Fifty Shames of Earl Grey
Narrated by Allyson Ryan
Any review of Fifty Shames of Earl Grey (Fifty Shames) should start with the fact that it is a parody of Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty) by E.L. James. That runaway best seller in print has sharply divided romance readers – those who love it and those who don’t. Further, it is very much in the public eye and has caused controversy in general as it continues to fly off bookseller’s shelves even while it is lambasted for its erotic content, light BDSM scenes, and fanfic roots.
Andrew Shaffer pens the tale so pay no attention to the Fanny Merkin credit. Although I’m not familiar with Shaffer, he does know something about romance as he reviews romance and erotica titles (as well as some women’s fiction) for RT Book Reviews.
How much you enjoy Fifty Shames will likely depend on two things – the magnitude of love you have for Fifty and your tolerance for buffoonery combined with an ewww factor. I’m not a fervent fan of James’ Fifty trilogy but I did enjoy it for the most part to the tune of a B- rating. But my tolerance of the ewww factor when reading what I consider slapstick comedy has never been great. There’s a world of other genres I’d prefer to read or listen to.
Nonetheless, I started listening to Fifty Shames with an open mind – I have no problem with the idea of making Fifty sound ridiculous and I imagined it would probably be quite funny. But within an hour, I was rolling my eyes wondering how I was going to make it through the entire audio. As the proper audio reviewer I envision myself to be, I decided to focus on the narration and continued on. That’s when the surprise came. I found myself laughing. Yeah, it may not be my flavor of audiobook, but it did entertain more than irritate.
Allyson Ryan sounds young but she needs to – after all, Ana Steal is only 22 while Earl Grey is 27. Her voice rings clear for Ana while she performs Earl in more of a deep whisper, both, which are effective. Plus it’s quite evident that she understands the satirical nature of the book and knows how to stress Ana’s comical surprise and Earl’s devious intentions. As they make love for the first time, she delivers “turgid python” with just the right tone followed by Earl passionately telling Ana his need for custom tailored condoms as “one of the perks of being part of the .0001%.” And I did have to laugh (something I’m certain I would not have done while reading in print) as Ms. Ryan performs Ana sighing as she thinks, “It’s too much like a wet dream about Robert Pattison.”
I did tire of the silliness of it all at times but Allyson Ryan delivers a performance that is close to perfection for satire. Too bad the producers of Fifty didn’t take the time to choose a more appropriate narrator for James’ Fifty trilogy as I thought their choice a sheer disaster. That’s one place where Fifty Shames definitely has the advantage. It’s all about the narrator in this instance. I doubt I would have finished the print version but I did it with laughs in audio.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration B Book Content C-