Like many I suppose, I had been hearing about all the fuss around 50 shades of Grey and wondered what it was all about. I even noticed Annie Mole, London blogger, taking pictures of people reading it on the tube and thought “what’s the big deal??”. So when I finally made it to the book store and read the back of the book, something clicked and I finally understood why it might be funny to catch people reading it in public.
I don’t usually – in fact I have never – read this type of novel before, so believe me when I say I was taking a leap of faith based on popular demand for the novel. As I started reading the first book, I felt pretty much convinced by it. The sex was there but it wasn’t awkward, it seemed that E.L. James had succeeded in writing an erotic novel in which you don’t feel uncomfortable or cringy, or a bit bad for reading that type of literature. There was just the right balance between a small story line that brings together Anastasia Steele, Kate Kavanagh her flatmate, and their family and friends. I liked Anastasia, the main character, for her no-nonsense down to earth type of personality. She’s constantly saying “holy crap” to herself, which may not be the most mature of sentences but definitely helps her character to feel more real and remind you of her age (21).
Then incredibly hot and sexy Christian Grey turns up, and even though he has some pretty weird sexual tendencies, we forgive him for them because let’s face it, it’s a little bit exciting! Reading through the first novel, it’s a bit like you’re in the honeymoon phase of a relationship where you can’t keep away from each other. You want to read on and find out what happens between Anastasia and Christian, how far will they take this relationship – if that’s what it can be called?
The second book already started to let me down a little. Firstly, I started to notice the lack of plot and the predominant sex. Ok I hear you, it’s an erotic novel. Well yes it is, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a decent plot that we try to stick to in a coherent fashion. In the second novel James’ characters, and her plot, start to lose their appeal. They seem loose, fragile, boring even. There were times when I wished she had delved deeper into the plot, rather than spending time describing how much sex Ana and Christian seem to have. Secondly, the sex started to get cringeworthy. What? Oh yes, there were times when it was so bad that I had to laugh out loud in the train, in disbelief that she actually put those words down on paper. Oh dear…
Then I started to notice the not so good writing. Ana’s originally quirky speech now becomes annoying, she is always saying “holy crap, oh crap!”. She is always talking about her inner goddess and her subconscience, the former doing jumps and backflips, the other peering over spectacles. What kind of cliché imagery is this? She always orgasms in the same way “as I collapse around him, shouting incoherently” or “I explode around him”. It may be an erotic novel but this doesn’t mean language can’t be diversified a little… Surely there exist different ways of orgasming aside from exploding or collapsing?
Then half way through the second book, I read this review that really made me notice the shortcomings of the novel. E. L. James wants us to believe that a 20 year old virgin suddenly is able to have sex 5-10 times a day and orgasm on demand each and every time. Not only that, but she is a natural at sex and incredibly good at pleasing Christian, even though she’s new to the whole experience. So we can all forget all those tales, urban legends of how awful sex can be at the beginning, and just feel happy in the illusion that couples everywhere are at it like Ana and Christian.
Ana is also a frustrating character, as although she occasionally shows the intent to stand up to Christian and his outrageous demands, she always gives in and lets him walk all over her, simply because she loves him and pities him because of the horrible childhood he suffered. As Katrina Lumsden says, just because Ana loves Christian doesn’t mean she has to let him be controlling, suffocating and lead him to believe that he’s right to be that way.
Christian’s wealth and the way he bestows it on Anna, who pretends to be uncomfortable with it but actually relishes it, is also irritating. Can we please stop pretending that she doesn’t like the money, the flashy cars, the iPad, the penthouse, the boat, the 30000 Euro jewelry… Actually, she loves it and she enjoys showing off her wealth whilst pretending it embarrasses her. This trait of character fails to impress me.
But perhaps what is the most annoying, is the pathetic way the story plays out. Girls around the world are lead to believe that yes, it is indeed possible to change the life of someone who is really fucked up. And yes, it’s possible to make a man love you even though he originally is a sadist and a masochist and doesn’t want to be close to anyone.
But the story shouts out to us: love is stong, and if you have lots of sex, you can make a man love you, yes you can. Ana takes on the role of the nurse, the carer, the person who brings Christian back to life because she shows him love. This truly irritated me, as I have witnessed that it is not possible to bring people back from the brink in the way Ana does. I feel annoyed to believe that girls are being led on by the romantic and slushy ending E. L. James provides for us. Sometimes, a bit of drama does no harm.
All in all, if you’re curious then read the first book, the other two are not worth it. If you want a distraction, then I still only suggest you read the first book. If you want to try them all, hopefully I won’t have put you off.