Saturday, 7 July 2012

Fifty Shades Of Grey - spoilers

Fifty Shades of Grey started out as Twilight fan fiction and has snowballed into one of the fasted selling books of all time. I loudly applaud E.L James for seizing her opportunity when it came.

Erotica isn't my genre and freely admit that I read the book because nosiness got the better of me.

PLOT: After agreeing to interview the mysterious Christian Grey for her roommate Anastasia Steele finds herself drawn to him. Anastasia is quickly brought out of her comfort zone and after a quick tour of his “red room of pain” she finds herself open to a new and potentially exciting way of life. END PLOT

The fan fiction origins of Fifty Shades of Grey are blatantly obvious and the opening few chapters are some of the most amateurish I have ever read. It wasn’t laughable. It was inexcusable.

"This is news to me, and I'm temporarily preoccupied by the thought that someone not much older than me - okay, maybe six years or so, and okay, mega-successful, but still - is going to present me with my degree"
No matter how many times I read this sentence I still don’t believe that it makes any sense.

"Therefore, she cannot attend the interview, she'd arranged to do, with some mega-industrialist tycoon I've never heard of, for the student newspaper"
I read the first five chapters with Christopher Walken playing Anastasia Steele but the over usage of the comma did become less intrusive.

I didn't take the book seriously and specifically sought out questionable paragraphs purely to make fun of them but as the story progressed I found myself getting drawn in. This is as generous as I can be there are sections which are very badly written.

In a few years time the language used will look ridiculously dated. The constant “megas” and E.L James’ personal favourite “holy crap” is appropriate for those who have just outgrown the Nickelodeon channel but there was nothing clever about the prose. The language used may emphasise just how young at heart Anastasia is, but like everything else in the novel, it was not subtle.

Anastasia’s constant referencing of her subconscious which was always doing something figuratively or metaphorically grated very quickly. I think at one stage Ana’s subconscious metaphorically rolled its eyes at her and I had to stop and think about how that could work.

The awaking of Anastasia’s inner goddess should have been a wonderful moment of personal realisation but every time she “found” her inner goddess, and she did so very often, I read this with obnoxious patronisation along the lines of “Did you find your inner goddess again Ana, where was hiding this time, behind the anal beads perhaps? Silly girl”.

If you remove the word “dominant” from the equation Ana’s growing jealously over Christian’s ex and his friendship with her coupled with Christian’s possessiveness turns the story into nothing more complex than a soap opera love triangle.

The BDSM does add a bit of spice to the mix but it is soft enough to avoid delving into the culture in any great depth. It is BDSM-101 which essentially means ten minutes browsing Wikipedia with a notepad.

I have no problems with individuals entering into a consensual relationship and if this involves BDSM then so be it. The BDSM aspect of the novel did not bother me in the slightest. In Fifty Shades of Grey it amounted to nothing more than various levels of spanking and after a while I was beginning to wonder if Christian had anything else in his big red repertoire.

My problem with Fifty Shades of Grey is the characters themselves.

Anastasia Steele is a very young twenty-one year old and her initial innocence and complete obliviousness to Christian’s plans for her made her seem almost simple minded. As the novel progressed Ana became bolder, genuinely curious and despite her infatuation with Christian she does stop and ask the sensible questions even if it is via email.

The emails were the most clever part of the novel as they were fun and dangerous at the same time, as like Ana, it was hard to tell were the line between serious and flirting was.

Christian Grey, a man who females are apparently swooning over, was hardly developed at all suffice to say that he was attractive and rich and, for the avoidance of doubt, I did see Ryan Gosling.

If I was supposed to feel any sympathy or at the very least get an understanding of Christian Grey I needed to know more about him than what I was given. As it stands he is nothing more than a manipulative, controlling and downright huffy arse.

Christian’s annoyance at discovering Ana was still a virgin and the vanilla sex that followed appeared to be Grey’s own particular version of chivalry.  Once his guilt about Ana’s first sexual experience had been dealt with his initial plans were put back in motion although there is a small argument to be made for his few attempts at having a more traditional relationship with Ana.

Christian Grey had his much hinted at childhood trauma, an introduction to BDSM at the minor age of fifteen, food issues and his crack whore mother (his words not mine). I am actually surprised that he didn’t go off and avenge a murdered father.

Everyone has baggage and I understand that sometimes people have no control over how it affects their everyday life - Christian’s comes with a legally binding non-disclosure agreement.

Speaking of contracts, if Ana did not have the sense to do some basic research then I don’t believe Grey would have made her aware that their BDSM contract was not legally binding. Christian only reassured Ana that everything was voluntary after she sought clarification on what was expected of her – he never explained anything until she asked and it was always done in offended tones.

