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

fifty shades of greyThe last thing Ana Steele wants to do is interview the wealthy, young businessman Christian Grey. She’s shy, klutzy, and completely inexperienced around men. But her friend Kate Kavanaugh is sick and has spent a huge amount of effort securing this interview, and so she goes to meet him. Within minutes, she finds that she’s fascinated with him, and he with her, to her utter shock. But when she starts to get involved with him, she discovers that there are many sides to Christian Grey, and some of them are sides that she’s not sure she’s ready for.

The buzz around this book is huge. It’s everywhere, on nearly every bestseller list you can imagine. Even my mother mentioned it to me, that she was curious about everyone loving it. And from what I’d read online, I knew that it was a variety of romance in a trilogy. So when a colleague offered to lend it to me when I expressed my own curiosity, I decided to give it a try. After all, I like romances, as readers of this blog will know.

I did not like this book.

Several caveats here, I suppose; I mainly read historical romance and I don’t really get that into contemporary romances, although there are exceptions. Jennifer Crusie springs to mind as one author who does it successfully. I’m not into reading erotica, although I’m not opposed to a good sex scene in a book I’m reading at all. And I didn’t like Twilight. I also don’t like being called “baby” or “babe” or any of that sort of endearment, which these characters do, and that always puts me off. Finally, I like nice men; I married one, after all, and it was the best decision I ever made.

That said, there are too many things wrong here beyond that for me to ever recommend this book to anyone, really. The writing style irritated me. It’s incredibly mundane, there are very few descriptions, and the ones that are there are repetitive. If I had to hear about Grey’s long-fingered hands or the way his pants hung off his hips again, I would have screamed. I didn’t need to hear every single detail of Ana’s existence; I can assume she’s shaved her legs and under her arms before a date, thanks. Some sequences just didn’t need to be there. The constant swearing irritated me; the amount of times she says “holy” something or other, or “oh, my”, really started to get to me. Swearing is not something I mind usually; I find it adds grittiness and realism to some books, but here, I just felt like the author should have showed those emotions some other way. Let’s not mention the constant gasping and squirming, often in the presence of other people, who don’t seem to notice.

Then there were the characters, neither of whom I actually liked. Christian is, to be perfectly honest, a controlling freak, and there is nothing I like less than a truly controlling person. I would have run in the other direction as fast as possible if I’d ever come close to someone like him in real life, and honestly I would have hoped the same of other women too. He wants to dictate how much she sleeps, when she eats, and he keeps turning up when she’s trying to get away from him. He traces her cell phone to work out where she is, looks up her mother’s address and where she’s having cocktails to see her, and buys her a computer and a second mobile phone to make sure she can email him whenever he asks. Ana herself isn’t any better; she tries to be independent, but she seems to have zero spine whenever Christian is actually with her, and she barely has an existence outside of his regard for her. I didn’t like her for falling so easily for a guy with a pretty face, for returning to him even when he’s made her cry, for ignoring her friends and their warnings for someone like that.

And I haven’t even talked about the sex scenes yet, and there are a lot of them, starting around page 100. They are disturbing, unrealistic, and written in such a way that I rolled my eyes at them rather than being interested. This couple seems to do it four or five times a day, occasionally one time right after the other, then again twenty minutes later. I didn’t need to read about every single one of these sex scenes; they do not further the story and they get, frankly, boring.

I have zero desire to read any of the rest of this trilogy and I am honestly depressed by the fact that so many people have chosen THIS series as the one that’s caused a public craze. I have read so many romance novels that respect and empower women by showing them that it’s their desires that matter, that they are worthy of love and attention, and instead women just seem to choose the novels where the female characters are spineless in the face of a dominating man.

Instead of reading this, please try Jennifer Crusie, Courtney Milan, or Eloisa James (links go to favourites of their books), or another of the fantastic historical romances I’ve reviewed on this blog. I think you’ll enjoy them far more.

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6 comments to Review: Fifty Shades of Grey, E.L. James

  • I will never read this book. It sounds like pure garbage. I think it’s so popular because everyone makes a big deal about it being controversial. So people go out and read it based on that. Is it a rumour or fact that the author started out this story as steamy fan fiction based off of Bella and Edward of Twilight? Because if so, that is so wrong. Oh so wrong.

  • It is fact that these books started out as Twilight fan fiction.

    Thank you for your clear-headed review, Meghan! I’m so so sick of the hype around these books.

  • It is a book many are talking about. Sensationalism in my opinion. I know of several people that are reading this book and they are not big readers, but because others have remarked about the subject they too are enticed to read it.
    Will I read it? Nah, I have so many more books that I want to read that will fill my mind and heart with pleasure and enjoyment.
    Thanks.

  • Here is my slightly different take on the trilogy:
    http://readingaftermath.blogspot.in/2012/06/fifty-shades-trilogy-eljames.html

    The language and sex-scenes being boring is so true – I am a through-and-through Nora Roberts fan. However, I liked the second book – there was a solid story there.

  • Carol Wong

    Bravo! Thank you for honest review. Will not read that one, too many great ones available.

  • This is actually only the second review I have read for this book. The other review was positive one towards the book but when I read the synopsis I was already pretty sure this book wasn’t for me. The erotic nature was enough to put me off. Thank you for your honest review you’ve really confirmed that this book is not worth my time. I’m going to check out your suggestions instead.