Dinner table conversation can be fascinating at times. At others it can turn into out of body (pun entirely intended) experience.

A group of female friends invited me to dinner a few weeks ago. As we sipped cocktails and dined on delicious langoustines, conversation turned to marriage, juggling kids, hectic schedules and … Eventually … Sex.

I’d missed out on our previous all-female get-together – deliberately. Almost everyone I knew was waiting with bated breath (oh, the irony and puns just keep coming!) for the movie version of that abysmal excuse for a novel – Fifty Shades of Grey. So, naturally that was the outing planned. After reading all three Fifty Shades installments (I still marvel at my sheer resilience) I just could not bring myself to watch the movie – no matter how hot ‘Mr Grey’ was.

When I first received this trilogy, I have to admit I was intrigued. How could I not be? And then I received the press release from the publishers describing how these books were literally flying off the (virtual and bookstore) shelves!
Random House UK had announced that the trilogy had sold more than four million copies in hard copy and e-book versions combined.

Remarkably, the paperback edition of Fifty Shades of Grey had sold in just two months (765 000+ copies) what Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, the best-selling paperback novel of all time, took more than six months to achieve.

People were jumping over hurdles to get their hands on these books.

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that best-sellers need not necessarily be well-written, thought-provoking works of real art. But how this collection achieved an almost cult-like following boggles my mind indeed, even now. How cinemas were booked out for weeks ahead of the screenings, amazed me again.

In a nutshell, the Fifty Shades trilogy is merely book porn with the mere hint of a storyline.

It centres on Anastasia Steele (could a name be any more contrived), a young, naive college graduate who is eager to enter the world of publishing.

A chance interview throws her into the glamorous and ludicrously wealthy world of Christian Grey, who has a few deep and very dark secrets he wants to share with her.

Christian is the epitome of wealth beyond any normal person’s wildest imagination. And Anastasia, when she isn’t breathing heavily and catapulting under his lascivious gaze, is going to tame the dark horse, make him more human.

Considering she spends most of her time breathing heavily, she has very little time to do this, of course.

That, in essence, is the storyline, and it takes EL James a whopping three books to tell it.

If she dropped just half of the raunchy sex scenes in these books, the story could have been written in a single book, I am sure.

Now, considering how most movies are highly condensed versions of the novels they’re based on anyway, how long would one expect this movie to be? I’d say ten minutes would be generous. And what exactly would the storyline be?

I read the first of these books hiding under my duvet and hoping my husband wouldn’t see me blushing down to my toes. I couldn’t think of anything worse than blushing down to my toes in a cinema full of similarly flushed women – and the odd man, apparently.

At the end of that first book, my only thought was if I heard someone saying “Oh my!” I would seriously vomit all over them. Now, I have a loyal set of girlfriends. But I just don’t see any of them being happy with me if I emptied a full tummy of popcorn and raspberry slushy onto their laps.

I think I would have had more praise and respect for the entire Fifty Shades exercise, despite all this descriptive BDSM, had it ended there.
But then I had to read books two and three. What can I say? I still had faith that maybe, just maybe, the author would rise above (oh the irony) her blatant capitalisation of every sexual stereotype in the book.

Still blushing furiously and feeling like a voyeur in a world I have little knowledge of, I soldiered on.

I shouldn’t have.

Fifty Shades Darker lost all plausible storyline and by the time I picked up Fifty Shades Freed, I was just desperate to get through it and forget it – and hoping beyond hope that Anastasia would stop with the heavy breathing and be a “real” woman.

I was glad I didn’t have to pluck up the courage to enter a bookstore, pick those books off the shelf, and then pay for them. My copies arrived from a publisher via courier.
But for my girlfriends, going off to the Fifty Shades movie was almost like a red carpet event for them.

As I sat there listening to them swooning and blushing as they relived this movie, my amazement grew. That the Fifty Shades trilogy is such a massive hit worldwide, has me truly perplexed. Am I missing something here? Am I just too stuffy and out of touch?

My girlfriends suggested I buy myself a riding crop, Google its uses, and try it out in the privacy of my own bedroom before I judge. A riding crop? Wild horses would have to do cartwheels before I allow myself to be whipped.

Enough said.

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