Sunday, 6 January 2013

Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Note the following reviews contain mature and semi-spoilery content!

Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1) by E.L. James
Author: E.L. James
Publication Date: May 26, 2011
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 385
Genre: Adult, Erotica, BDSM, Romance
Source: Bought it
Book Description from Goodreads:
When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.
Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.


     When I first heard about this book, I heard the following things: it was originally Twilight fan fiction and thus described as "mommy porn" for those Twi-hard moms and secondly it was BDSM. I'm not really into BDSM, and based on the explosions of shock and awe on Twitter and review sites I gathered that it was really dark BDSM. In my mind I was thinking Cleveland steamers, lots of anal related play and really torturous fetishes. But apparently my imagination ran wild with that one and I was envisioning far more disturbing scenarios than what it was. I should have known that the loudest proponents of this book were likely pretty sexually repressed adults that haven't really read many erotica/romance novels - let alone BDSM. But it was something new and adult themed that they could latch onto during the Twilight off season. 

     I read this article awhile back, that attributes the success of the series to its relatively tame covers and I definitely have to agree. The innocuousness of a tie, and a very nondescript title made it less embarrassing for the aforementioned sexually repressed readers to buy it and or read it in public without ridicule (although by now I'm pretty sure everyone knows what it's about), since there isn't a half naked man ravaging a half naked woman on the cover (I don't read these in public either because I hate having to stop reading every 5 minutes in order to listen to some old biddy yelling at me that I'm going to hell for reading smut - I live in a very conservative city). 

     Anyways, we're first introduced to shy, sexually inexperienced virgin Anastasia Steele (to be fair this sounds like a bad porno name to begin with) who in a twist of fate has to fill in for her best friend for an interview with Seattle's most eligible and successful bachelor Christian Grey. Ana has a penchant for running an internal monologue - and generally that's okay to talk to yourself in your head I mean I'm doing it now, but Ana takes it to a whole new level. She ends up splitting herself into multiple personalities - her immature sex drive the "Inner Goddess" that sounds and acts like a child with a shiny new toy and then there's her "subconscious" that's a bit abusive. These two are silly and simplistic in their exchanges with Ana, and soon it gets really bothersome. All in all, Ana irritated me from her inability to say no, to rationalizing abuse, to not even owning a freaking computer - she's easily molded and manipulated and quieted with sex.

      Christian Grey, I can see why people would love this rich, charming, sophisticated, absurdly possessive and domineering man that demands subservience from his women - in some really odd ways (you have to eat, but you have to stay skinny). For me he definitely makes the book, but not for the aforementioned reasons. To me he's a psychologists (at this point it could be literally and figuratively) wet dream with all that childhood trauma, sexual abuse and psycho-sexual dysfunction that even I could see a mile away before it was even hinted at in the plot. That's what kept me reading this train wreck of a series, I wanted to know if and how he'd overcome all his mentally and physically erected barriers to intimacy.

     The sex and sexual acts in this is by no means anything new, okay except one thing that involves a female personal hygiene product that I can never look at the same way again, it just kills the mood right then and there. I know it's a reality, but it's not something I want to see in my fiction and there is NOTHING sexy about it. The BDSM aspect is MILD. Control freak Grey sets some stringent rules, and limits most of the interactions to getting off on physical abuse of his submissive. From my understanding BDSM is supposed to be consensual and pleasurable for both parties involve, and I'm pretty sure it's not really pleasurable when you're getting your ass beat and tears are streaming in pain and anger. But these two are in the honey moon phase (they've just met), and like the cycle of relationship abuse they apologize, she gives him more and more chances and we keep going on.

     As this was originally Twilight fan fiction, I spent a good portion of the book finding the correlations between the two. It's everywhere, and James is not subtle about it. It gets mixed around a bit, but it's very obvious in the music discussions and the obsessions with expensive toy cars. The style of writing is kept extremely simple, repetitive to drive home the point and dances along at an upbeat tempo. There's a lot of ups and downs, and James definitely knows how to hook the readers into the next book with a heartbreaking ending. What I think keeps, especially women reading this (I've seen a lot of guys reading this lately, and I'm really wondering what's drawing them to this, curiosity?) is the spoiling riches and the possibility that it may be possible that a guy will actually change drastically for the woman he loves if she just tries hard enough. It's started a BDSM erotica fever... and while I may not have liked this much at all, hey it's gotten people to read (and maybe be the doorway to better stories?) and get out of their shells a bit right?

Overall: Two Tepid Cups of Tea.
Read it because you're beyond curious about the fuss, then try some other erotica. Might I suggest Backstage Pass (Sinners on Tour, #1) by Olivia Cunning.


  1. Great review, I love how you didn't trash the book completely like I've seen some other people do. I love what it's done for reading and the Erotic Romance genre but people seem to act like Fifty Shades started the genre when in reality it's been around for awhile.


    1. I completely agree, but like the Twilight series, as long as it gets people reading! They'll find the better books eventually.


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