Warning, this post contains both content of a sexual nature, and spoilers.
So, thanks to all the hype and attention surrounding it, I decided to read “Fifty shades of grey”. I read it when I was home on a vacation, visiting my parents.
If you haven’t heard about this book; let me sum it up for you. The book started as an online story written by a woman named E.L. James. It was originally written as Twilight fan-fiction, and the characters were versions of Edward Cullen and Bella Swan. Following this, she recast the characters as Christian Grey, a young business tycoon and Anastasia Steele, a 21-year-old literature student. The book was first published as an e-book, and was eventually picked up by Vintage. Since then, it’s become a best-seller.
I’m thinking that one of the reasons it has become a best-seller is because of people like me, who were curious and decided to pick up the book.
Here are a few of my thoughts about it-
1. The writing is atrocious. Seriously, seriously bad. It rivals most bad fan-fiction. I was in a bad mood the entire time I was reading it, and my mom told me it was because she thought I was experiencing a reaction to the crap writing.
2. The parallels between the Edward Cullen and Bella Swan story are definitely there. Christian Grey is cold, controlling and distant. He exhibits a lot of stalker like behaviour and basically tortures Anastasia, the protagonist.
3. There is NOTHING sexy about Christian Grey, in my humble opinion. Okay, so the guy is good looking. There are many references to his “tousled hair”, “long-fingered hands” (I pictured something like Nosferatu) and his gray eyes. The word “gray” appears so often during the text that I felt my eyes roll back in my head. This guy is supposed to be some sort of billionaire, yet he still has time to stalk a woman, send her texts and emails all the time and basically control her life. But we’re supposed to feel sorry for him because he was dominated and abused as a child. In order to make him seem more likeable, he shows that Anastasia can tame him. He does things with her that he’s never done with anyone else like sleeps beside her and have vanilla sex with her, which he has never done with any of his other ladies. And this is supposed to make us hot for him! He’s also a philanthropist who is doing some vague work in Darfur and funding studies on crop rotation. (that part made me laugh) In addition to his entanglements with women, Christian is also a virtuoso pianist and can fly planes. I’m not sure how he had the time or energy to learn those skills.
4. Anastasia, like Bella Swan, is a blank slate. She’s supposed to be a literature student, but she is entirely sexless. She has barely kissed anyone, is a virgin, and has never been attracted to anyone until she meets Christian. She’s clutzy and first meets Christian when she is sent to a different town to interview him for a friend who works for a paper. (Why didn’t they just do a phoner? It would have saved the mileage, and would have saved us all from reading this garbage) Also, why would you send a non-journalist to do an interview? Aren’t there other people working for this paper?
Christian has to save Ana from traffic, and her own clutziness, a la Bella Swan, because of course, women are too helpless to take care of themselves and do normal things like walk and have business meetings.
There are other weird things about Ana’s life. She just finished a literature degree, yet she doesn’t have a computer and Christian buys one for her. How did she manage to do her papers for this literature degree? She also wears her roommate’s clothing all the time and seems to own no possessions. She has never had anything to drink, yet drinks early in the novel, and then all of the characters continue to booze it up throughout the entire book. She has never masturbated or had an orgasm, and, as I mentioned, is entirely sexless, leaving me to believe that books like “Lady Chatterley’s lover” must have been left off her university curriculum. So Christian has to educate her sexually and of course, she is a wonderful lover. Then she gives him oral pleasure. Despite the fact that she’s never performed this act before, she is an amazing oral practitioner, with no gag reflex who accomplishes the job quickly and efficiently on the first try! She’s a magical blow job unicorn! (And my eyes rolled back in my head once more)
5. There is a lot of “flushing” and “blushing” in this book. Ana bites her lip all the time, which makes Christian insane with sexual energy. Watch that lip biting, ladies. You may arouse innocent passerby! They also have a number of erotic escapades which involve the wearing of sweatpants, because nothing says sexy like loungey, ill-fitting workout wear. Christian’s pants are always hanging off his hips, which made me picture him as a hobo.
6. I have to say that the book was actually boring. As my friend mentioned, there’s not really a plot. There are chapters that consist of e-mail exchanges between the characters, which are boring to read. I read enough e-mail for work, and am not thrilled to read business transactions in my spare time. Christian gives Ana a contract to sign about the nature of their relationship and the BDSM that they are going to practice. The contract is crazy and Ana is supposed to follow all the requests, which include exercise and eating regulations including a list of prescribed foods. So this guy is a nutritionist and dietitian too? He’s way too preoccupied with what she eats. I diagnose some eating disorder and control issues here.
