Friday, May 25, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey

E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is unappealing and repetitive. It numbed my mind through boredom, not through sexiness.

The novel stars soon to be college graduate Anastasia Steele, who becomes involved with the very rich, very handsome, very charming, and very controlling Christian Grey. Mr. Grey soon makes it known that he not looking for a normal relationship, but rather sexual relations involving rules, punishments, and an array of pain inflicting instruments. He draws up a contract outlining what he wants from Ana, binding her as the submissive to his dominant. From then on, the novel tracks Ana’s acceptance of her sexual desire and submissiveness.

Fifty Shades of Grey is billed as an erotic romance, suggesting that it is meant to be exciting and enticing, expecting its reader to be as sexually allured by Christian as Ana herself is. Personally, I only found Christian abhorrent, abusive, and thoroughly unsexy. However, I believe it is a matter of personal taste, and as such, I believe a reader’s enjoyment of the novel will depend largely on that reader’s personal sexuality.

For women, I think their enjoyment of the novel will also be decided by their definition of female equality. In the novel, Christian attempts to mould Ana into the perfect submissive partner by controlling what she eats, how she dresses, and even what car she drives. As Ana consents to this treatment, the reader must ask herself: does feminism mean being treated as an equal or being given the right to choose how one is treated? Personally, I did not disapprove of Ana’s choice, as I believe feminism should be about the right to choose above all else. It still made me incredibly uncomfortable, however, when Christian demeaned and manipulated Ana; she may have personally consented to being treated in such a way, but I do not consent to my gender being treated so poorly. Part of me wants to assume this is true of women at large; however, Fifty Shades of Grey has been a New York Times #1 Bestseller for nine weeks, so this cannot be true.

Perhaps the bigger issue for me, however, was the monotony in the novel. On every level, James’ work is repetitive, be it the clichĂ©d phrasing of the prose, the tired character descriptions, the overworked metaphors, or the endless number of sex scenes. James feels the need to constantly remind the reader that Christian Grey has gray eyes, as if the moral ambiguity of the character is not already spelled out enough by the novel’s title. Ana often references the Greek myth of Icarus: at first, I found it interesting; by the fifth time it is mentioned, I wanted to throw the book across the room. More than anything, I was bored to tears by the never-ending sex scenes. At first, they were vaguely appealing; by the end, I was nearly asleep.

At its heart, I believe the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy presents an intriguing, unique romance. However, for me, it would be torture to try to get through another thousand-odd pages of Christian torturing Ana; for you, however, it might be a lot more alluring and positively mind numbing.


  1. I have not yet read this series, but have read so much ABOUT it! The craze about it just won't stop! I think your review is great- so forthright, and from the persepective of a well-read university student. Can I post a link to your review on Twitter??

  2. Thanks Michelle!

    And sure, a link would be great.

    Are you planning on reading the series? It is somewhat enjoyable...or, it would be, if they took out the sex stuff. That's the part that frustrated me! If it hadn't been for the insane number of sex scenes, I would have really enjoyed the unique romantic dynamic this novel explores.

  3. I read this series, and like you said, to each his own. I loved the books, they were very intriguing, interesting and entertaining. I cant wait to read the next book the author writes.

    1. I completely understand this view. I really did want to like it--I really do think the relationship between Ana and Christian is quite interesting--or, at least, it could be, if there wasn't so much sex. But, as you echoed, to each his own. I don't read much erotica--do you? If so, how does this series stack up?


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