There was something very unsettling about Grey’s behaviour towards Ana during the opening chapters. Christian’s sinister teasing of his intent in the hardware store and his attitude towards Ana in the early stages of the book meant that I couldn’t get past the notion that he was grooming her to be his submissive which to me forfeits the idea that it was her choice. The fact that every time the subject was broached he felt the need to ply her with alcohol will not sway my opinion.

Ana herself admitted several times that she needed to stop drinking to keep her wits about her yet there Christian was topping up her wine glass.  This went beyond the levels of having a stiff drink for courage.

Ana never said no but then again I don’t believe, at least in the early part of the book, that she said yes with a clear head.

At the end of the novel Ana found her voice and I suppose, for want of a better cliché, her coming of age story had ended and she walked away. The knowledge that there are another two books to slog through suggests that she doesn’t walk far enough.

My curiosity has been satisfied and I have now got reading Fifty Shades of Grey out of my system. I won’t read the next two books and it isn’t because I don’t like them. It is because I just don’t care.


  1. Sounds quite engaging, I personally can't make sense of those 2 sentences either by the way.

    Hype clearly outshines from reality, it would seem for all the hoopla about this book the characters would have to be the most engaging thing about it but it sounds like the opposite.

    1. It is badly written but it was my dislike of the characters which did it for me.

      I think if James had explored the psychology of the lifestyle or even attempted to introduce some tension to make it more of a thriller it may have helped.

      Glad I read it just so that I could see for myself but I wont be reading the next books

  2. Karina, you know I liked 50 Shades but I am a hopeless romantic who always expects a happy ending. I agree with you about the writing and if I'm honest I really couldn't see how E L James got a trilogy from the story. I don't mind unnecessary information in fine literature but in my opinion she just bulked the story up with A LOT of very descriptive sexual encounters and I'm guessing the editor visualised movie material. I think you may have summed the ENTIRE story up in your plot of the first book which should probably give you some incite as to the rest of the trilogy. I defintely saw Ryan Gosling and Leighton Meester in the roles but I've heard that Holywood are considering Pattinson and Stewart. What? I'm so surprised!

    Your review is as accurate and well written as ever.

    I think I may have found the formula for what woman want to read though. It seems characters should include one male monster (eg: vampire or sex beast) and one friend, both hopelessly in love with a girl who is beautiful but doesn't realise it until she removes her geeky clothes and puts on some makeup and a pair of heels. Plot: The monster falls in love with the girl, changes his personality over the course of the book/s (impossible) and would rather die than live without her while the friend loves her so much that he lets go. End Plot. And of course, no romance (because let's be honest that's the genre, not fantasy or erotica) is complete without namedropping a few romantic classics like Wuthering Heights, Tess of the D'urbavilles, Jane Eyre etc etc. As I've written this it has caused me to question what I found so intriguing about the story but I think it is possibly the fact that my mum used to read me Beauty and the Beast every single night before I went to sleep. I was reciting it at 3 years old. Oh dear, it seems my taste in books may be down to the Ladybird fairtytales now that is 50 Shades of Fucked Up! lol

  3. I've only read half the book and it's just a description erotic version of twilight. Like a poster had commented above, it's the beauty falls in love with the beast, a girl exploring the dark and dangorous side. I very agree with your review the chatacter of Christian Grey does not develloped, i've read 17 chapters and he's still an arrogant not willing to commit kinda guy, and yes the email is a high light of the book, but in what 21st century are we talking about? A college student about to graduate not owning a computer????? Well if she couldn't afford a "Macbook Pro" there're always much cheaper, made in china technologies... The sex is intense but it doesn't grow, it started so steamy when they first, i quote "f***ed hard" and indeed it was hard, but after that the sex just doesn't stay true to tge aggressive nature of Mr. Grey.
    Movie casting, Ryan gosling is the perfect fit for Christian Grey, Robert Pattinson???? No way, he's no where near well-groomed Mr. Grey, he's so scruffy, can't look at him anywhere near the book described perfect male speciment. Ana steel, Kristen Steward, as much as i dislike her, her image always popped up when I'm reading about miss Steeles...anyway it's a nice book to kill time, When you're lonely but not a well writen book.

    1. I am not a fan of Twilight and I knew it was based on an erotic fan fiction before I read it.

      It doesn't excuse it - a terrible book is a terrible book!

      The movie casting game is a fun one to play!

  4. I m excited for the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. and i watch Christian Grey's work it is pretty awesome to see on the screen Christian Grey

    1. The book is terrible but I am dying to know who they cast!

  5. Replies
    1. I hope you are prepared for a terrible film! The rating and poor source material means it will be a hard one to adapt for the cinema

      K :-)