There’s been a novel making waves lately in different circles. Or in all circles. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James. It has been receiving some very mixed reviews and I admit to some curiosity about it. I downloaded and read the free preview from Amazon Kindle but was unwilling to purchase it based on that unimpressive beginning. However, a friend let me borrow her copy and so I read it. I decided it would be a good book to review. At the very least, I thought a few people would have an opinion about it. 🙂
Be warned, from here on out, there will be spoilers. If you haven’t read it and want to, without having anything ruined, then don’t continue.
To begin with, I had low expectations when I started reading this book. As I mentioned above, I was unimpressed with the free preview. That’s not saying much, as the free preview only covered the first three chapters, I believe. Not really a big enough section to get a real sense of the book itself. I was curious enough to accept the borrowed copy from my friend though and I finished reading it in about a week. It’s not a difficult book to read and it certainly didn’t require any deep thinking on my part.
The premise of the book is simple. Young woman meets powerful young man and there is an instant attraction or interest between them from the beginning. He ‘runs into her’ again in the next day or two, and insists that they see each other again after that. She resists, figuring he’s too rich and intense for her but he persists. Eventually they have a proper date and he confesses his…intentions for their relationship. Turns out, he’s into a bit of the kink and hands over a contract that would see all her sexual needs met, and possibly exceeded. All she has to do is hand over total and complete control of her mind and life to him. Of course, she can’t help but come back to him time and again, like a moth to a flame. From all indications, just as destructive a result.
Reading over this brief summary is familiar. Not because I just read the book, but because I’ve seen this type of story before. Maybe not exactly the same. Who hasn’t read a book about a shy woman meeting a strong man and failing to resist his advances over and over. No matter how her doubts plague her, she can’t help but fall under his spell. Even his constant insistence that he’s no good for her doesn’t deter her. In the end the woman always thinks she’ll be the salve to his wounded soul. It’s the same with this book.
The main character, Anastasia Steele, is a bumbling, inept, shy young woman, incapable of realizing how sexy and beautiful she is. Tired premise. The man, Christian Grey, is a complicated, rich, powerful and incredibly handsome alpha male. Tired premise. The only thing new here is that the male lead is into S&M.
Slightly off topic: I get so tired of reading the same stories about alpha males and their weaker female counterparts. I know I’ve bitched about this before and I’ll do it again. Just once – ONCE! – I want to read a story where the woman tells the man to take a hike. I want to read a woman who says OK, you’re right, when the man says I’m too messed up for you. Alas, I have yet to read it. On the other hand, I have yet to write it as well. Hmm… New idea…
Back to the book review. All of what I read in this story is nothing I haven’t come across in some form or another in something else I’ve read. I can’t wrap my head around why this story has suddenly jumped to the top of every bestseller list and why women – and men, I suppose – all over the world are shocked and delighted by something that has already been done. Is it the sex? I’ll be honest, it’s not that kinky. The BDSM only goes as far as some bondage and some light hitting with a riding crop. Of course, this is only the first book I’ve read so I have no idea if it goes deeper into that lifestyle or not.
My biggest issues with this novel have nothing to do with the storyline or the sex. Lord knows, I can’t make any comments about either of those things. 🙂 One thing that bothered me the most, and I had a very hard time getting through the entire novel because of it, is the complete lack of editing done to this book. You all know how I loooove to edit so when I say that my fingers itched to take a red pen to this entire book, you have to know it was bad. There are so many common amateur mistakes in this book, it made my head spin. This novel is riddled with adverbs, overly flowery language and the repetition of so many words and phrases I wanted to scream.
Anastasia bit her lip so many times she should have damn near chewed it off before page thirty. Christian is described as beautiful, mercurial, intense and unbelievably handsome just about every time Anastasia looks at him. No one is that good-looking and even if he is, mentioning it once or twice is more than enough to cover that. The constant head cocking, blushing, scowling and smirking is ridiculous.
What’s amazing to me is that this book was published without a single once-over, it seems. Maybe there was a cursory copy edit done for spelling and punctuation but any good editor would have trimmed the hell out of this novel before allowing it to see the light of day. It wouldn’t have ruined anything, believe me. It would only have helped and enhanced the story.
The second biggest thing that irritated me was the character interaction. There was no steady flow between them. It would bounce from being light-hearted and funny to serious and intense from one line to the next. Yes, I realize conversations can be that way between couples but every time? Not likely. And the way Christian continuously forced his opinions and gifts on Anastasia was unattractive, to say the least. Yes, I know he’s rich and can afford to buy her a brand new Audi (!) or state-of-the-art MacBook, but her repeated refusals went ignored, as if her opinions didn’t matter to him. What man would say that to the woman he’s supposedly infatuated with? Shouldn’t her opinions and feelings be important to him enough to follow her wishes at least once? Apparently another annoying alpha male trait is to ignore the wishes of the woman.
Well. Now, looking back on what I’ve written above, it sure seems that I didn’t enjoy this novel. Forgetting for the moment that I’ve just listed everything I found wrong with the story, I will say this. Brace yourself… It wasn’t all that bad. It was no great work of literature, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t horrible. It was a fun, light read and I can see the appeal in the story. What woman wouldn’t love to be swept off her feet by a rich and sexy man with a strong sexual appetite? It’s a fantasy and that’s all a good romance novel is. The fact that this woman has managed to capture the imagination and hearts of so many people, from all different walks of life, is quite the accomplishment. Maybe you’ve read the story and agree with at least some of what I’ve written here, maybe not.
I found the story at least interesting enough to want to finish the series, and that’s saying something. But I’m only interested enough to wait until someone lets me borrow the next two novels. 🙂
Until next time, take care and happy reading.