With the Shades of Grey trilogy dominating the book charts at the moment, we sent our Fifty Shades Virgin (as in, she hasn’t read the books) on a quest to find out why these saucy books are just so sellable. Charlotte Castle reports.
I have a friend who is an Ann Summers Rep. She makes a bit of pocket money and has a monthly giggle selling crotch-less knickers and Rampant Rabbits to tipsy women at hen parties. Recently though, she’s noticed a new trend. “No sooner than I’ve got my first edible bra out of my product bag and they’re all asking me about Shades of Grey – and enquiring whether I stock feathers and whips.”
It’s what the sex industry is calling ‘The Grey Effect’ and its sweeping through society from an unusual starting point – the 30 – 40 year old female reader.
The first book, Fifty Shades of Grey, follows Ana, a virginal literature student and her growing relationship with the handsome but troubled Billionaire, Christian Grey, who educates her in the ways of love and passion in his Red Room of Pain – a bondage dungeon in his apartment.
But come on. Surely this is just porn? The written version of 1970’s porn films - which also boasted a flimsy plot (“Oh! Derek! I didn’t realise you were cleaning the windows. Oh! And look! My sister has just arrived! Well since you’re all here….”) surely any pretence at literature is a farce?
“It’s a love story” says Christina Glynn, a 30 year old Health Care Assistant from London, with the passionately defensive tones I’ve come to expect from fans of the series. “I suppose on the surface the sexual content, could be used for a cheap thrill, if that was the case then the reader isn't really following the story. The sex scenes are about trust - both characters breaking down their own barriers and discovering love for the first time. The story deals with the characters battling with their own emotions and feelings, and discovering firsts together - albeit on different levels. It is by the far the most graphic and passionate book I have encountered, but truthfully that’s just at surface level.”
Yet just as Christina was beginning to sell it for me, the best-selling author Matt Shaw added his views. “Filthy, yes. Dull, absolutely. The author needs to learn new adjectives to describe feelings. There are only so many times a person can look at someone through their lashes and blush."
Antonia Hopkins, 31 of Windsor added, “The filth side gets a bit boring in all honesty, I found myself skipping through the parts where they have sex after the first few times! I did feel compelled to finish them all though [the books] as I had to find out what happened.”
It seems that the Shades of Grey series, just like sex and love, have an intensely personal and individual effect on each person. I think the only thing I can do is download it and read it. You never know - my next purchase just might be a riding crop.
Fifty Shades of Grey is available to download for e-readers from Amazon, here.