Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shades of Grey Part 1 (The Rant)

Nepeta, 'Dropmore Blue'

True confession: I recently went to my local bookstore with the aim of searching out a good book on the subject of preserving/canning fruits and vegetables...but there was also a secondary component to my bookstore mission-

I wanted to pick up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey.

I had heard a lot of buzz about the series of books and all the hype had succeeded in leaving me feeling frankly curious! It is not everyday that a series of romance novels take the 1, 2, and 3 spot on the New York Times Bestseller list.

What started out as an E-book had grown, through simple word of mouth, into a publishing phenomenon. In the U.S. alone, the three-book series, had over 20 million dollars in sales.

I had heard the book variously described and dismissed as "mommy-porn" and "poorly written", but man, who can argue with those sales figures. Someone was reading those books and liking them...alot!

So what was so special about this particular series of romance novels?

I was curious to know!

Backyard Pond in Mississauga, ON

I must also confess that am not one for reading romance novels generally speaking. I like a fairly wide range of books- everything from classical literature to garden books to mystery novels, but romance novels have never appealed to me. The previous two books on my night table were Prisoner of Tehran and Half Broke Horses (both excellent books by the way). Its just that I find romance novels are a little too over-the-top; the characters are too perfect and often too silly.

I am also a pragmatist I guess. I like my heros and heroines to be a bit more original and authentic. I tend to prefer a more traditional Jane Austin or Jane Eyre sort-of-love-story, where the central character is a bit more plain and homespun (I can identify better), and the man of her dreams may be darkly handsome and mysterious, but also real and even flawed...

Annual Licorice and Dusty Miller at Edwards Gardens

By the time I hit the second paragraph of 50 Shades of Grey, I knew I was definitely on foreign soil.

The central character has the romantic sounding name: Anastasia. The author probably got tired of typing out "A n a s t a s i a" again and again, because she most often goes by the name Ana. To counter the fluffy first name, author E. L. James has given her heroine a James-Bond-sounding last name.

Anastasia Steele!

It goes without saying that she is stunningly beautiful.

Ana meets Christian Grey when she stumbles (literally) into his office to interview the highly successful, fabulously rich, business tycoon for her college newspaper. Though she is supposedly smart, she bumbles through the interview and even makes the mistake of asking Christian if he was gay. (I was mortified on her behalf. I can't seriously imagine, in a business situation, asking a man I just met, about his sexual preferences.) Far from being put-off by Ana's clumsiness, Christian is enthralled.

By page 115 their already in bed together.

Lamb's Ears at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Hamilton, ON

Just a quick word about Christian. Not surprisingly, he is devastatingly handsome. Christian is also big... and I am not talking about his hands or his feet here ladies!

The man also has some serious skills.

Sweet little Anastasia goes from a innocent in chapter seven to experiencing multiple O...oh dear, can you use that word in a gardening blog post?...hmm, maybe not...suffice it to say, she discovers in her first experience of lovemaking an insatiable appetite for more...

And it here that the novel takes a turn for the unexpected.

It seems Christian has unorthodox tastes when it comes to sex...the man has a fully equipped playroom for one thing. These preferences might have made Christain seem weird to a good portion of the reading audience, so the author has wisely given Christian a darkly mysterious and troubled childhood by way of explanation for his unorthodox predilections.

Private Garden, Rosedale, ON

So what kept me reading?

It is honestly unlike anything I have ever read before. The question, "Where is the heck is this book going?" kept me turning the pages.

The writing is not brilliant and often repetitive. Ana is forever using explicatives like Oh my! and Holy shit!. Half way through the novel I swore that would throw the book across the room if she blinked or bit her lip one more time!

The author does understand pacing though. Just when things were getting a tad dull, there would be a curve ball introduced that propelled me forward.

Now there is a movie is in the works and I predict there will also be many copycat books in the same way that Bridget Jone's Diary spawned a whole new generation of "chick lit".

Do I admire the character Anastasia Steele?

How can I really! She is the kind of fantasy character who graduates with an English major and does not regret for a second the somewhat impractical nature of her degree. You want to bet that she does not get stuck serving french fries at the local McDonald's restaurant!

No, even in these recessionary times, our plucky little Anastasia leaves school and one week later as a job as an assistant in a prestigious publishing house.

I think I prefer my fictional heroines to be a bit more real.



P.S. There is a new post under the Page header Cooking. Check out Brenda's Green Bean Noodles hereUp next, I am going to continue to run with a grey theme, but I'll put the color grey back into a garden setting.

