Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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

The infamous Fifty Shades of Grey. Perhaps it was curiosity or blunt force trauma to the head, but this former Literature major decided to go slumming. My motivation doesn't really matter, what does matter is the fact that not only did I read this book, but I am also reading the second book in the trilogy. My enjoyment of the text has little to do with the quality of writing and everything to do with mindless entertainment. Sometimes you just need an escape, you know, an escape into a virgin's mind when she meets a man of god-like attractiveness who lures her into an erotic sexscape of bondage/discipline, dominance/submission and sadism/masochism (BDSM).

Anastasia Steele is about to graduate from college when she interviews Christian Grey, a young corporate billionaire, as a favor to her journalism savvy roommate, Katherine Kavanagh. If those names make you want to roll your eyes then welcome to my head. Ana is an innocent who has never had a boyfriend, never had sex and never masturbated. Meeting Christian is like flipping a light switch, and suddenly Ana becomes very aware of her own sexuality in proximity to him. Christian, for whatever reason (I suspect virgin radar) is intensely attracted to Ana and commences stalking her. Christian is well aware of his dark and twisted ways and warns Ana that he is dangerous and she should stay away from him, but then he continues to stalk her. Talk about mixed signals.

It's not difficult to see how this story stemmed from the Twilight Saga into the arena of fanfiction before becoming Fifty Shades of Grey. Ana is Bella Swan, interested in literature and hopelessly clumsy. Christian is Edward Cullen with his good looks and power, only the vampire stuff is the sex stuff, but the stalking is the same in both scenarios. 

Christian introduces Ana to his his eclectic taste in music, wine, transportation, and of course fornication. Christian has been practicing dominant/submissive relationships since he was fifteen, so he knows what he wants. In fact, he's so confident in what he wants that he presents Ana with a contract that details how she will live her life as his submissive. One might think this would deter the innocent Anastasia, but remember: the juices are flowing now. She may have been just a tiny bud of a flower in the beginning of the story, but now she's in full bloom and her pistil needs a stamen. Yeah, that's right - flower sex. 

The rest of the story is basically Ana's indecision and her wanting more from Christian then he is willing and/or capable of giving. The girl wants to be in love and he won't let her touch him. I mean, that sucks. Anyone who has ever been in love with someone who can't love them the way they want to be loved will identify with Ana's brief emotional journey. Don't expect a lot of depth, but the concept is there.

There is a lot of sex in this story. I tried to read the scenes objectively to give them their due, and I found that if I read the sex scenes as a writer's description of action then I actually found them successful in that regard. I had a very clear image of who was putting what where. The erotica aspect of the story did everything it was supposed to do. 

It was the rest of the writing that made me actively roll my eyes and groan in distaste. Cliches were abundant as were particular phrases like, "a ghost of a smile." I actually read this book at the same time as a friend so we could share in the Fifty Shades experience, and she pointed out that Ana gasps a lot. This is a direct quote from my friend, "Bitch, you didn't gasp! You were taken aback."

I could continue to rip the prose apart, but I don't think I will. As a reader, I was satisfied on the entertainment and stimulation level, but there was nothing tickling my intellect or inspiring my writer's brain. I will just say that while the writing was awful and the story restricted due to a lack of depth, if you're looking for the trash T.V. equivalent in book form, then look no further because, "Mr. Grey will see you now."

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