I heard of "50 Shades of Grey" a few months ago, and didn't immediately want to read it mainly because of so many scathing reviews. But something bugged me. How can something so terrible sell so well? Street cred of this novel increased markedly, to my horrendous surprise, when I read that Victoria Beckham is totally into it. Naturally, it had nothing to do with the visual of David Beckham in faded, ripped jeans. And of course there's that ongoing bitch-fight over who will get to play the female protagonist (Anastasia) in an upcoming movie. I got intrigued so I read one of the interviews with the author and then I read the first chapter. I scoffed it down and then I scoffed at it. I needed time to feel comfortable with the idea of reading it. A few crime thrillers later, I picked it up again. I don't want to give away the plot, but there is one, and it is this rather than the sex scenes that made me continue all the way into the third book. The sex scenes that are the main reason everyone is reading it, are initially excellent. Honestly, I haven't felt that excited reading a sex scene in a novel since I secretly read Danielle Steel when I was a teenager. The most appealing thing about Christian Grey (the male protagonist) is that he is every teenage girl's fantasy. I distinctly remember my friends and I describing a guy that looked exactly like him, all the way down to the ripped and faded jeans, barefoot and nothing else, although the undone top button was a nice contribution to the familiar image. In our fantasies he was also extremely sexually virile, incredibly good looking and so bewitched with us that his existence had no meaning unless he was with us. I must admit that copper blond hair was never on my list of turn-ons and that made reading slightly difficult because I kept imagining him with dark hair so every time she mentioned copper blonde, it jolted me out of my suspended disbelief, but there's no way of pleasing everyone. Also, in our girly fantasies we were tying him up but really, we wished it was the other way around. EL James explored that angle quite well overall, mixing sexual, emotional and psychological into a page-turning mix. Just a brief mention about the setting. To a British reader, it is clear that the book was originally set in Britain because the "Seattle" setting reads as a forced correction. This is a little disheartening because it communicates to the aspiring writer that his books won't sell unless they are precisely catered for American audiences, and I for one feel iffy about that. Are American audiences really that self-centred that they wouldn't buy this book if it was set in London or Cambridge? If not, than this was another marketing decision for which I feel the book has suffered because the setting of Seattle read rather false and tourist-brochure-like. But overall it is not a flaw that stopped me reading, so I suppose the decision paid off. I quite liked the externalisation of superego and id in form of her Subconscious and her Inner Goddess which behaved like a multiple personality disorder of sorts, but like every other good thing in that trilogy, by the time you reached the third book, it all read rather formulaic and roll-eye inducing. Speaking of eye-rolling, I could really "feel" Christian as a flesh and bones character. A little bit less so with Anastasia, and I think that's because the author tried to distance herself from her in order to avoid writing a Mary-Sue. She certainly succeeded in that because a character that at times feels extremely annoying and emotionally repetitive is anything but perfect. I see how that worked reasonably well especially if the alternative was the most self-indulgent author insertion, but I think the overall repetitiveness is due to something other than being at the core of Ana's character. I suppose the decision to distance oneself from the character you are writing (in first person!) even though sometimes unavoidable, can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, by making Anastasia a template character, the reader can better immerse herself in the story, but the downside is that Anastasia is a lot less three-dimentional than Christian, which can be disappointing at times. The first 3/4 of the book were a thrill, truly a ride I appreciated. Second book, I could just about stand to not skim over the pages, and not even to get to the sex scenes but to see what happens in the plot which involves a bit of mystery, suspense and an emotional and psychological journey (Christian's, of course). Third book, which I'm half-way through now, is becoming slightly torturous. It is nowhere near the first book in terms of quality but I want to follow the plot to its conclusion. It's as if what truly should have been two books (remove a couple of superfluous sex scenes from the first, about 40% of superfluous angst and sex from the second and distil the plot and sex scenes (there are still a few good ones) in the third book), you'd end up with about 1000 pages of pure bliss. This way, it feels like the publisher got greedy. I suppose that's one aspect of publishing I really dislike. My first contact with a publisher involved him getting carried away with re-organising my material, talking about spinning and defining and targeting and covering, and I ran away screaming before we even signed the contract. I know, that sounds very immature. Maybe I'm just being naive but I wish EL James didn't let them butcher her story like that. Still, I enjoyed reading it, even though at times it felt like masochism.