Thursday, August 16, 2012

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

You didn't think I left the blogosphere for good, did you? Good, 'cause y'all would be wrong. :) It's been a while since I posted, but I've had a year full of excitement, all sorts of different experiences and keeping a book blog just couldn't fit in it. And how I've missed it! So I'm back now and I hope to catch up with all my favorite bloggers and authors ASAP.

As for one of my recent reads (more reviews coming soon, of course): It's the book on everyone's lips, a book that I think has been making the rounds so much, everyone is sick of it, regardless of whether they've read it or not. It's Fifty Shades of Grey, otherwise known as mommy porn, a feminist's wet dream, a feminist's nightmare, a book that will change your life, a book that shouldn't have happened...

What's important is that it's the best-selling book of all time. Period.

(And if you've read the book, that last word will surely have another layer of meaning for you.)

The Fifty Shades trilogy is a story of one Anastasia Steele, who gets involved with one Christian Grey. It's actually a smorgasboard of every known romance cliche convention known to man. Anastasia is, for one, ridiculously inexperienced - she has never had sex, never masturbated, never thought about sex... Which, for a 21st century twenty-something girl seems highly unlikely, even in the improbable case that she's Amish. Furthermore, Christian Grey is a gorgeous, wealthy businessman who finds Ana's not-so-particular mix of klutziness, innocence and "spunk" (I use the term very loosely) simply irresistible. The thing is, he's into the bondage lifestyle, and wants Ana either as her sub, or not at all. Yet, Ana wants "more," and although she's desperately inept at what exactly this "more" means, she's not ready to give in completely to Grey's desires... Except when she does, because otherwise there would be no book.

Oh, and if you just called Ana Bella, and Christian Edward, you'd be about right, since Fifty started off as Twilight fanfiction. In all fairness, while it's easy to spot certain similarities while reading Fifty, it is its own book entirely.

The truth is, it's a page-turner. While she certainly doesn't come close to such chick lit icons as Sophie Kinsella or Hellen Fielding, E. L. James certainly knows what to sell. And while Anastasia Steele is not a particularly interesting heroine (in fact, she's more of a caricature of a chick lit heroine), the dynamics between her and Grey, both in and out of the bedroom, sometimes border on truly fascinating. I can honestly say that I groaned and rolled my eyes, but finished the book in record time. Take that as you will, but keep in mind that page turners sell, and if that's anything to go by, it's one of the factors of this book's success.

Also, there's the sex. Quite simply, this is erotica, and if you've read erotica before, I'm sure that nothing here  will shock you (although there is one particular scene, hinted at above, that I'm sure is contrary to most erotica submission guidelines). There is sex, and lots of it, and more often than not, it does not serve the story. I say more often than not, because there are certain sex scenes that are crucial to the plot, and when this happens (mainly the loss of Ana's virginity, as well as the very last scene in the novel), they are truly gripping. Also, when the sex scenes serve the story, they escape the trap of being pornographic, which is a slippery slope for James, who tends to write as if her life depended on the next orgasm, of which Ana experiences an extraordinary amount.

All in all, it's a book more interesting to me as a pop culture phenomenon and the fact that it's outselling even Harry-freakin'-Potter means that there is something here that the world wants to read. And whatever you feel about the book, you cannot deny that it's (become) relevant. I just wish it wasn't as terribly written.



Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Wonderful review. And I've heard many people chirp and sing about this series, but many are just in it for the erotica and not wanting to admit it. I've heard many say the writing isn't that great at all, like you mention. But yes, there is something catching the eyes here. :)

And great to have you back! I've missed visiting with you Nikola! :D

Nikola said...

Thanks, Melissa! :))

Not that I think there's anything wrong with liking erotica. I myself have been known to like some quite naughty stuff.

But it's just SO badly written, it's hard to believe. There are so many reviews out there where people have counted repetitions and other elements of just plain bad writing. :)

Melissa (Books and Things) said...

Your last sentence cinched it for me. I haven't been really interested in this book but that last sentence is why. For all the accolades it has acquired, I just would rather read something well written. I did enjoy the review, however. :)

Blodeuedd said...

I do think I will give in and read it one day. I just know I will hate myself for wasting my time if I find it badly written too. Or be horrified and like it, lol

Wall-to-wall books said...

Oh my gosh you're back!!!
Boy have I missed you! I thought that when you came to the states you just got so absorbed in our way of life that you would just disappear from blogland forever! So glad to see you back!

Well I have to start by saying that I do not like Erotica, at all, and do not ever intend to read this series. But, your review is the best one for this book I have ever read! Your review almost makes me want to read the book, almost, LOL.

Mimsey said...

Great review. I didn't know going in that this was fanfic based on Edward and Bella and I kept thinking how similar Ana and Christian were to them. Like you, I had many rolling eye moments but it was a page turner for sure. I just wish there wasn't so much gratuitous sex... it really didn't benefit the storyline and I think she could have better spent the time on plot and character development. Everyone except Christian seemed a caricature. His character was really the only thing that kept me interested. I needed to find out what happened in his past to make him the way he was and I was hoping for some surprises, but unfortunately, it turned out as I expected. Anyway, great review!!