22 Jul 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey (some sexual references)

The most common question I have been asked by people when they found out I was reading this book is "why?"

Well mostly because my girl read it and she was interested in my opinion. Also I thought it was high time I reviewed a book. Fifty shades of Grey is the latest literary zeitgeist. Call it "mummy porn" or "dark erotica" its international success is evident.

Anyway a Synopsis:

Anastasia Steele is a literature student about to graduate from Washington State University. Her life of Thomas Hardy and Jane Austin is interrupted when her best friend Kate falls ill. Kate has an important interview for the school paper with Christian Grey, a major financial contributor to the university. Ana agrees to interview the young billionaire on behalf of her friend, but is surprised when the interview with the enigmatic Mr. Grey creates an opportunity for romance. Their powerful mutual attraction not only introduces Ana to not only her first love affair but also the world of bondage and discipline.

Ensue spanking hijinx

OK from here on out there are some SPOILERS!

First a wee rant to the haters. The two biggest criticisms of this book are that it is "just fan fiction" or "it's mummy porn for bored housewives."

Firstly I know a lot of mothers and I am fairly sure that the comment about this booking being "mummy porn" is pretty condescending. Some of the mothers I know are highly educated, well travelled sophisticated women who love great porn.  Being a mother, even a bored mother doesn't mean they have poor taste in their books, porn or otherwise.

Secondly any one that has written fan fiction and has been snapped up by a publisher should be lauded.  Who cares how a writer got their start as long as they write well.

That aside onwards to my review. This sort of book is not really my cup of tea. However I decided to give it a fair chance. 

I found the character of Ana exceptionally unbelievable.  She is meant to be a highly attractive educated young woman who several men in her life are pursuing. But she has never had any sort of a relationship before. She has not even been attracted to anyone before. Ever? Her mental state seems more of a sixteen year old girl than a young woman about to graduate from college.  An emotionally and sexually repressed girl with the mental age of a teenager. Her internal monologues are filled with shock expletives such as; "What!  Crap!, Holy Crap and the ever present Oh My.  

The  Oh My's  were a particular bug bear as I foolishly mentioned to a friend that one of the characters kept saying it. he then did a George Takei   "oh Myyyyy!"  After that every time I read those two words I saw George poking his head around some corner. 

 Anas Step father Ray was also particularly annoying. portrayed as the father she never had, Ray is a taciturn craftsman with a love for sports. A mans man who dearly loves his step daughter as if she was his. But presented with her very first boy friend who is rather 'intense' Ray instantly accepts hims as he knows about fly fishing. That's it? That's is all it takes to be a good guy in Rays books? What a dick head. 

So no the quality of the writing was not what I would expect from a best selling novel, but what possibly disturbed me more was what a freak Christian Grey is. No I am not talking about the bondage and discipline side of things, there wasn't too much of that really despite the premise. No it was the fact that he was a controlling stalker. 

He ordered her to get rid of her car, and bought her a new one which I found rather disturbing. Christian had to know where she was 24/7 and when Ana took a few days off to see her mother and think about the relationship. She was to be gone for a week, but Christian decided to fly over from Seattle on the edge of the west coast to Savannah on the opposite side of the country. 

Also there was a scene where Ana and Christian had a fight. So he raced over to her place, pushed past her flat mate and burst through the door. Now I get that in bodice rippers there is that clichéd scene where the woman is fighting her desire for the man, and locks herself away from him. He bursts in and crushes her to his manly breast and she gives in to desire. The difference is power and violence. In the cliché the door is an obstacle to their union, a metaphor. But to enter a house uninvited pushing physically past a girl to get to another, that is an entirely different kettle of domestic abuse.  He dictates how she eats, what she wears and who she spends time with. The guy is a creep. 

But if he is a deranged creep she is a needy child in the body of a woman. She meets this guy and he says "This is who I am, this is what I want." quite honest about it. But she wants more, not down the track, but right now! And magically he does seem to change for her. Not the crazy parts, just the commitment parts. This is all over a couple of weeks as well.

As I read this rather disturbing book I saw elements of Austin’s Pride in Prejudice, but only in the flimsiest way. They refer to each other as "Miss Steele and Mr. Grey.", and in the depiction of Christian I can see him as a contemporary shade of Mr. Darcy, but he has traded his sophistication for a sack full of crazy. Also I can see echoes of  Twilight  as well, but as the original fan fiction this was based on was Twilight that is hardly surprising. 

So is this good girl porn? Sure but not in the sense that it is full of sex, but in the sense that a girl finds a man who is handsome, intelligent, sexy and rich but just damaged enough so she can save him. Yay I found the perfect man, now I can change him.  

I know that it not my thing, and perhaps as a holiday read it might be ok, but the highly disturbing behaviour of the Edward Cullen Christian Grey character is really not healthy. I got quite bored with the characters "inner goddess" emerging every other page, and by the last fifty pages I had lost interest in the light of young Ana. She's an idiot, and he's a psycho so maybe it isn't all that farfetched at all.

As for the erotica? meh I found it kind of tame. She was so naive and insecure and he was such a loony I found it difficult to get engaged into the scenes. Also with writing like "Holy cow a penis!" can you blame me?

Personally if you want porn go on line, or buy some decent steamy erotic fiction. If you want a good book for women try Purple Dandelion, the true story of Farida Sultana. Or something lighter I am loving Ben Aaronovitch's Midnight Riot. 

As this book goes I barely made it to the end, and I am not wasting my time on the rest of them. I rate it two and a half Monkeys. 

P.S. In regard to my anti-haters comments earlier, while they still stand I have made an interesting observation.  While I still don't think fan fiction becoming a novel is automatically bad, I do note that the authors Twilight fan-fiction story  Master of the Universe has vanished, and any link to it has been replaced by a link to  Fifity Shades of Grey.  Interesting and stink. I could talk more about this but that is a post all on it's own.


  1. Nice review. Unintended implication that Midnight Riot is erotica. ;-)

  2. Personally I enjoyed the trilogy. I make no claim to it being a literary masterpiece - on the contarary, the writing is poor, the use of the same key phrases over and over it tedious and the characters have very little basis in reality. But let's be honest, we don't read it for the writing. While the actual sex scenes aren't brilliant, the frequency of them kept one hooked.

    While you read the book I was most amused by the 'I have a question?' comments that would come forth. Usually about some type of 'feeling' that women get 'down there' or 'deep in the core' or 'when you take off your shoes'. And no, you taking your shoes off does not do it for ANY women, trust me. So yes, a lot of it is unrealistic, but isn't that often why we read books like this? How boring a book would it be if it was completely realisitic?

    I read these books at the beginning of June and promptly bought them for a friend. I was obsessed and as soon as I finished reading them I was looking for the next erotica book to read. But almost two months later I'm getting a little tired of the continued talk about them. Move on people, they aren't great stories, they aren't literary classics, they are just good fun for those that enjoy them. And for all the naysayers, why do you care?! Just let the people who enjoy it, enjoy it. It's not hurting you.

    I for one loved it. I loved the drama, the sex and the length of the story. If you're a Mills & Boon reader or like a story to loose yourself in without loosing to many braincells then you'll probably enjoy it too.

    And PS: There is a Cliff Notes version for you blokes. And if you're partner/girlfriend/wife is reading it, believe me you'll benefit ;)