50 Shades of Grey by E.L. James is widely regarded as one of the most shocking and controversial books of the year. First published in Australia last May, the book has now sold over 3 million copies in the United States, making it a bestseller. A not-so-conventional love story, this book focuses on the relationship between English major Anastasia Steele and billionaire CEO Christian Grey, a man with light eyes and dark secrets. Christian Grey is a “Dom”; he takes pleasure in controlling submissive women, and he has his sights set on Anastasia. As Ana learns more and more about this beautiful and successful mystery man, she discovers that he has tastes that he regards as “varied” — tastes that intrigue, excite, and sometimes frighten her. She must decide if she can be what this man wants her to be, and must find a way to connect with someone who is desperately trying to mask a dark and painful history.
So, what makes a housewife write such a steamy and sensual novel? After reading the Twilight series, James ventured into “fan fiction,” writing stories about the stars of the series, Edward and Bella. She soon realized that she had somewhat of a more “adult” take on things, and began writing a love story all her own about two people in a consensual relationship based on power struggles, domination, and obedience. James acknowledges the impact that the book is having on her audience, and while it is still overwhelming and shocking to the newly famous writer, she offers one piece of advice to her readers: “It’s about having fun.” James makes it clear that her work does not intend to make any judgements or stereotypes about the BDSM community. Instead, she succeeded in developing a love story between two very different characters who are trying to find common ground and understand each other’s wants and needs.
The book offers readers insights into a world that is often not talked about in mainstream literature. As a result, it is sometimes met with harsh criticisms and blatant disregard; libraries in Florida recently pulled the novel from its shelves, saying that it was “too racy.” With so many copies sold worldwide and talks of a movie version being seriously considered, one could only conclude that James did something right. When it comes down to it, when we strip away all of the aspects that many people deem “taboo,” we see a interesting and intriguing love story between two completely different people, and 50 Shades of Grey becomes a story that one can simply not put down. BY KELSEY DENNEHY