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

Fifty Shades of Grey
What an interesting book. It had a lot going for it, but it had a lot against it as well, and that’s making it hard to rate. This is a big departure for me. I don’t read erotica very often and it’s rare for me to read anything with BDSM in it. But when Juliana recommended the book I had to at least see if it interested me. I went to Google Books and started reading the sample, but the first chapter didn’t impress me at all. I left her a message saying the equivalent of “thanks but no thanks” but then kept reading in idle curiosity. By the third chapter I was intrigued enough to change my mind and get a copy. Fickle, thy name is Catherine. 😉

What turned me off so much about the first chapter was the writing style. It was rough, very rough. The book is in first person present tense (I loathe that style) and it read like fan fiction. It had the unpolished feel that I associate with many of them, and it had a bit of a ‘this, then this, then this, then this’ feel to it. Not really my style. But, the set up interested me. The heroine was very blushing and innocent and easily overwhelmed by the hero, but I can adapt. Not all of my heroines need to be strong and badass in the beginning. In addition to a rough writing style, there were also quite a few typos. I’m not the biggest stickler, but I have to admit that it was irritating and that I expect better from published authors.

While the writing was the biggest downfall of the book, the plot and the character development were its saving grace. I am…conflicted about what I thought of Ana. On one hand she felt bland and underdeveloped, almost like a placeholder heroine. She was very innocent, which I didn’t necessarily mind, but she also felt childish, which I did mind. She was very contained on the outside—sometimes I would forget about this until another character brought it up—but was a mass of insecurity and uncertainty on the inside, which made it occasionally painful to watch her timidity around Christian and any kind of conflict. On the other hand, she really impressed me with her approach to the possibility of a relationship with Christian. She was intrigued by him but repelled by what he wanted from her. I couldn’t help but enjoy her as a heroine, despite the problems I had with her, because she pretty much reflected my whole issue with BDSM in general. I enjoyed watching her try to reconcile her dislike of his desires with her honest desire to be with him. She also became much, much stronger as the book continued on and impressed me by really following what she needs. I’m very curious to see how this develops.

The shining star of this book was really the hero, Christian. He was a fascinating character. Reading about him felt reminiscent of reading a Robin Schone book. I was drawn to him for the same reason I was drawn to Schone’s heroes Michael and Gabriel—complexity. Here was a man who didn’t have a problem interacting with people and charming them, but he didn’t actually desire any close ties. He was afraid of intimacy—although I’m sure that’s not how he saw it—and was repulsed by the thought of being touched and cuddled. Everything had to be on his terms and he was confounded by his overwhelming attraction to a woman who was not part of his scene, who did not like being submissive, and who hated the thought of being punished for someone else’s pleasure. His moods were mercurial and he could occasionally veer toward stalkerish and obsessive, but underneath it all he was devastatingly vulnerable and tortured. Both he and Ana had to take a hard look at themselves and really figure out how much they wanted to be together. They both had to make steps to compromise and try to find a middle ground.

So, this leaves me with the conflict. How do I rate something that absolutely fascinated me, despite leaving me occasionally uncomfortable with the subject matter, yet which had such an irritating writing style? I wavered between C and B and am still somewhat hesitant on the grade that I have chosen. I think I’ll have to go with a B, though, because I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pound it and immediately fiend for the next one when I got to the end. I hated the style, yes, but I’ve found better written books that didn’t interest me half as much, so I think I’ll just have to go with my enjoyment level on this one.

Rating: B-
Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
May 26th 2011 by The Writer’s Coffee Shop Publishing House
Series list
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  1. says

    Awesome review! I’ve read and reviewed this one, too and rated it 4.5 stars. Funny enough I’m a stickler myself, but was so fascinated by the plot and characters that I didn’t notice any errors. I actually loved the writing / first person’s pov. Gave it an edge. Especially because I was intrigued by Fifty, but could experience everything through Ana’s eyes.
    Christian Grey – to me only “Fifty” :-)
    I, too, felt ambivalent about Ana’s decisions / behavior sometimes. She often let Fifty control her in the worst way possible. Then again, that’s exactly what made me keep reading.
    My review: Fifty Shades of Grey
    Happy Thursday!

    • says

      Totally with you! I absolutely *LOVED* the book – and was trying to convince everyone and their mother on GR to read it, LOL. Catherine was definitely not the only one remarking on the writing, but for some reason none of that even registered for me when I was reading it. I don’t know if I was so involved in the story or if I just wasn’t bothered by it, but I loved, LOVED, *LOVED* everything about that book. Can’t wait for #2!

    • says

      Yes, that’s what kept me reading as well. I don’t think the story would have been half as compelling if things about them had been changed. It was fascinating to watch them both push each other’s boundaries in different ways.

  2. says

    I am definitely interested in reading this. It was my understanding that this story is a revised version of a fanfiction story the author wrote, but my information could be wrong. Regardless, it sparked my curiosity enough to add to my TBR. And look at you, Catherine, stepping out of your comfort zone for some erotica/bdsm. High fives! :)

    • says

      You’re right, Amy, it was originally fanfiction. Didn’t even know what that was until I read first Gabriel’s Inferno and then this. I didn’t like GI, but absolutely LOVED Fifty. And woohoo!! Managed to convince Catherine to read a really dirty novel 😉 *naughty grin*

      If you haven’t read this yet, I can’t wait to hear what you think! It’s become my new obsession.

    • says

      Yes, I found out after the fact that it was originally fanfiction. Apparently that’s a bit of a hullabaloo for some.

      I know, right? That is definitely not my thing, but I really enjoyed. Juliana also pimped another one to me that I plan to try out as well. It’s called Butterfly Unpinned. We’ll see how that one works for me.

      • says

        I’m thinking of editing that review (i.e. make the SHORTEN Mistress come out of the closet … lol, wow, that could be taken in several different ways and be pretty funny, but sidetracked here) and submitting it to Sophia for FV.

        It’s an interesting read and hasn’t received too much attention, so might be nice to highlight. There are definitely things wrong with it, but I think it counts as one of those Hidden Gem reads for me.

        • says

          I think you should. I like seeing books showcased that are off the beaten path. Besides, it’ll give me an excuse to read it so I can comment on your review from the pov of someone who has read it and knows what you’re talking about. 😀

          P.S. You succeed at shortening your reviews? Not going to happen. 😛

    • says

      That’s what the author has it listed as. I double checked to be sure because I wasn’t sure if it was ER or straight E. It was a very interesting read. I had a bunch of friends read it close to the same time as I did, so it stirred quite a bit of discussion from review to review on Goodreads.

  3. says

    I am definitely not into BDSM tales, nonetheless have to say that I truly liked this one. This was those types of books that keeps you glued to the pages; staying up reading in to the early morning. I found it to be really addictive which is really disturbing for me personally.

    This is not your typical boy meets girl let’s date and fall in love romance. Christian wants to dominate Anastasia and he wants her submissive. He comes up with a contract that he wants her to sign. She’s torn between her love for him and her fear of him.

    • says

      I know exactly what you mean about being rather disturbed by finding a BDSM book so addictive. That is not a kink I find hot so it was a little odd to be so drawn into this relationship.