christian Grey is his name, has overcome a childhood punctuated by his addict-mother’s death, physical abuse and sexual exploitation to become a gifted classical pianist and a titan of corporate America. The almost-too-well adjusted heroine has loving relationships with her mother and her mother’s husbands #2 and #4. (Oh, and did I mention that both Anastasia and Christian are beautiful – graceful and lithe, as we might all wish to be or remember having been?)

My fourth reason for enjoying the series is that before Fifty Shades of Grey, Vol. I,  ends these beautiful young people are happily married and facing life’s struggles – how to deal with their  architect and whether or not the heroine can continue her dream-job now that her husband has bought the business for her. (And by the end of Fifty Shades Freed, Vol. III, the still-happy couple have a child and another on the way.)

What’s also fun about the novels – all three of them, is that the sex is consensual, more-or-less healthy, mutually satisfying, plentiful and between a couple madly in love with one another. Yes – they’re married in Volume I and remain in love and married through Volume II and III.  

Within the novels, the domination-submission component, which is the focus of media attention,  is more legend than reality. The hero and heroine engage in lots of talk with only a bit of show. And, as we know as adults – talk is good. Learning how to communicate is one of the main threads of the trilogy – and certainly a skill worth mastering.

So, all this is to say to my sisters, “Go for it. Enjoy these delicious reads and don’t apologize because you enjoy the long, full-on sex as well as the impossibly romantic plot lines.”  To my male readers I say, “Try it; you may enjoy the read too. Certainly, you may garner a few tips that will make your sexual interludes even more fun for both you and your partner.”

And so,with a sigh of delight and satisfaction, having enjoyed a good read, I look forward to James’s next novel.  And in the meantime, I think I’ll go back to my shelves and reread the erotic works of Anäis Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man, and Other Essaysparticularly her essays on the delights of a “sensitive man,” and George Sands‘s more veiled novels of love and possession, and one of my all-time favorites, Colette, particularly her memoir Earthly Paradise.

Take your time, Ms. James.  I’ve got some delicious reading to keep me company.


About J. F. Booth

I am a writer and educator.
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1 Response to Refocusing the Conversation: Thoughts on E.L.James’s Shades of Grey Trilogy

  1. Zelley Barbara says:

    Not familiar with EL James…sounds like a good one to bring along on vacation!

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