Why Jilly Cooper’s Octavia beats Fifty Shades of Grey

The great thing about a paperback as opposed to reading on a Kindle is that it’s really easy to peek and cheat and skip bits. So: I peeked. I had a quick skippy read of Fifty Shades… and I bet lots of other readers, like me, have looked at it more out of curiosity than anything else. And will any of us re-read it? Surely many of us won’t.

So – it’s become a massive publishing phenomenon, and that kind of success puts it in the mainstream, even though some of the stuff in it is almost alien to most of its readers, and likely to stay that way. And it’s in the middle of a mad comment blizzard that shows no sign of abating.

  1. I do get what Suzanne Moore in the Guardian is on about. She sees it as regressive, selling the ‘old fantasy of romance’ etc. But is anyone really convinced by it as a love story? The emotions in it don’t come across as very real to me – they seem to be there as an excuse. Problem is, when feminists take on something like this it’s hard not to end up sounding like puritans or killjoys.
  2. Er, people… isn’t the fuss a little much? There was mention of someone in this week’s Grazia who’s actually scared to open it because she might end up so dissatisfied with what she’s getting in real life… It’s not THAT exciting, and some of it’s quite queasy making.
  3. How very English it all is… Rainy summer… Jubilee… The English vice…
  4. It’s a bit humourless, no? Cf Jilly Cooper’s Octavia, which I read when I was quite young and impressionable, which does seem kind of wholesome in comparison to Fifty Shades. It has a masterful hero, but a lot more character and story, some jokes, and a cute dog.
  5. But isn’t Fifty Shades just the teensiest bit absurd? She’s called Anastasia, for heaven’s sake, and he’s called Christian…
  6. This is fantasy, right? If she was busily submitting to a short fat bald broke bloke called Bob… well, she wouldn’t, would she? And to some extent, it’s a fantasy about money. So the super-rich want to be in  charge? Tell us something we don’t know.

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