Author: E L James
Publisher: Arrow Books
My Rating: 4/5
I’m fairly certain you have heard about Fifty Shades of Grey, but just in case you live under a rock it is a fairly typical story of shy, naive girl meets handsome rich boy. Only the boy had a terrible childhood creating more issues than he is aware of, and a desperation for control which he channels through his ‘secret’ life as a Dominant. The books were actually originally written as a ‘Twilight’ Fan-Fiction, but they have become super popular and very controversial.
Firstly, I have to say that I picked up the first book expecting to hate it – and for the first third or so, it definitely wasn’t my favourite read. I don’t like the unrealistic aspect of it, I mean is there a 21 year old woman in the modern world, one who is just finishing off college, who not only has no sexual experience at all (despite her roommate/best friend having a LOT of it), but uses the phrase ‘oh my’? Honestly, by the end of the first book I wanted to scream every single time ‘oh my’ came up on the page, which is far too often, though admittedly it mostly dies down in the subsequent books. And Christian Grey is not only so rich he can literally do anything he wants to, but drop-dead gorgeous to every person who looks at him. I get the whole rich and hot idea, but other than eyes that are varying shades of grey, Christian is given no other physical attributes other than repeatedly being told that he has incredible looks (to be fair, it is mentioned in the third book that he has floppy hair). The problem with this for me is that, while I want to fill in the blanks in my own mind, there was nothing to work with so I still cannot picture Christian at all.
Despite that, I found myself enjoying the books enough to finish all of them. The main reason for that is the relationships and dynamics within the story. As a romance, the relationship (no matter how fucked-up) needs to be the centre of the story and on this E. L. James delivers. Well, mostly delivers, as for some reason part of the last book seemed to turn into a thriller which I didn’t appreciate as it felt like extra issues were being added into the story that didn’t need to be so extreme for the character development that occurs because of them. Admittedly the books could have been better written but I didn’t feel that the writing negatively impacted the telling of the story which is the important thing.
I guess a review on the Fifty Shades series has to talk about the BDSM aspect of the novel. Personally I feel that the BDSM is more of the framework of the story, rather than an integral part. From my understanding of BDSM, there are a lot of incorrect assumptions put across in the books which I feel gives the wrong impression of BDSM and I can completely understand why that community isn’t too keen on it. I also worry that people may read these books and think that that kind of abuse is okay in a relationship, as long as the term ‘BDSM’ is applied which is obviously not true. To some extent the ‘rules’ of BDSM are explained in the first book Fifty Shades of Grey, however I feel that while the words may be technically correct, the actions of the characters is not. For a writer this is a perfect example of the difference between telling and showing as, particularly with the way that Christian acts, he says one thing then does something that totally disagrees with it.
Fifty Shades is an erotica romance. Yes, it is a romance that has a lot of problems, more than your average book, but it is still first and foremost a romance story and so there are the predictable tropes everyone expects. As an erotica you can expect a lot of sexual and sensual scenes which, when not interrupted with ‘oh my’ were fairly enjoyable to read.
I did enjoy reading these books, the second being my favourite of them as there was more of the developing relationship dynamic than the first book, but it wasn’t as heavy as the last so, for me, was a better mix of characters and romance. Reading these books has made me interested in seeing what else the genre has to offer as I am sure there are better written books available, with a slightly more realistic approach which is what I personally prefer. I would recommend the series to anyone looking for a spicy romance which allows you to experience a large range of intense emotions. However, I wouldn’t recommend it if you don’t like to read sex scenes as that is what the majority of the books are (or talking about sex); they also include plenty of swearing.