Breaking the record for one of the fastest selling paperback novels of its time and currently topping the New York Times best seller list, the 50 Shades of Grey Trilogy is the brainchild of London based TV producer turned explicitly erotic fiction author EL James (real name Erika Leonard). Based loosely on the characters of the Twilight Series (yes, you did read that correctly), James tells the story of soon to be graduated 21 year old Anastasia Steel and her unconventional “romantic” relationship with entrepreneurial 27 year old multi-millionaire Christian Grey.
I was instantly intrigued the moment this book was brought to my attention by a co-worker. “Everyone is talking about it” she stated, as she ordered her copy online. Being quite an open minded lady, I conducted some quick research on the first installation of the trilogy and firmly decided I was going to purchase this book. 2 days later I was waiting in line at my busy local book store with the novel unashamedly clutched in my right hand, my 18 dollars balled up in the other.
The opening chapters introduce us to the main characters; naïve, innocent-as-the-day-is-long Ana and the dark, mysterious, and (but of course) insanely handsome Christian. Ana’s sweet, doormat-like nature is revealed almost immediately as she drives 2 hours out of her way to interview the young tycoon for the University paper as a favour to her friend, who is suffering from a deadly case of the sniffles and therefore cannot conduct the interview herself.
Literally falling into his arms during their first encounter, sparks predictably begin to fly between our main characters. This is a first for our sweet Ana as the only men she has had time for until now were the heroes in her beloved great English classic novels.
As the relationship quickly progresses, we learn that Christian’s controlling, domineering nature is even more concentrated when it comes to his sexual preferences. He reveals all to Ana, tentatively showing her his “playroom” or as Ana so aptly referred to it later, his “Red Room of Pain”. The room, which is dedicated to his needs for sexually dominating women; houses every type of “toy” one would need to partake in such illicit activities that are part and parcel of BDSM.
He coaxes Ana to consider being his submissive and produces a very in depth contract that sets out all the rules and loopholes involving same. Ana immediately embarks on an emotional roller-coaster ride as she tries to decide whether or not being subjected to regular sexual torture in order to please Mr ridiculously rich/ young/ handsome Grey, is something she is willing to do. During the inner conflict that follows, Ana allows Christian to give her a taste of what she is in for if she so chooses to sign the dotted line, and these instances are littered in great detail throughout the book.
I must admit, I was enthralled during the first few chapters. The intense relationship escalates quickly and I was drawn into Ana’s world and her ever-present inner battle with her subconscious and her “inner goddess” over the deeply troubled Christian and her fear of growing too attached should she fall deeply in love with him. A man, who due to being in a constant state of self-loathing, is incapable of reciprocating her feelings.
However, there are many things that irked, yes, IRKED me about this book. Christian Grey is depicted as a man acting out sexually as a way of soothing his troubled soul from time spent suffering at the hands of his drug abusing mother in his formative years. Therefore suggesting that this is the main reason for why anyone would want to introduce their partners to such unimaginable sexual antics. I may be very wrong, but I am pretty sure after doing some further research on E L James that she is not personally a member of the BDSM inner circle and that this presumption of hers is beyond ignorant as a result. Surely not all individuals who dabble in a bit of kinky slap-and-tickle are struggling with some unseen inner demonic forces?
Another issue I had as I made my way through each chapter was the chronic repetition. Ana verbalised her feelings as Christian had his wicked way with her continually throughout the book, over and over again in the following few sentences “Oh my.” “Holy sh*t.” “Holy f*ck.” “Waves of heat pooled in my belly.” Those descriptions alone of how she felt whenever Christian so much as brushed against her were repeated at least four times each throughout the book.
Overall the main issue I had with this book was the quality of James’ writing. E L is not an author, she is a TV producer. If this book was stripped down (no pun intended…) and completely rewritten by someone who had any iota of how to string a few sentences together in an intelligent fashion, I am pretty certain I would be in the middle of completing the second book and happy to go out and spend another 18 dollars on the final book in the series. James’ inexperience led me to believe on several occasions that 50 Shades of Meh would have been a more appropriate title.
This book is not for the sexually timid. Some may call it deliciously racy while others might refer to it as deeply disturbing. It did raise my temperature on a few occasions and I genuinely applaud James for putting a pen to paper and bringing erotic fiction to the fore that is clearly aimed at the female market for a change. Despite leaving the impression that I had just completed reading a book that had been written by a hormonal teenage girl instead of a professional lady in her mid to late forties, I am happy to have discovered for myself what all the hype was about.