I just finished reading All of the Fifty Shades Books by EL James.
It was really fast. Minimal emotional investment required. The books are long-ish, but they are written in a straightforward style one would expect from a young adult novel. (The content is certainly not young adult…) So that is off putting for some. The repetition of words and phrases is another common criticism and indeed, you will notice it is repetitive. All of the books, as best I can recall and with the exception of a few flashbacks and one part of book three epilogue, are written in first person present tense from Anastasia’s point of view. I was personally bugged to no end by her juvenile inner dialog. Also, not a lot of work was put into Anastasia’s character development. Some of this made me wonder whether the editor was out to lunch.
Other petty complaints: I’m sick of her inner goddess and her subconscious and would actually pay to see the two of them fight to the death in a no holds barred cage match. The email exchange was irritating and rung false to me because of the perpetual changes to the subject line and auto signatures. Really Grey? If you can take the time to edit the “CEO Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.” howsabout you just go ahead and delete it on your personal correspondence, huh?
So, not a lot going on in EL James’ literary bag of tricks, she appears to have a somewhat stunted vocabulary range, and the narrating character is somewhat of a cipher. Well b-o-o, h-o-o. This is chick romance, if you came here looking for literary chops, you are very definitely misguided. On to the meat and potatoes…
This book is about BDSM. I’m sure some will argue that it’s about transcending BDSM, but I didn’t get that exactly. If you have an aversion to “kinky fuckery,” (not mine) this is not the book for you. For the most part, I am naive to the world of BDSM, however, I did read a book called Whip Smart, Melissa Febos, a while back which is an autobiography of a college age women who came to be a professional dominatrix. While there are some similarities between the practice as described in each of the books, there is not consensus. Whip Smart makes it seem much more dirty, gritty and disturbing. I wonder if this writer is very well studied or experienced with this.
So let’s talk about how this compares to other chick romance. Keep in mind, ladies, I am reporting back from the other side… if some of this seems ill informed, it’s probably because it is…
It seems formulaic, even prerequisite in the genre that the male character be rich, stunningly good looking and enormously well hung. The female, she has to be a virgin. Check. Prerequisite accomplished. Christian Grey is the founder and CEO of a billion, million, bajillion dollar company. He is also capable of making every women coo and swoon. And of course, he is a human tripod. As for Anastasia, Ana, she is a twenty-two year old virgin, but wait! you also get virgin who has NEVER pleasured herself, prompting me to ponder, “just exactly what kinda college did she go to?” Of course, she has never climaxed before, not once in her young life, but manages to do so repeatedly and often in every encounter in the book… including her first… with the human tripod… My bullshit meter is standing back with its head tilted saying “ah, c’mon!” Maybe we’ve just been doing it wrong.
I tend to cringe at the sex scenes in all genres, but I’m acutely critical of the sex scenes in the romance genre. For chrissakes, it’s your stock in trade, you ought to at least be able to do better than Lee Child, right? You’d think, right? So let’s go down the checklist of my erotic writing pet peeves. 1) Clinical description of body parts: I’m deducting points for the occasional use of the word “vagina” and the machine gun staccato repetitive use of the word “erection”. perhaps not clinical, but sounds, so, so, constructed, built. 2.) Overly schmaltzy description of the body parts: again, I’m deducting here. “his happy trail” times at least fifty thousand, cringeworthy… “down there” or in cases where its punctuated “down there!“. 3.)The verb used for the act itsself: a passing score. 4.) Campy dialog during the act: a misdemeaner here for the very first time when Christian assures her “don’t worry, you stretch too..” or some such. 5.) Overly shopworn or purple adjectives: minor deduction for repetitive descriptions. 6.) Ridiculous metaphors for the act: Passing Score. Final word on the quality of the sex writing? surprisingly passable, more readable than the last one (see Lothaire/Kresley Cole review)although I may have been distracted by the specific “kinky fuckery” content.
I especially hated the way the first book ended (or more accurately, failed to end.) I would have been completely disgusted had I not had the second book handy to start. The first two books are essentially one big book. The third book is vestigial. This is largely why I decided to review all three book en masse, it’s really difficult to separate one and two, and three is sort-of an also ran.
My favorite part was a combination of the first time Ana met Christian Grey in an interview in his office, and then in the epilogue in book three where this interview is rewritten from Christian’s POV. This is a commonplace literary device, sure, but I still like it. Also, it goes a long way towards solving one of my primary questions throughout the books, which is “Why in the name of all that is holy does this young, worldly, rich, physically perfect, well dressed, well endowed man want anything at all to do with this frumpy, klutzy, little girl?” Certain attributes about Ana were not apparent to me until seeing her from his point of view. This could have been handled subtly throughout the story somewheres about the first or second book. Too bad I had to wait until the very end of the third book.
My favorite character/person was Christian Grey, who is a wonderfully conflicted character. Outwardly flawless, inwardly a 17 car pileup during rush hour. He reminds me of the Eric Packer in Cosmopolis, Don De Lillo, which is one of my all time favorite books. Ironically, Cosmopolis is being released as a movie starring Robert Pattinson (of Twilight renown) as Eric Packer, who is also being considered for the role of Christian Grey in the upcoming Fifty Shades movie. Coincidence? I think not…. betcha both movies suck.
This book can be summarized by “gentlemen, pay attention because this is new; some women evidently like the rough stuff.” That’s the takeaway. If that isn’t what you meant to do, Ms. James, you should definitely write another book.
I read this book because I was nominated as an expeditionary for all men to read this and to report my findings in the weekly meeting. Specifically we must know why EVERY female in North America has now read it. Some of them twice.
1: I have no idea what I just read, I didn’t get it.
2: I got it, but didn’t like it much.
3. I get it… a solid and worthy entertainment.
4. This book will go on my shelf.
5. I will likely read this again.
Filed under: Book Reports