The Observer (Kampala)

16 October 2012

Uganda: They Are Indeed Fifty Shades of Grey

I finally got my hands on a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey, the now-famous book by the very brave E.L James.

And to think it was her first book!

First published by Arrow Books last year, the book has taken the literary world by storm. You just have to type it into Google and you will be spoilt for choice on which review to read first. A columnist at the UK's The Guardian said she met one in three passengers on a recent flight clutching a copy of the bestseller that is interestingly as acclaimed as it is reviled.

I had been reading rave reviews about this book, but I never really got around to buying myself a copy, mostly because usually for me, overhyped books tend to fall short of my expectations when I get around to reading them. Take Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 Eat, Pray, Love; I still don't get what the fuss about that book and the subsequent movie was!

Now, Fifty Shades of Grey? Hmm. I am still catching my breath. And I don't think I will be rushing to buy tickets to the upcoming movie; not because it will be possibly as boring as Eat, Pray, Love the movie, but because I don't think it will be for the faint-hearted - like me.

In this part of the world, even the most liberal thinkers will turn on the sirens when things such as 'anal sex', 'sex toys' and 'sexual perversions' are up for discussion. Hey, we banned The Vagina Monologues, remember? And trust me, The Vagina Monologues is a really harmless book/'play' once you get past the title which freaked out even the mighty.

I certainly did not expect Fifty Shades of Grey to be that graphic sexually. If I were white, I probably would have had this bright red blush from page one to the last one I read! No wonder some reviews have referred to it as the new "wives' sex manual", while others have cursed it as the "manual for sexual torture".

I know many people who can't wait to read the book in Uganda. So, is it worth the hassle? Maybe, if you are into sexual perversion, that is. A big chunk of the book is obsessed with flogging, spanking and a host of other 'punishments' set down in a business-like agreement, all in the name of sex.

In fact after page 280 (the copy I borrowed is a 514-page paperback) I closed the book and when I next visited, I jumped to page 500 to see how it ends. Yet this is just one of three volumes - the Fifty Shades trilogy, E.L James has called them. They give a whole new meaning to the word 'submissive', a term I subscribe to dearly, but not in James' way. Hers is bondage.

Anastasia Steele is the 21-year-old Jane Austen, William Shakespeare and Thomas Hardy-loving, cliché hapless virgin, fresh from university, while Christian Grey is the 27-year-old billionaire with an impeccable taste in classical music that comes with an unusual sexual appetite and preferences - stuff truly made for fun fiction.

The book allows you to disappear into the fantasy of a billionaire boyfriend who has no limits as to what he can spend on you, before yanking you back with its numerous erotic scenes that would leave many a 'good girl' crossing herself over and over...

Yet in Europe and America, where the book is disappearing off bookstore shelves the moment it hits them, wives are reportedly already demanding more from their husbands sexually; they all want a piece of Mr Grey in their bedrooms, prompting one male reviewer to refer to it as the Fifty Shades of Fear, because typical, many readers are failing to separate fact from fiction.

Remember a few years ago how every man with a telenovela-crazed wife was expected to be like 'Salvador', thanks to NTV's popular Second Chance? Well, wait until your wife reads Fifty Shades of Grey.

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