Book 13: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James
Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author: E. L. James
Page Count: 528
Summary: When her best friend falls ill, Anastasia Steele agrees to take her place interviewing the extremely wealthy Christian Grey for their college paper. Soon, she is drawn to the myserious man, and despite his warnings to stay away, she finds herself entering into a strange relationship with the man, a sort of relationship that she never could have imagined. Will she be able to make the transition into a BDSM lifestyle, or will she find it all too much to bear?
Opinion: As someone who strives to please people and likes to be given clear instructions on what to do, I have always been intrigued by the BDSM lifestyle. The Story of Em, which I started writing for 50k weekend, follows a similar storyline to the one found in Fifty Shades, which is part of why I was so drawn to this story. I wanted to see how similar it was to my own story.
First, the positives of this novel: I found the overall plot intriguing. Ana is thrown into this world, and she doesn’t immediately give into what he wants her to do. She thinks things through and stands up for what she wants. I found her very relatable in certain aspects – although I’m way more submissive than she is, so I couldn’t really understand some of her decisions. The book was easy to read, and I think it did a good job of showing that BDSM isn’t about forcing people to do things; it’s all about consent, which is something that I think most people miss when they see the whips and chains that are often involved. I found myself not wanting to stop reading, and now that I’m done with the first book, I really want to continue the series.
That said, I don’t really want to pay $10 to read the second novel. As other reviewers have pointed out, Ana constantly refers to her “inner goddess,” and it gets to be quite annoying after the fiftieth mention. Also, I find the endearment “baby” to be quite nauseating, so the fact that that was his main term of endearment for her got to me. I realize that I’m probably alone in this opinion, but I thought I’d mention it anyway.
I have also learned that this novel started out as a Twilight fan fiction, and my opinion of it and the author has declined dramatically since then. I don’t really think Ana is a Bella substitute (since she has thoughts and voices her opinions and doesn’t let Christian get away with everything), but I definitely see some similaries. For instance, both Edward and Christian warn the women in their lives to stay away at first, but are drawn to them for reasons they can’t explain. Both Ana and Bella are incredibly clumsly, and both are asked to put their boyfriends’ feelings and needs before their own. Also, both are set primarily in Washington. That said, I feel Ana is more of a real character than Bella is, and I didn’t find the whole story as infuriating as I found the Twilight series.
That’s not to say that this novel was without its faults, though. My own novel focused on a young woman’s journey into the BDSM lifestyle, but it’s supposed to show that that’s a perfectly reasonable lifestyle to choose, and she eventually realizes that she can be a strong, independent woman and still make the choice to be a submissive. This novel, on the other hand, seems to focus on how this is a crazy lifestyle that only people with troubled pasts choose. We don’t fully understand what all has happened to Christian, but we know that he hates to be touched and had a very bad life the first few years of his life, and that he has always felt out of place with his “perfect” adoptive family. He turned to this lifestyle after having an affair with a married woman when he was 15 because this was the only type of “love” that he found “acceptable.”
I did a lot of reading for my feminist film class in college about these issues when we watched the movie Secretary. The readings all took issue with the idea that only sick individuals would choose such a lifestyle, and I imagine that they would take the same issue with this novel. While I have already said that the book makes it quite clear that this is a consenting relationship where the submissive holds the real power, Ana’s aversion to the entire lifestyle and her frequent references to him early on as a monster imply something else.
Overall, I found the book an interested read, and I would read the next two in the series if I found them for little to no money. For anyone who’s ever been at all interested in alternative lifestyles, this one might be a decent read. For someone looking for serious literature, though, I would look elsewhere.