50 comments:

  1. Wow. I hope that book will be translated in Finnish so that I can read it as well. Sounds "interesting" ;O)...

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    1. Given the books popularity, I am sure that it will be translated into many languages. I would venture you do not have long to wait for it to appear in Finnish.

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  2. Haha, I love your recap! I haven´t read it but haven´t missed the buzz, maybe I´ll get around to it eventually. :-)

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    1. I think the buzz will hit a peak when the movie comes out. Then we will be sick of hearing about it. Frankly, I can't imagine how they will turn it into a movie. Some Hollywood director has his work cut out for him!

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  3. Loved all the gardening images, especially of the statue in the pond. As for the book, well, I knew from a few brief descriptions that this was not my kind of book. My (adult) daughter read it because it was so popular, but she hated it - I think she threw it away about halfway through. But, sex sells!

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    1. Yes, it does Holley. My daughter-in-law loves the book series. She also loves Twilight. I heard E.L James on national radio here in Canada, and Twilight series was actually her inspiration. I believe she just sat down one day and decided to write her own version of the Twilight series.

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  4. Hi Jennifer - your review, interspersed with very lovely "grey" plants and flowers, proved to be quite an eye-"O"pener!
    I read many different genres as well - thrillers, SF, fantasy, mainstream - but I used to be an insatiable romance reader. Though hardly anyone believed me, many romance authors have a terrific sense of humour and the books always had a happy ending - the 2 main reasons I liked reading them. Here's a statistic: romance novels are the most sold fiction genre and provide huge profits to the publishers. So there have always been a lot of romance readers out there, clandestine though they might be. 50 Shades of Grey has been very cleverly marketed to have have taken spots #1,2, and 3 in the NY Times Bestseller lists, when it's probably pretty mediocre reading. But hey! Finally romance readers can sit on the subway with the cover of their book showing and not get ridiculed. :)
    PS - if this is Part 1 The Rant…what's next? :)

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    1. I like your pun. I knew romance novels were big business, but I must say that I did not realize just how big a business it is. I think woman like to escape with a book, and as you say, there is always a happy ending!
      What's next? I have lots of grey themed pictures to work with. Grey is under-utilized in the garden in my humble opinion. I have very little of it, but want to add more.

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  5. Ah, 50 Shades!
    I read the first one over the summer, and was real glad that on a suggestion from a friend did not purchase the entire series. Definitely a departure from the ordinary, but I thought very poorly written.

    Your photographs are wonderful. I especially love the first one.

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  6. OH MY! There is definitely something that keeps one reading this book. I have just purchased the second one. Not reading it at the moment I am reading a crime story, Christian Grey can wait a while. Photo's are lovely too.

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    1. Karen, I have a feeling the second book is just more of the same, but watered down and diluted. I don't think you are missing anything by waiting.

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  7. I checked it out from the library and found it so poorly written and so over-the-top explicatively boring that I returned it unread...and I am no prude. I really didn't think of it as a romance novel, but rather as a purely tintillating one.

    Your photos are lovely...I like these greys better! (-:

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    1. The first pages of the book are the worst part of the novel. The whole scene where Anastasia falls into Christian's office had me cringing. I did not find her clumsy ways endearing (which is what I think the author was trying to accomplish). I was embarrassed for her! Once you get past that rough beginning, the plot kicks in a drags you along. I had no idea where the book was leading me and curiosity kept me going to the bitter end.

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  8. The photos are such a lovely contrast to your subject matter. I'm glad to read a very frank review which just reinforces what I already knew. Why else would it be so popular? Your presentation is amazing--the photos sensuous in a way that this book can never be. Love your blog!

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    1. Thanks dalmatiandigs! You bring up an excellent point. Though the book had very graphic love scenes, I found them to be not very sensual at all. The approach to the general subject matter was original in some respects and completely over-the-top and predictable in others.

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  9. Oh NO! not you too Jennifer :O ..... LOL, a friend of mine read it and i was in absolute stitched of laughter as she described it...... she was ranting on and on about how bad a book it is, but as you said, its the hype that gets people reading it and the sheer curiosity.

    as for all the gardening photos i just loved them, when i get a crop of beans i'll have to try out those noodles and the statues and water features were really nice, i particularly like the first photo of the bee :)

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    1. You made me laugh out loud Michael! I promise you that I have not lost my way. It just so happens that I had lots to grey-themed shots and well...I couldn't resist. There is certainly lots to poke fun of in this book. I will return to gardening with grey in the next post.

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  10. I was told by several friends that if I loved the Twilight books (I didn't), then I would love the Shades of Grey. Glad to hear your review too. I think I shan't bother.

