S.E. Berrow's Reviews > Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
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it was ok
bookshelves: romance, erotica, contemporary, borrowed

Let's face it... This book was always going to get a bad rap, regardless of whatever merits it may or may not possess:

1) It was originally written as fanfiction.
2) It is not just any fanfiction. It was originally written as Twilight-inspired fanfiction.
3) It is about BDSM, sadomasochism and kinky sex. How naughty!
4) It is backed by one of the biggest marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen, is therefore mainstream, and consequently over-hyped and sneered at by the literary masses.
5) It is a romance novel.
6) It is also unashamedly a porn novel.
7) It’s been dubbed “mummy porn” by the majority of the media, which is a pretty embarrassing label to say the least...
8) It is written specifically for the titillation of women. Le gasp! Women like porn? What madness is this?
9) It was never pretending to be a great literary masterpiece.
10) It isn’t a great literary masterpiece, and this is pretty much the only reason stopping me from awarding this book 3 stars out of 5 instead of 2. I just couldn't quite bring myself to give it the same rating as I gave Mary Shelley's Frankenstein...

Perhaps my expectations were so low that there was only ever really going to be one conclusion I could draw from this book:

I liked it. I thought the concept was interesting, the characters surprisingly fully-formed with definite distinctive traits and motives, and it even had some funny moments that made me smile. The ending was also surprisingly sad.

Not gonna lie, there’s a lot of sex in this book, and some parts are so badly written I sometimes wound up texting my friend little passages so that we could laugh at it together. However, the sex is not all that graphic, uses tasteful, and sometimes anatomical words, and the kinky BDSM stuff didn’t actually get going until well over halfway through the book. When it does get going, it's pretty tame. It's actually pretty boring to read too; I was much more interested in the startling amount of discussion dedicated to setting Ana's limits, discussing her apprehensions, and her weighing up the pros and cons of being in a relationship with a man who basically gets his kicks from seeing her submissive and in pain.

One of the main criticisms I've read of this book is that it seems to have perpetuated the assumption that deep down, all women want to be controlled and secretly like being beaten, and consequently this sets feminism back by about twenty years. Well, personally, I don't think this is true at all, and frankly highlights people's ignorance about BDSM relationships (not that this book is a great way to learn about it, but anyway). I also find it a little insulting that it’s somehow considered anti-feminist or backwards for a woman to enjoy being submissive in a consenting, adult sexual relationship that is built on trust and knowing your partner’s limits. Fantasy =/= reality, and I think it's a known statistic that those who are Submissive in the bedroom are usually pretty domineering in their everyday lives. If you're going to call this book out on being anti-feminist, concentrate on the fact that Christian has to be filthy rich in order to be considered desirable to female readers. Now there's a trope I think you could work on (although again, Ana is pretty adamant about not wanting him buy or pay for stuff for her, and forbids him from interfering in her career).

The conflict in this book centres on the fact that the woman in question most definitely does not want to be controlled, and seeing as the Submissive is the one with all the power in the relationship, not the Dominant -- it is the Sub who says yes or no to this and that -- it's Christian who truly has to come to terms with it all, not Ana, who ends up walking when he fails to do this. Christian Grey wants to control Ana, true, however he never ever pressures her into something she does not want to do sexually, and the times when he most definitely is extremely bossy, commanding, and quite frankly creepy, she angrily tells him he is a control freak and he openly admits it, listens to her trepidations, and apologises.

Now this is a far cry from the original work that this story was based on.

I've made this book sound like some ground-breaking literary masterpiece. It's not. I do not plan on continuing to read this trilogy, and from what a friend of mine was telling me yesterday, Fifty Shades descends into a somewhat troubling and problematic narrative that likely discounts everything I've written in the above... but I've got to go on what I've read, and yeah. It was a nice easy read that surpassed my expectations.

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Reading Progress

June 24, 2012 – Started Reading
June 24, 2012 – Shelved
June 27, 2012 –
page 207
58.15% "Honestly? This book is nowhere near as bad as everyone says it is. Badly written and a Lot of sex, yes, but an interesting idea and a lot of exploration into the concept of control and consent . I do not hate it."
July 1, 2012 –
page 418
July 2, 2012 – Finished Reading
October 27, 2012 – Shelved as: romance
October 27, 2012 – Shelved as: erotica
February 13, 2015 – Shelved as: contemporary
January 7, 2020 – Shelved as: borrowed

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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message 1: by Sophie (new)

Sophie Not to judge, but why god why?

message 2: by S.E. Berrow (last edited Jun 24, 2012 11:31AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

S.E. Berrow Because everyone is talking about it at work and I am desperate to have an opinion on it :P

Fortunately I didn't pay any money towards it, I borrowed it from someone else.

x x x

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