Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades #1) by E.L. JamesPaperback, 514 pages
Published 12th April 2012 by Arrow Books
Description via Goodreads:
When literature student Anastasia Steele interviews successful entrepreneur Christian Grey, she finds him very attractive and deeply intimidating. Convinced that their meeting went badly, she tries to put him out of her mind - until he turns up at the store where she works part-time, and invites her out. Unworldly and innocent, Ana is shocked to find she wants this man. And, when he warns her to keep her distance, it only makes her want him more. But Grey is tormented by inner demons, and consumed by the need to control. As they embark on a passionate love affair, Ana discovers more about her own desires, as well as the dark secrets Grey keeps hidden away from public view...
Please note that this book is classified as Erotica. If you're under 18, or likely to be offended by sexual themes, it is recommended that you do not read this review.
I probably would have never have picked this book up if it there hadn't been such fuss made over it in the book blogosphere and the news that it was going to be made into a film (What kind of film it will be, I really don't know...). All I knew about it when I picked it up was that it was once fan fiction and had erotic themes. I also knew that there must be something about it that made it so controversial.
I'll admit that I was a bit nervous when I was starting the book. I haven't read erotica before (unless you count that scene in Tipping the Velvet) and whilst I am certainly not a prude, the thought of reading a load of BDSM sex scenes did, for some reason, unnerve me. Thankfully, when I got used to it, it didn't really bother me at all. There are some pretty strong images, a lot (expectedly) involving sexual restraints, sexual torture and the like, so if you're not comfortable with those ideas, you're really not going to be comfortable with the book. There are no holds barred with the descriptions of the sex scenes, apart from when our protagonist, Ana, mentions her 'sex' or 'down there' - for some reason, she can't give it a proper name, which I found strange and a little immature, considering what she was doing. Though I don't have any other experience with erotica to compare it to, it did sound quite amateur because of the writing.
Speaking of Ana, I thought that she was so frustrating and frankly, at times, downright stupid. She couldn't seem to make her mind up about anything at all. I understand that accepting a contract to be a sex slave would be a very big decision, but it wasn't only that that she couldn't agree to or decline. She didn't seem know what she wanted and so a lot of her behaviour made her look really hypocritical. At some moments, she was sure that she didn't want to be dominated, but her actions really didn't reflect that. Her relationship with Christian Grey was just, in general, disturbing. I don't mean that by the fact that they're indulging in BDSM sex, but rather because although they both claim to want to avoid it, they are constantly mentally manipulating each other.
I can understand why people find Christian Grey attractive (and hey, if he's played by Ian Somerhalder in the movie, I probably would too), but I, personally, find his lifestyle to be degrading to his sexual partners and I found him to be disgustingly controlling (not just in his 'Red Room of Pain'). I will admit that I did like his joking in his e-mails and his slight charm, but I can't really excuse his mood swings just because he had a certain cheeky humour. It's certainly up for debate and I am sure that a lot of people will think 'he's messed up, has issues and it's not his fault', but I can't buy in to that - there's still no excuse to act the way that he does with Ana.
So why the two and a half stars? Despite being really quite irritated by the ever mood-changing characters, I still managed to get hooked into the book and found it to be quite addicting, probably because (once I had read a few chapters), I found it easy to read. If you don't look too deeply into it, it's not completely terrible - I think that this is something that you've got to be quite open-minded to read and enjoy. If you push some things aside, it's easy to get engrossed. As a reviewer, I thought that the quality of writing was rather poor and I just didn't like or connect with the characters. I didn't hate this book, though and I certainly don't regret picking this up as I did need to make my own decision about it. Do pick it up to make your own decision, but this book is not for the easily embarrassed or the overly critical.