A Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James

It seems that everywhere you turn, people are talking about the novel Fifty Shades of Grey, part of a trilogy series including Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed. The book is being targeted towards ladies of a certain age and it is hoped the book will take over where typical ‘aga sagas’ leave women wanting more. There are scenes which are extremely explicit and it could be that the personal nature of new e readers may have lead partly to the success of this novel, prompting a re-release of the trilogy as a new and revised edition.

So apart from female explicity, what is the book actually about? Well Twilight fans will be interested to know that the story was based on the characters and relationship between Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. A Twilight fanfiction if you will, originally entitled ‘Master of the Universe’ under the penname “Snowqueens Icedragon”. After much criticism for the explicit content in the book, James decided to rewrite it as an original piece in its own right. Thus the reworked and extended version of Master of the Universe was then titled Fifty Shades of Grey, and the names of the main characters had now been changed. Released in both e-book and a print-on-demand paperback back in June 2011 by The Writers’ Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher based in Australia, the second volume, Fifty Shades Darker, was released in September 2011, and the third, Fifty Shades Freed, followed in January 2012. The book grew in popularity by personal recommendations, word of mouth and online blogging. It would not be an exaggeration however to suggest that the explicit nature of the book has attributed mainly to its success.

And so to the actual story. Recent college graduate Anastasia Steele attends an interview with handsome, enigmatic and manipulative billionaire Christian Grey. Thinking she has failed the interview she believes she will never see him again, but he has other plans. He wants her to sign a contract allowing him complete control over her life. She agrees but as she gets to know him she learns that he wants to involve her in indescribable practise, and that previous childhood abuse left him an extremely damaged and dangerous individual. She is a virgin who has never previously had a boyfriend and Christian wants her to be his submissive to do with as he pleases in his ‘Red Room of Pain’.

The reaction to this novel has been mixed, with most reviewers deciding that the actual writing style is nothing to write home about, and yet the story in itself is gripping and you certainly want to keep reading and turn the pages. Princeton professor April Alliston writing “Though no literary masterpiece, “Fifty Shades” is more than parasitic fan fiction based on the recent “Twilight” vampire series.” Whitney Frink, a producer of Access Hollywood, criticized the book’s explicit content, stating “If it helps awaken your bedroom imagination, so be it. But let’s not tout this book as anything other than the big step backwards that it is.” The New Zealand Herald stated that the book “will win no prizes for its prose” and that “there are some exceedingly awful descriptions”, but that it was also an easy read and if you “can suspend your disbelief and your desire to – if you’ll pardon the expression – slap the heroine for having so little self-respect, you might enjoy it.” Not everyone can read the book and ignore the poor writing style however with the Metro News Canada writing that “suffering through 500 pages of this heroine’s inner dialogue was torturous, and not in the intended, sexy kind of way”. The Telegraph criticised the book as “treacly cliché” but wrote in favour of the explicit politics in Fifty Shades of Grey, stating that it will have female readers “discussing it for years to come.” A reviewer for the Ledger-Enquirer described the book as guilty fun and escapism, but that it “also touches on one aspect of female existence. And acknowledging that fact — maybe even appreciating it — shouldn’t be a cause for guilt.” The Columbus Dispatch criticized the book but also stated that “Despite the clunky prose, James does cause one to turn the page.”

So ladies, if you are of a certain age and not averse to spot of S&M, get down to your local library and put in a request for this book!