Aaaah, Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. After finally finishing this book last weekend, I find it to be truly fascinating that this book is so popular and is being adapted into a movie. Although I am in the main “married female over 30” demographic, I honestly don’t see the appeal. I assume it’s the BDSM component here that enticed everyone to read it in the first place, because otherwise the narrative is to me, mediocre at best. After reading the plot synopsis for book two Fifty Shades Darker, I am really struggling to understand why so many people have gone on to finish the series.
This book has been out for 2 years, so you can expect some spoilers in here. I am also attempting to keep this critique PG-13, which is no easy task, let me tell you!
So in a nutshell, boy meets girl. Boy presents girl with a non-disclosure agreement regarding his BDSM lifestyle. Boy then presents girl with lavish gifts and a lengthier BDSM contract detailing activities (that will make your hair curl) that the girl is supposed to agree to engage in for 3 months. The lines get blurred a bit and although said girl never signs the contract, she is introduced to certain acts that by the end of the book finally throw her over the edge and have her run for the hills. Boy’s proclivities drive a wedge between them and their budding “romance.”
Top 3 Reasons Why I Won’t Finish the Series
1) 50 Shades of… how not to treat your lady
Admittedly, BDSM erotica is not really my bag, per say. In general I love a nice action-packed Urban Fantasy, or Paranormal Romance. However the
severe sociological and emotional deficiencies of the hero bothered me even more than the outré sex play. One of the best elements for me in a relationship-based novel is the distinct feelings of respect, love, and even reverence that the heroes usually feel for their heroines and vice versa (even though they do indeed want to have their way with them, many, many times).
In many of my favorite books the hero is often risking his or her life to save their love from something dire, like being beaten. She’s killing villains in 20 different ways to keep her man safe. Sometimes he is dying, and being resurrected, all in the name of love, and for the one he loves. However in Fifty Shades of Grey, our “hero” Christian Grey (gorgeous control freak/stalker/international businessman) although wanting to keep his Anastasia safe from others, wants most ardently, to spank her until she cries. But maybe first he’ll tie her up with cable ties, make her call him Sir, debase and humiliate her a little, and then, spank her ‘til she cries – then have his way with her. Even if Anastasia is enjoying some or most of Christian’s treatment – ew bugs. It just makes your skin crawl in a decidedly not fun, American Psycho-esque kind of way.
We learn a little about his issues and why he does what he does and feels the need to dominate, control, and punish, but honestly I just didn’t care. I didn’t care why he was doing shocking things to this naïve virgin — I just kept hoping he’d stop doing them.
2) The Writing Style
If you read my September 23rd post you know that I was annoyed at the number of times the heroine, Anastasia says “Oh my” half way through the book. Well sad to say, by the end of the book, she has said “oh my” approximately 56 times – which should clue you into the level of literary craftsmanship we’re dealing with here.
Aside from redundant exclamations, another writing issue I had was that more than half of the book is spent inside Anastasia’s head. The old writing rule of “show not tell” is pretty much disregarded here. At times the reader is just going through pages and pages of Anastasia’s thoughts. Of course our heroine is boxed into a corner because she is not allowed to discuss her relationship with Christian with any of the other characters due to the non-disclosure agreement he had her sign, so she is constantly debating things inside her own mind. So if the author wanted a way to avoid writing a lot of external dialogue, mission accomplished.
3) Random Unsavory/Annoying Details
For example, there is a scene, where Christian and Anastasia make love in the bathroom, while she is um, having her time of the month – the 2nd day of it, to be exact. In reality, I suspect very few ladies out there find that to be an ideal experience – there are just basic biological reasons why it is less comfortable at that time of the month to, go to town, so to speak, especially on day 2 or 3. But in the book, of course, it’s just a wonderful romp! OK, fine. However, then they take a bath together, and eventually have round 2 in the tub… Excuse me, what? Seriously? A bath?? How about just a shower for heaven’s sake? I mean – did this bother anyone else? I’d say most body fluids you just don’t want to poach in, especially not ones that don’t always dissolve completely, if you know what I mean. Enough said. Just, so not hot.
Here’s another annoying detail – what kind of college scholar, Pike’s Place loving, 20-something living in Portland or Seattle – hipster capitals of the Northwest – has no clothes? Every single non-school or work outfit was borrowed from her roommate. She even took her roommate’s clothing on vacation with her. I mean, sure, it’s good not to be consumed with fashion, but come on, she doesn’t own a single decent dress? Her mother had to buy her new clothes when she went to go visit. It’s one thing if she doesn’t like dresses and doesn’t usually wear them (ala Kate Daniels), but Anastasia is constantly wearing dresses in this book, they just belong to the roommate, and we never really get an explanation why. I think we’re supposed to gather from this that Anastasia is not interested in material things, but really, she just sounds sort of cheap. Note: We don’t even see her washing or having her roommate’s clothes dry-cleaned after all this use either. (I would so cut her off.)
In summary, there were some bits about wine and music that I liked, and that’s pretty much it. I was intrigued enough by the story to read the synopses of books two and three to see how the series ends, but am not going to read the actual novels.
Ironically this morning I just heard the news that Charlie Hunnman has dropped out of the film adaptation of the movie. Second thoughts about portraying a deeply emotionally dysfunctional control-freak and sexual deviant? You don’t say?! Or maybe just get a bunch of PR without actually having to play Christian Grey? If so — well played, Hunnman. Well played.
In other book news, and just in time for Halloween, I am finally reading Chasing Magic, by Stacia Kane. Each book seems to get a little grosser than the last with the black magic, but at least I can’t imagine Terrible wanting to belt-whip Chessie for amusement – even a drug dealer’s enforcer has better manners!
And now, time for a coffee,