One Shade Too Many?

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Tom Muckian

Tomorrow, Thursday the 18th June, sees the publication of “Grey”, the follow up to E L James trilogy,  Fifty Shades of Grey. Fans will tell you the significance of the date (June 18th is its “hero’s” birthday). It may be a new novel, but it isn’t a new story. The previously published, Fifty Shades trilogy, has already given us Anastasia Steele’s story in all its latex clad glory. This time around James is giving us the same story again, this time from the “male” perspective.So although Grey is a spanking new novel, the spanking is not.


On finishing the Harry Potter series J K Rowling cleverly wrote her follow up, not only with new characters, but in an entirely new genre. A Casual Vacancy was an adult novel and was generally well received by fans and critics alike. She further established her non Potter writing credentials under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith with the Cormoran Strike novels. Only now eight years later is she finally talking of a return to the Potter character for a new novel. There is always a danger that authors will go to the well once too often with a well loved character. Rowling recognised this, and has has successfully avoided the danger of being a one trick pony (albeit a hugely successful one)

As someone who hasn’t read any of the previous novels I must admit to a certain curiosity as to how it will be received. Fans will no doubt be curious but will the 70 million who have already read the book, really want to read the same story all over again? The original books although wildly popular were generally poorly reviewed critically. One critic stating that, “they had never read anything so badly written that got published”, further commenting that”it makes Twilight look like War and Peace”.  Its success then is more likely to be the unusual subject matter. Unusual for a mainstream novel that is. That and timing. The world, or the books’ readers at least, were ready for Fifty Shades of Grey. Will Grey be met with a “been there done that” indifference, or will fans slavishly lap it up? The new book certainly doesn’t have originality on its side. Novelty, maybe? Timing?, the publication of the novel three years after the last book and four months after the movie adaptation was released, seems strange. Why not closer to the movie’s release? Author E L James has take quite a risk therefore, in publishing Grey as her first novel since the Fifty Shades trilogy. Will fans feel short changed?

Maybe James is suffering from writers block? Maybe she’s smarting from the critical mauling the originals received and is looking to rewrite the story in an attempt to win the critics over? Either way its a huge risk. I’ll leave it to others to gauge the wisdom of her decision. I have no doubt the book will sell in huge numbers. The real question is where does James go next. No matter how well or how poorly received Grey really isn’t anything more than a stopgap.

Grey is available in paperback from Thursday 18th and can be bought at Roe River Book. It retails at €9.99.