So I Actually Read Fifty Shades of Grey – My Reactions

I had not planned to read Fifty Shades of Grey and I certainly did not expect to enjoy the book.  I had written it off as something overrated.  When I first heard about it I learned it was based on fanfiction out of a book I hated (Twilight), so I didn’t have high expectations.  But Fifty Shades is actually much better than Twilight, in my opinion.  Amazingly, characters based on Bella and Edward seem much more real and likable.  Anastasia Steele, unlike Bella, actually has a personality and seems to have some agency in her own life.  Christian Grey seems complex in his own right – not just because he’s a vampire who is therefore dangerous.  Additionally, I think Fifty Shades of Grey is better written then Twilight.  One of my biggest barrier to liking Twilight, other than disliking the main character, was the writing.  Fifty Shades, while no masterpiece, held its own.  The book could have used some better editing to tighten the story and strengthen the writing.  There were a few scenes at the beginning that seemed unnecessary.  I had a few main writing complaints: Overuse of passive voice, overuse of adverbs (particularly “languidly”), overuse of “smirk/smirked”, and the bizarre split personality inner conversations and acrobatics of her “inner goddess” and conservative subconscious.

Ultimately, for the genre, this book was satisfying.  You don’t pick up this book looking for something deep.  Given those expectations this book delivered.  I found myself actually rooting for the characters and their unusual relationship.

I’ve read a number of reviews criticizing the book, many through a feminist lens, and many of the criticisms are correct.  The writing is adequate, but not great.  The relationship IS a bit twisted, and Mr. Grey is certainly messed up psychologically.  He is controlling and seemingly sadistic.  He is the first person that Ana has ever dated, let alone has had a sexual relationship with, which is a little weird and adds to the element of unequal power in their relationship.  But I think Ana does actually see something deeper and better in him, and puts her foot down when she needs to.  She doesn’t just go along with everything.

Is this book the model for what to look for in a relationship?  No.  But not all the behaviors are bad.  Christian insists on honesty, and opens up to her himself.  I actually went on to read book two due to the cliff-hanger ending of book one, and in book two their relationship evolves beyond how Christian initially sees her.  Should these books be taken as a realistic depiction of BDSM?  No.  Some members of BDSM subcultures have not been very pleased with the popularity of this novel and the way it depicts the lifestyle due to the inaccuracies.  Should these books be taken as an example of how a woman can changed a deeply messed up man and cure him of all his messed up tendencies?  Get real.  Sure a good, healthy relationship can help people work through their issues and provided necessary emotional support, but let’s be realistic – you should never enter a relationship because you think you can be the one to change him.  Depending on the behaviors this can be a particularly dangerous mindset.

However, if you like the romance genre and are willing to set aside the need for feminist critique, the book is a good beach or lazy Sunday read.  If you enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse novels (TrueBlood) and could get through the writing styles of Stephanie Meyers or Dan Brown then you will probably enjoy this book.

3 out of 5 stars

Here are my thoughts over the course of the book (no major spoilers):

  • P 16 – This book fell into my lap so I’m going to read it. Just finished chapter 1 and surprisingly the writing is pretty good. A bit too much passive voice, but that’s my only complaint so far. Also I’m comparing this to Twilight for 2 reasons: 1) since it started as fanfic that’s a benchmark and 2) popular for similar demographics.
  • P 81 – So far it’s actually pretty engaging. The main character is far more likable then Bella in Twilight and the writing is better as well. So far it doesn’t seem similar to Twilight at all, except a few lines that seem like they were written in the context of a centuries old vampire.
  • P 112 – Just passed the part with the contract. Up until now the story has been believable. However, the contract is just… Weird. Also, way too many adverbs.
  • P 124 – First sex scene. Pretty well written actually. Feet licking and biting, even in passing, is eww. Ditto for belly button licking. Other than that not bad. We see Grey’s sensual side for the first time and then learn he has a sad side.
  • P 169 – If I hear “my inner goddess” one more time… Also, “languidly” or “smirk”.
  • P 309 – Between her inner goddess and her disapproving subconscious, Ana seems a bit schizophrenic. I’ve had a few chuckles and enjoy Christian and Ana’s email exchanges.
  • P 430 – I could have done without mentioning tampons at all in their sexual relationship.
  • P 470 – Their relationship is developing and does feel like a real relationship.
  • P 514 – Just finished the book.  I admit it, tears came to my eyes, but then again I cry at Hallmark commercials.
2 Responses to “So I Actually Read Fifty Shades of Grey – My Reactions”
  1. mqallen says:

    Seems like a fair review. Still not going to read it but I’m not exactly the target audience :)

    • bahia says:

      Thanks! I have yet to find any guy who has made it through this whole book, but I think the success of it just goes to show that it’s OK to have a very focused audience.

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