    Now your pictures? Those summon MY passion! Beautiful!

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  11. Thank goodness that you interspersed this post with lovely photos - especially love the pond with the grey lady. I started reading 50 Shades and couldn't make it through the first book. Believe me, I am not a prude. It was just so cliche and poorly written that I felt that I was wasting time reading it. Good for you for finishing the first novel. I couldn't do it. And this is the first time in a long time that I did not finish a book. I consume books!!

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  12. Ha! I have heard so many people talking about this book but have yet to hear anyone break it down....thank you for the quick summary...I am thinking I will pass on it! The picture of the pond is stunning! I love the layering of plants in that garden!

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    1. The rest of the pond and garden was beautiful too. I will have to show everyone in a post dedicated to this one backyard.

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  13. I was giggling reading your review. I haven't read the book per se, but have skimmed through it and saw enough 'naughty bits' to get the gist of where the story was headed. Dark passions and stereotypical personalities and a ditzy, ingenue of a heroine discovering her sensuality. Yawn.

    Now, give me the Bronte sisters ANY day, Jane Eyre and Cathy and Heathcliff over at Wuthering Heights. Now, that's some brooding and passion worth reading. I guess the whole vampire craze/Twilight thing didn't make a lot of sense to me, either. Though the original book, 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker was a chilling story.

    Great book review and loved your photo illustrations, too!

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    1. Karen, I agree that Dracula is a classic that stands the test of time, while Twilight is probably going to turn to dust. I read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights when I was in my teens. They are two of the greatest love stories.

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  14. The interesting post and fine illustrations. I am greeting

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  15. Too bad we can't all write about the fifty shades of grey in the garden and get rich!

    Eileen

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  16. Really pleased to know you have a cooking component to your blog!! Thanks for your kind link and words.

    As for the Shades of Grey...how lovely the photos are, and how well you have composed and crafted this blog. The comments are wonderful to read! Feeling this book was not something I wanted to read, I didn't so can't comment further re that but your grey shades in the garden inspire me very much.

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  17. Don't like the book, but I do love the way you've incorporated it into this blog post, brilliant! Gorgeous photo and pairing of the Annual Licorice and Dusty Miller, so soft on the eyes. Maybe the book could be put to good use as compost in the garden...

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  18. From the sound of it - not my kind of book at all- love the pictures of your garden though.

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  19. Hello Jennifer girl !
    These are such beautiful pictures .. you always inspire me to become a better photographer .. that is my winter time project (other than finally having a garden office .. painting and a bit of decorating involved ! LOL)
    I have heard about the book but it didn't really drive me to read it .. so it was fun to read what you got out of it girl !
    I would recommend a trilogy that is very engrossing (I stayed up years ago until 3 in the morning trying to finish it because it "grabbed" me) .. it may not be for every one but if you get a chance to read the first book .. you will want to read the other two to the series.
    I know when I say Anne Rice is the author it may be a turn off .. but it is a totally different type of story and writing .. I wouldn't have recognized it as one of her novels if it weren't for her name on them.
    The first one is called "The Witching Hour" a trilogy of the Mayfair witches .. the second is "Lasher" (don't be put off by the name it isn't a slasher!LOL) .. the last is "Taltos" which traces back to Druids and Celtic history with Stonehenge .. I think you said you liked period pieces ? this incorporates that as one of the themes.
    Just a suggestion .. but, I think you may find them interesting!
    Joy : )

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    1. Actually Joy, I heard Anne Rice interviewed on the CBC and there is something about her that I find fascinating. She is certainly a character. I would like to read something she has written. Thanks for the recommendations!

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  20. I've just discovered your blog and love it. Your garden is stunning, your photos are beautiful, and thanks to your terrific book review, I no longer feel as if I've been living under a rock. The book is definitely not on my list but at least I won't have a blank stare when someone mentions it!

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  21. That is funny- I just picked that up when in Sams for the very same reason- I had heard so much about it and had to see what it was all about. I am about half way through. It is funny and yes, the biting the lip thing. Ok already. I get it, she bites her lip. hahahha I have not finished but in my mind I already can see what might happen- will see if I am right. Entertaining anyway. Not one I can't put down though. James Patterson, Grisham etc... are ones I open and read till I'm done, this one not so much but still I read. I do see the characters though- Mila Kunis and Bradley Cooper. At least how I see it in my mind. And all this time I have been reading your blog I never notice the cooking tab till you just mentioned it- will have to go see- I love to cook!!!!

