Reviews of E L James’ follow up to her bestselling “Fifty Shades of Grey” trilogy have expressed mixed views about what it reveals about its protagonist and been largely unimpressed by the amount of material that has been directly repeated from the original.
Grey, out today (18th June), is the story of Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele’s relationship told from Grey’s perspective. In the Guardian, Jenny Colgan said: “The first book was a rather fun and fairly mild portrait of a woman’s sexual fantasy. Yet it is almost impossible to read Grey and not assume the narrator is going to end up in jail. Instead of lighthearted and repetitive mild S&M, the ‘love affair’ is now the twisted work of an utter psychopath.”
As well as the difficulty with Grey’s predatory behaviour, the other key problem reviewers had with the book are the amount of material that is reused from the trilogy. As David Sexton says in the London Evening Standard: “We know that when it came to making the film, James overruled the inappropriately tasteful and gifted director Sam Taylor-Johnson and her scriptwriter Kelly Marcel by insisting that they used her dreadful dialogue… Such vanity, such rapturous self-regard was nothing, however, compared to Grey, which loyally repeats every line of spoken dialogue… every excruciating email: every single scene happens exactly as it did the first time around. Only this time, we see it not as Ana sees it but as that prize dick Christian Grey.”
One of the few voices in defence of Christian Grey was Francesca Cookney for the Mirror: “James’ characteristic internal monologues provide a direct line into Christian’s mind, revealing his deepest, darkest desires… and they don’t disappoint… We learn that his desire for her [Ana's] submission is less about his own control as it is wanting to be loved and trusted, and accepted. Does that make him less attractive? Hell no. In fact I think we’re all about to fall just a little bit more in love…” Also in the Mirror, Rebecca Pocklington claimed the sequel made the original books look like “low level saucy chick lit”.
Perhaps the most creative response though was Kat Brown’s live read of the book for the Telegraph, which she updated as she finished each chapter. As well as a summary of the events and her thoughts, she also provided her favourite lines from each chapter including: “My green car is fuzzy. Covered in grey fur and dirt. I want it back. But I can’t reach it. I can never reach it. My green car is lost. Lost. And I can never play with it again” and “Dude. I need to get out of Seattle this weekend. This chick is all over my junk and I’ve got to get away”. Brown emphasises the amount of text copied straight from the trilogy: “More copy and paste for James to do in between rolling around in millions, chortling… More emails between Ana and Christian from the first book while James knits herself a scarf from £50 notes.”
Meanwhile Entertainment Weekly bypassed the foreplay with a list of which page numbers all the sex scenes could be found on. Buzzfeed offered a characteristic quiz: “Can you tell the real Grey quotes from the fake ones?” MTV began a liveread later in the day that is ongoing, tallying the number of sex scenes and lip bites.
While lots of readers have expressed excitement at the new book on Twitter, responses are still few and far between as they make their way through all 576 pages. The book currently has an average of 3.4 stars out of five on Amazon – with is caused by eight five-star reviews (“I personally have always wanted to know what was going on inside his head"), and six one-star or two-star reviews (“Drivel”).
Grey’s behaviour proved problematic for most reviewers, with Bryony Gordon describing the book in the Telegraph as: “About as sexy as a misery memoir and as arousing as the diary of a sex offender… I can’t say I ever took the books seriously; they were always a bit of frivolous fun… but in this the joke is taken too far. Not surprisingly the writing is bad throughout… but the writing is not the offensive thing about this book. It’s the sense that, like Ana with Christian, the reader is being duped in to a manipulative relationship with it.” But as Colgan in the Guardian said: “There is no happy ending to this story – unless there is a tremendous twist coming further down the line, and these are Grey’s prison diaries.”
The publisher teamed up with ITV's "This Morning" in an attention-grabbing publicity stunt which saw a "Grey Enterprises" branded helicopter land near the ITV studios. A sunglass-wearing model jumped out of the chopper to deliver a briefcase containing the first three review copies of Grey to three of ITV's reviewers, including author James Dawson (see video below). Other marketing activity included a one-day takeover on publication day of the screen at Piccadilly Circus in London, with an animated creative including a birthday message for Christian. There was also a takeover of the websites for both Heat and Closer, yesterday, and Twitter activity using the hashtag #GreyUK.
Sion Hamilton, retail operations director of Foyles, said: "We are stocking Grey across all of our stores and expect to see strong sales in the next few days. High profile book releases are always great to bring people into bookshops and we’re looking forward to more big titles over the summer.’”