This book was really hard to rate (and even as I'm writing this I'm changing between 2 & 3 stars), and I've been thinking about this review since...moreThis book was really hard to rate (and even as I'm writing this I'm changing between 2 & 3 stars), and I've been thinking about this review since I finished the novel about a week ago.
So, bottom line, I have to ask my self - did I like it?
Actually, I still can't make up my mind about that. It was not fantastic, but it was OK. There were some parts I liked quite much and some parts I didn't like at all.
Before I continue, I want to make a spoiler warning - this review contains spoilers about this novel and about "Twilight" by Stephenie Meyers. You be warned.
What I have absolutely most issues with, is that EL James allegedly wrote this as fan-fiction, and as such, it should have an intertextual relation to "Twilight". James can claim it's fan-fiction all she wants - to me it seems more like a spoof. And not a very well-written one.
The first part was funny, I laughed a little to myself when I saw the parallels to "Twilight" - Ana's clumsiness, the accident, Grey's will to buy very expensive things for Ana and his warnings to her... however, James is not consistent in this - which makes this novel neither a good fan-fiction or a good spoof. About halfway through the book, these similarities stop. There are no common events between this one and "Twilight", so she clearly fails in this department. This is what I actually have most problems with. I'm waiting for something to happen in the end that's similar to what happens in "Twilight", but I'm left with disappointment. I don't mind that Ana leaves Grey in the end - in a good spoof she could have done that, but after the point were she meets her family, there's nothing more in common with "Twilight". My point is: if you're writing a book and claims that it has an intertextual relationship with another book (no matter your intentions with these similarities), they SHOULD BE CONSISTENT! From the beginning to end, and James simply fails in delivering that.
Another thing that bothers me is the language. As a linguist, I can't help paying special attention to it, and again I feel that James fails. If she weren't a native English speaker, I wouldn't have bothered, but come on - the English language is so wonderfully colourful when it comes to interjections and "power expressions", and all Ana (a woman just a tad bit younger than myself) can come up with different versions of "holy shit"?! That would be OK if she were saying it out loud - after all, must of us do a little censoring in that department - but this novel is written not just from her point of view, but she is the narrator! These are her thoughts! Why on earth does she censor herself in her own mind? And if she doesn't - how did she manage to go through college as a Literature Student with that lack of language skills? (And we shall not even begin to discuss this whole "inner Goddess-thing" - I get what she means, and I can relate to it, but it's very clumsily done).
This lack of language skills is also very visible in the grammar, from time to time. It's just a few weeks ago I had an exam in English Grammar and Translation, and I am very tempted to show some parts to my professor. I'm quite convinced that if I would have used that kind of inflections in my exam, points would have been taken off. Don't get me wrong here - I love authors who play around with the language, but that's is not what James is doing. Or if it is, it's not showing very clearly. Let's say that Ana would have some problems with the grammar, then it would be a good way to show this character flaw by using poor grammar. But it doesn't say anywhere that she does, so all we are left with is poor grammar.
Ana as a character seems very unbelievable as well (interestingly I have no such problems with Christian - I might not like his stalker tendencies (but then again, I didn't like them in Edward Cullen either), but at least he is consistent!). She is clumsy and shy, but apparently not so when it comes to sex - even though she's never done it before. Bella Swan might be a "damsel-in-distress" (for the lack for a better term), but at least her behaviour is more logical than Ana's, because Bella's behaviour is EXPLAINED! In "Twilight", we get to know the reasons for WHY she does things that are seemingly illogical (even if sometimes it's just an "it seemed like a good idea"-thing). Ana is annoying, because she has no logical consistency in her behaviour, and when the story is told by her, from her perspective, and we're allowed to read her thoughts, that is simply bad writing and characterization. This is probably why I buy Christian as a character - we don't get to know everything about him, so some of the reasons behind his behaviour must be guesswork from a reader's point of view. If you tell a story from a specific character's point of view, then you have an obligation towards your readers to make that character plausible. Read and learn, all aspiring authors out there!
With all that said - what is it that I like about this novel? First of all, it's the sex part. Yes, I admit it! But perhaps not for the reasons' you think. Beside from the fact that Ana seems to have a magical gift of knowing how to do it without any experience, those parts actually work. I like the fact that someone dares to write about characters who have sex without making a time gap, and I like that someone dares to write about BDSM. You might think what you want about that, but the things regarding that are quite plausible, at least from my p.o.w.
I like most of the characters - they are interesting, especially those we don't get to know very well, like Elliot. It's just too bad that James doesn't make me feel this way about all of the characters (especially Ana).
I would also like to take the opportunity (again) to mention that I don't have any problems with Christian as a character - in fact, I find him very interesting. I don't like all the things that he do, but he is interesting and plausible in his own way, so the characterization works in this case. Ergo: James can create interesting characters, she just fails to do so with Ana.
I am not sure whether I'll read this book again or not, but I will definitely keep it in my book case, because it is a book that creates discussions, and those books are always worth keeping!(less)
This was a typical mix of short stories: some great, others just wierd. However,the pace overall was just slow, and it took more time to finish this b...moreThis was a typical mix of short stories: some great, others just wierd. However,the pace overall was just slow, and it took more time to finish this book than I had expected. I actually got a bit tired of reading it towards the end.(less)