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    1. Kacky, The repetitive mention of her biting her lip made me crazy. I do agree that the book is entertaining and I think that has something to do with its appeal.
      The cooking tab is new, so that is why you haven't seen it before. The cooking posts are a bit of insanity on my part. I can barely keep up with the main blog! I want to learn to photograph food, so I will just post when I can.

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  22. I chuckled through your review, Jennifer:) I'm impressed you finished the book--do you plan to read the others? Even though I heard all the hype about this book and a few friends my age did read it, it just doesn't sound that appealing to me (am I getting old??). Plus, I've slogged through a couple of really lousy books lately and would rather spend my time reading something I enjoy--just ordered Ken Follett's sequel to "Fall of Giants" and am looking forward to that one.

    I really enjoyed the shades of gray in your garden photos, however!

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    1. What drove me to finish the book was the same curiosity that made me buy it. I kept wondering how the author was going to end the book. The story was so offbeat that the novel could have ended any number of ways.
      I saw a mention of Ken Follett's new book in the local newspaper book review section just recently. It sounds like a much better bet than 50 Shades of Grey!

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  23. I love a touch of silvery grey in the garden, it helps highlight the colours and add interest.

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  24. Thank you Jennifer for that brilliant review! (I'm still chuckling away to myself) I haven't exactly been tempted to read this particular novel but now I know I definitely don't need to go there. p.s. I hear the Ball Book of Canning is supposed to be one of the best out there.

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    1. Thanks for the recommendation Marguerite. I had something definite in mind when looking for a book on canning: lots of glossy picture to motivate me (because I am lazy), practical tips (because I am terrified I will poison my family!) and updated recipes (not grannies pickles). I will have to look for the Ball Book of Canning in my local bookstore.

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  25. I hated 50 Shades so much I told my book club I was going to compost it. They begged me to give them my copy. I wanted it out of the house and away from my 17 yr old daughter. I thought the plot was moronic and contrived. In my mind Christian wasn't a handsome stud but a creep in need of therapy. I didn't finish the book. I just hated it too much and have no desire to see the movie. It was so poorly written, reading it became a chore. What truly bothered me is that the public is so accepting of a male character that is manipulative and controlling and that women bought into the false ideology that Anastasia can 'save' him. Give me a break!
    Now, I do have to admit, if Christian had been an Italian gardener (who wasn't a bondage loving control freak), I might have finished the book. There's a man who can handle his tools!

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    1. You are always so funny Tammy- an Italian gardener who can handle his tools! LOL That sounds like a great love story!
      I can see why you might want to keep 50 Shades out of the hands of your daughter. I am not sure Anastasia is exactly a great role model. She practically allows Christian to buy her with gifts like a car. For someone who is supposed to be smart, she is certainly silly.
      I agree that Christian is pretty twisted. His horrible childhood is used as an explanation and an excuse. You make a good point: why is it romantic for a woman to "save" someone who is strange, manipulative and controlling?
      I'd take the Italian gardener over Christian any day!

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  26. Very, very clever post. I loved the use of your shades-of-gray photos within the book review. Congratulations!

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  27. I haven't read the book, never had the interest. But my oldest daughter did and she didn't like it. For her not to like a book is saying a lot!
    Great post
    Debbie :)

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  28. I enjoyed reading an actual analysis of this book I have been hearing so much about. I am a voracious reader, but nothing I have heard makes me want to read it and your review confirms that. People seem to be into reading about characters with perverted sexual habits Ala The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which was full of that sort of stuff although probably better written. I succumbed to reading that book after all the publicity and wish I never had. 50 Shades of Gray sounds like it borrowed from that genre but poorly. Nice photographs though.

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  29. Thank you for the brilliant review, Jennifer. I haven't read the book 'cos my friends did not like it at all, but I was wondering what all the full was about. :) The shades of gray in your garden photos are gorgeous! :)

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  30. I have no doubt your photos are waaaaaaaay better than the book.

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  31. Your post had me chuckling.... I will pass on the 50 shades and instead enjoy the greys of the garden....

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  32. Very interesting assessment, and interesting feedback from the fellow bloggers. I had heard it was poorly written and thought nothing more about the book. Love your photos of your grays....the dusty miller and licorice plant is especially nice.

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  33. I had to read this post twice Jennifer ~ once to read your review & the second time to view your beautiful photos. Like Janet, I love the combo of licorice & dusty miller plus the 'lady in the pond' photo is very striking. It's interesting to get your take on the book too ~ many of my neighbors have read the series (I have not) & it was a popular topic at my garden party this summer. I said I should read it just to see what the fuss was about (like you) but still haven't brought myself to do it. Maybe I won't now??!!

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