I'm really not a book snob. I can usually find something in any genre of books that I would consider worth reading and my book selections tend to be quite eclectic. There are two genres of fiction that I generally steer clear of and admittedly would be embarrassed to be caught perusing the shelves in those sections of a bookstore, fantasy and romance.
E.L. James' romance/erotica novel, Fifty Shades of Grey was definitely not on my TBR list. It landed in my hands for two reasons.
First, it's a huge pop-culture phenomenon. I started feeling left out. It's a bit like Twilight or Harry Potter, you need to read it to be "in the know".
Second, my aunt gave me her copy. A friend convinced her to buy it and she couldn't get beyond the first couple of chapters. It's like when you eat something that you don't like and want someone else to share in your misery. "I hated it. Here, try it". Thanks.
So I did. I contemplated skipping writing a review, so that I wouldn't have to admit to having read Fifty Shades of Grey. Instead, I'm swallowing my pride (theming intended) and confessing to having read it.
The novel is told from the perspective of recent college graduate, Anastasia Steele, who in her final weeks of college is sent to interview an insanely rich buisness man, Christian Grey, for her college newspaper. In addition to being rich and attractive, Christian also has a mysterious dark side. He seduces Anastasia, who happens to be a virgin and offers her a position as his sexual submissive. Anastasia is both horrified and intrigued. The story unfolds as a power-play between the two characters as they negotiate both their needs and emotions.
I kind of don't know what to make of this story. It wasn't 100% horrible. Honestly, a fair bit of it was entertaining. It was not in the slightest bit sexy or erotic. This is probably just me, but I felt like the sex parts bogged down the pacing of the story. They were so graphic that they left nothing to the imagination. It was dull to read as it didn't engage my imagination. Unfortunately, this was also a large chunk of the story. I have no idea how this is going to translate into a compelling movie.
I had a difficult time connecting with either main character. However, I did like the parts of the story that were told through an e-mail exchange. Anastasia and Christian spend a fair bit of the story exchanging flirty and sometimes angry emails that felt genuine. James did a great job at capturing that rush of excitement and toe-stepping that happens when you first begin a relationship. There are many great little moments in the email exchange.
There was one phrase that Anastasia uses repeatedly, seemingly on every page, that drove me nuts. Inner Goddess. What the hell does that even mean? It just sounded silly every time I read it. Her character is someone who is obsessed with classic novels and has unrealistic romantic expectations, so in some ways it fits. It still sounded ridiculous.
I knew nothing about the author before reading the book, but within the first couple of chapters, I knew that she was British. She uses phrasing that Americans don't use. I probably wouldn't have caught this, if I hadn't recently married a Brit. In fact, I wouldn't have picked up on it at all, as it was slight. I'm not knocking her writing, it just was something funny that I noticed.
The ending was very unsatisfying. It doesn't really even set you up for the next book. It just ends and it's depressing. I definitely don't feel compelled to find out what happens next.
I enjoyed the kitschiness of the dialogue. James often reminded me of author Jacqueline Susann. The story rarely takes itself too seriously, which is why it works. Personally, I enjoyed reading about Christian's house/plane/helicopter. I wanted to read in detail about the clothes that he bought for Ana. Forget the erotic parts, I wanted to hear about the fabulous dates!
In the end, I'm glad that I read it and now know what the fuss is all about. I'm highly unlikely to read the other books or see the movie version, but I don't feel like reading Fifty Shades of Grey was a waste. It's decent escapist literature and if James decided to branch out into something less genre specific, I would read her.