- Published: New York : Vintage, 2012.
- Year Published: 2012
- Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed.
- Description: 514 p. ; 21 cm.
- Language: English
- Format: Book
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Fifty shades of Grey
by James, E. L.
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Call number: Fiction
When literature student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Convinced their meeting went badly, she tries to put Grey out of her mind - until he happens to turn up at the out-of-town hardware store where she works part-time. Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.
Dear God, but they're right about the terrible writing!
Two small examples, because explaining the whole thing would take a novel. (1) A 20-year-old walking into her love interest's massive and luxurious apartment after being flown there -- by him -- in his personal helicopter is NOT going to look at the living room and think "the U-shaped sofa would seat 10 adults, and the breakfast bar had seating for 16." If you're writing in first person, you have to keep their perspective. Graduating college seniors don't think "10 adults" (as opposed to what, 10 children?) or count barstools... or if they do, then you make a point of WHY they do.
And (2) her "inner goddess" makes my "inner editor" want to commit violence, preferably with a delete button. It really said once, "My inner goddess shook her pom poms and went into cheerleader mode." Ew. Just ew. Especially the 10th, 100th, and 500th times.
But I see why the book caught on, once the social stigma of reading BDSM somehow passed. It's an easy read. Kate knows nothing about this world, so her introduction is the reader's introduction, which means that every question, every reaction, every "really? somebody does THAT? and likes it?" feels legitimate within the context of the story. And Kate finds most of being a sub much more appealing than she expected, within the context of a relationship that is beginning to have much deeper meaning for her. That invites people to experiment, whether a little or a lot, within their own relationships. And that's why this has become so popular. (Really. I've had the most fascinating conversations with the indie book store owner & employees about what the book world thinks about this!)
If you want to try a better written book that is about the same level of introduction, try Velvet Glove by Emma Holly. Also a light read BDSM, but no inner goddesses to drive you to distraction.
In any case, this was one of the worst books, if not the worst book I've ever read. Not because of the sex scenes and complete condescension toward the female protagonist (although that was a strong annoyance), but because the writing was just SO BAD. It should have been called "50 Shades of Needs a Thesaurus" or "50 Shades of Needs an Editor." I get that there's room for self-publishing out there, but I also believe that the best writing (like the best art) comes when there is some form of collaboration. The writer used the same, tired phrases and verbs over and over and over again. Take an obnoxious subject, mix in some female bashing, and toss in some bad writing, add a dash of targeted marketing, and you get a bestseller apparently.
First off, I will say that I am a pretty devoted romance reader, and you can find plenty of books with similar plot point, though not all. Bondage? Sure. Super sexy 27-year-old billionaires? Easy. Naive virgin heroines? Everywhere. I, as well as pretty much everyone else, am confused as to what about this particular series is so appealing to such large numbers of people. While obviously not the main reason, the covers certainly help. Your average person wouldn't be caught dead with a romance clinch cover within a ten foot radius of them. This trilogy has fabulous covers. Simple, yet elegant.
As far as the writing goes, this series could really have used a good editing. Or two. The writing doesn't always sound all that natural, and especially since this is in first person, that can be jarring. Also, I think it might have been better if it were a bit shorter. Fanfiction is all well and good, but it is also not often well edited, and it shows.
Yes, the author is British, so yes, I can forgive a few Britishisms sprinkled throughout. I'm sure and English person looking through an American-written book set in England would find all sorts of problems. But many people find this to be a huge stumbling block to their enjoyment. Even more so if they have any familiarity with Seattle, as the author takes major liberties with her geography.
Also, this book was in first person. I can, occasionally, enjoy a book in first person (Sunshine by Robin McKinley being one I can immediately bring to mind), but generally I like to see a bit more of the other characters, not just the narrator and how she interprets the other characters. I mean, it's pretty obvious (at first, anyway) what she sees in a young, hot billionaire, but what does he see in her? Also, her talking to herself/conscience/inner goddess could get a little annoying.
Finally, the heroine was a door mat. She pretty much let the hero walk all over her, do what he wanted, set his conditions and whatever, and she went along with it. If someone were to give me a set of ridiculous conditions to follow before I had sex with them, and then went on to show me their "play room" when I'd hardly done more than kiss someone before, you could bet I would not be sticking around, sexy billionaire or not.
I really did try to get into this book. I usually do try with popular books, but all too often I am disappointed. Despite my excitement at seeing a romance novel this popular, I did not particularly enjoy it. However, you very well might. There is obviously some reason it is so popular, obscure though it may be, and it might just be the book for you. (If you're looking for good sex scenes, though, this is not really the place. Yes, it's kinky, but kinky does not necessarily equal good.)
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