7. I had MAJOR, MAJOR problems with the politics of the book. I found it really creepy that this is supposed to erotic and sexy. I’m definitely not a prude, and have read my share of dirty and sexual books. But I was confused as to how a controlling, confusing man who is bossy, inconsiderate and stalker-like is supposed to be hot. Maybe I’m just into the whole “consent is sexy” and “communication is sexy” and “relationships are hotter when people actually discuss things and feel comfortable with each other” but I found Christian Grey to be really, really creepy. He repeatedly shows up unexpectedly, scares Ana, invades her personal space and even makes her cry with the “intensity of the relationship.” If this is the kind of thing that the average woman considers romantic, then I’m really afraid for the modern woman. There’s nothing romantic or healthy about this and it disturbs me that this is supposed to be some sort of romantic fantasy. Also, I’m concerned because Ana thinks she can “fix him”. Run, Ana, run from this psycho!
8. Like I mentioned, it’s boring. Even the sexy sections are mostly just sort of creepy. I’d recommend finding some well-written erotic literature. Erica Jong, anyone? Henry Miller? Anais Nin? I’d even recommend Scott Spencer’s “Endless love”, which is creepy and disturbing, but well-written, smutty and brilliant. I can even get behind something like Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander”, another best seller. That’s a smutty book that is well-written with good historical detail and an interesting relationship between the two protagonists. As far as I’m concerned, “Fifty shades of grey” is a huge step back.
9. There’s talk of making a movie out of this tripe and the actor in talks to play Christian Grey is Ian Somerhalder, also known as Damon on The Vampire Diaries. Now I love me some Somerhalder, and this guy could actually do it, because he excels at being creepy and sexual every week on The Vampire Diaries. But I really like Somerhalder, and I’d hate to see him debase (ha) himself in this garbage. I’d be willing to have him over for a chat so we could talk about why I think playing Christian Grey is a crap idea.
For your enjoyment, I’ll also present a Fifty Shades of Grey drinking games, just to show you things that are commonly mentioned in the book-
Also, even though this book is crap, I’m not in favour of banning it. People should be able to read what they want, even though I’d prefer that they read something good.
Interestingly enough, minutes after I posted this, Erica Jong wrote an article about it here. The woman is still my hero.
12 thoughts on “I read Fifty Shades of Grey”
I had been interested in checking it out simply because of the hype, but I think this is one fad I can let pass me by. Great review Alexis! Are you posting this on Goodreads?
I have a link to this review on my goodreads.
This cracks me up. I have another friend, also a professional writer, who recently picked up 50 Shades and declared it one of the best books she had ever read. I was shocked, but I think that it might have been the only thing close to erotica that she has ever read so maybe it opened a new world to her. I’m someone who has read a lot of bondage lit in my lifetime, and I do believe that the emotional politics of dominance and submission can be highly erotic. But it disturbs me that there may be a lot of vanilla readers out there who will come away thinking that this kind of creepy controlling and stalking is what BDSM is all about. I just want to scream “Pick up a copy of Anne Rice’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’ trilogy! Or even the classic, ‘Story of O’! Anything, anything but this tripe!”.
I have also read some BDSM lit too. And while it’s not my thing, I’m pretty sure that you can be BDSM in the bedroom while still being good communicators or equals outside it. Communication is sexy, right?
Magical blow job unicorn made me laugh. Thank you, this was an awesome review. This book sounds worse than the Twilight series and that is saying something. I’m all for exploring interesting power dynamics but this just seems archaic and sad. Thanks for reading this so I didn’t have to!
Alexis, this is a fantastic review! Thank you. I’m with Allison – magical blow job unicorn nearly made me do a spit take at the office. Between your review and the 50 shades of suck tumblr, I think I’ll give this book a pass.
Totally not my book either. I just finished a really funny read “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.”
I need more plot and character in my books. While I’m glad I read this book because now I know what the hype is…I won’t be reading the second two.
You’re the second person to recommend that book to me! A friend said that I should blog the other two books, but I think I would need to be paid for that to happen.
A small peeve. In the raging blizzard of information that is the internet and pop culture, I’m so tired of being called “clueless” for not being aware of some trend or meme or bit of fluff book. No, I haven’t been “living under a rock”, “hiding in a cave” or “burying my head in the sand.” I just didn’t pluck this particular snowflake out of the storm swirling around me.
But, thanks for the heads up on another book to avoid. Wow. “Twilight” pushed thru a fan fiction filter. The mind boggles at trying to find a synonym for “insipid”.
Fair enough! That’s something I will try to avoid in the future. There’s so much stuff out there and I’ll keep that in mind.
I knew your review would not disappoint me! Now I want to read it just to imagine all of your eye rolling! 😉 There is never any excuse for bad writing. How can this garbage make it so far into the forefront of cultural attention being so badly written? Now you know what you must do, gentle writer…..write!
Great review, and yes I now have to see for myself…..damn! I guess I just answered my above question.
YES! Thank you for this review. I have not read that… THING… And I don’t intend to. I refuse throw my money, time, or energy away like that. I definitely do not appreciate what it promotes and tries to sell as sexy or cool. It’s extremely frustrated. It boggles my mind that a woman would write such a thing, and that so many women have bought into it. Perhaps they just like being objectified and disrespected, in literature and in life? I hope not.