Fifty Shades of Grey (Review)

Book cover for "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James.Title: Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: E.L. James

Publication Year: 2011

Pages: 528

Genre: Fiction, Erotica, Romance

Source: Purchased from a bookstore in Bern

From the cover:

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.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

I’m going to start out by saying: my inability to just sit my ass down and write the reviews of this series are why I haven’t blogged in the past month. I keep pushing off my blogging schedule by another week, because I refused not to review these books … but I also couldn’t make myself sit down and write them. So I apologize in advance if they’re a bit disjointed and substandard as reviews, but I just need to dive in and get them over with.

Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in the fan-fiction “erotica” series that’s supposedly loosely-based on Twilight, was something that I was planning on avoiding forever. Seriously. I had heard plenty about it on Twitter and Facebook, as well as from other people – like my little sister, for crying out loud! – and I just wasn’t interested. That’s not to say that I’m not interested in reading erotica, or even that I’m uninterested in reading about BDSM. (Let’s just say for now that the ship has flown on that one.) It’s that every single thing I heard about these books made me want to tear my hair out with disgust at how yet another author has captured the attention of millions of people based on a crappy story that has characters in a relationship that is completely unhealthy and who are extremely poor role models for actual life.

Again, I will say this: I couldn’t care less that Christian and Anastasia are supposedly in a BDSM relationship. That means nothing to me in terms of whether their relationship is “healthy” or not. No, there are far deeper concerns than that. A lot of the concerns that I have about this book is about the stereotypes that James perpetuates about kinky people, and about the unhealthy power dynamic between Christian and Anastasia. (Also, the way she wrote both the kink stuff and the sex scenes kinda suck.)

Let’s get something straight here from the outset, that James doesn’t seem to have managed to figure out while writing this book: being kinky does not equate to being a fucked-up person who had a traumatic childhood. Seriously. That myth was debunked who knows how long ago. And if you’re getting into a relationship with someone, and you’re convinced that they’re the way they are because they’re fucked up? You’re in the wrong relationship. Do what’s best for them and for you and walk away.

Also, it appears that James did very little research – I’m talking, not even a simple effing Google search – about BDSM, the kink community, or best practices of the above. She does a horrible job of portraying kinky sex (so many things that Grey does are blatantly unsafe and inappropriate, in very basic ways), and particularly of portraying the way that a kinky relationship would be negotiated. In particular, if Christian is as “experienced” as the book claims that he is, there are about 5 million things that he says and does that would never have happened. Case in point number one: that stupid contract. First of all, you would never, ever just drop a bombshell like that on someone who isn’t already knowledgeable about BDSM. Ever. And you definitely wouldn’t pressure them into negotiating and playing with you by pushing their buttons and manipulating them.

I think that I’m going to stop here, because while I wanted to make a few points, I don’t want to give away what little there is of a plot to anybody who might be planning on reading the book. While on that point, I’ll just say: if you want to read the book simply to understand what everyone’s on about, like me, go for it. Or if you want to use it as laugh material: have at it, it’s brilliant. But if you’re looking for a good story, or even just good erotica to wank to, this isn’t it. And definitely, if you’re going to read it to give you some insight into the kink/BDSM lifestyle: don’t even think about it.

For a more in-depth – and humorous – analysis of all the many things wrong with this book, please read Bizzybiz’s post: Fifty Shades of Puke (and the series of posts that follow.)

If you want to try some far better BDSM-(or non)-flavoured erotica, check out this list of Better Things to Read from the same source.


6 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Grey (Review)”

  1. I nwas quite surprised to see this title pop up in my Google Reader as being reviewed on your blog. I don’t think I could get through this book (it is supposedly very badly written too?) What scares me about this book is the unhealthy relationship (like you say, not the BDSM, but the whole power dynamics/contract/”fixing” characters through “love”/whatever). I go around trying to tell people why I would refuse to read this based on those things, but of course most people think I’m overreacting, or that I’m saying these things because I’m a prude.

    I see you reviewed another one in the series as well *goes off to read it*

    1. Oh god yes, the writing is atrocious. The relationship dynamic thing is also what bothered me most – that and I’d heard that the way they wrote the BDSM was bad – because so many people read these kinds of books (*cough* Twilight *cough*) and idealize the relationships in them. There’s just so many things wrong with the ways these characters interact with each other. It has nothing to do with being a prude and everything to do with being offended by abusive power dynamics.

  2. I was sitting next to a man on a plane who was reading this on his kindle. It made me kind of laugh, but it made me a little uncomfortable, too, because it was a very small plane and I am a very big and tall person, so we’d been hunting around for the seatbelts and already had an overly polite session of feeling underneath me for one end. Luckily, he didn’t want to talk about what he was reading. Maybe he thought I didn’t notice.

    1. Strange! I’ve seen a ton of women reading this in public, but never seen a man doing it. (Nor have any male friends/acquaintances of mine admitted to having read it, even in private.) I might be a tad uncomfortable, too, if a guy was reading it in close proximity to me. Largely because of my problems with the chauvinistic/controlling nature of the relationship portrayed in it!

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