Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
It’s not often that a book leaves me sitting the fence; I usually either love it or hate it. Fifty Shades was one of those few reads for me. I have so much to say about it, so please forgive me in advance if my review sounds more like word vomit than coherent thoughts.
The BDSM factor, i.e. the sex scenes: All in all, I found the sex scenes to be Fifty Shade’s strength. I’m all for self-expression in the bedroom, whichever side of the spectrum that expression may be. I’m not a big BDSM fanatic, but I’m not opposed to it either. I figure, whatever floats your boat, so to speak. So the sexual nature of the book didn’t deter me in the slightest, but I definitely wouldn’t say it changed my life. I just found that these sections were the best written.
Characters: This is where it’s going to get lengthy, so don’t touch that back button.
Let’s start with Anastasia. When the book first started out, I found her annoying and unbelievable. I had a really hard time relating to her because I have such a hard time believing that a young woman in her twenties has never, not once, ever had any kind of sexual thoughts, like ever. Sorry, but it just killed her character for me. Well, that and the fact that she had a hard time even talking about her sexual parts AND she had a serious self-image issue….But, after a while, more specifically, as she blossomed from a never-thought-about-sex virgin to an insatiable kitten, she started to seem a little less annoying and a little more real.
Christian, on the other hand, was a totally relatable character for me. As “fifty shades of fucked up” as he was, he just seemed more like a real person to me. He had a past, a history, a story. There were a lot of things I didn’t like about him as a person, but isn’t that what we look for in a character – a personality that is real enough that you have things you love about them and things you hate about them? Christian gave me that. One minute, I hated him – like wanting to scream at or throw my Kindle hate him. The next minute, I was able to sympathize with him. There was one thing that totally drove me nuts about Christian, though…something that kept throwing me off out of the story. One minute, he’s all, “Anastasia, you may fall and hurt yourself. Which will put you in direct contravention of rule number seven, now six,” and the next minute he’s all “Laters, baby.” It’s like he’s got a split personality and while Ana does make several mentions to his “mercurial” personality shifts, this is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde different. Thankfully, these personality shifts are only occasional so they’re not overly disturbing or distracting; it was just enough that I felt it was worth mentioning.
Consent, Abuse and other things worth mentioning: I know there’s been quite a few discussions about the underlying control theme in Fifty Shades. Christian is extremely controlling and some have made claims that this kind of behavior in a character could be seen as a “bad example” for women in controlling/borderline abusive relationships. Here’s where I stand on this one: Christian’s behavior is very controlling, but given his past, it’s not surprising. And one thing that makes his type of controlling behavior different is the fact that he doesn’t try to isolate her (other than the NDA regarding their sex life), he doesn’t attempt to psychologically damage her, and he actually controls aspects of her life that would KEEP her from getting hurt, which is kind of the opposite of most abusuers. Does that mean that it’s okay for women to try and “rescue” a man like Christian? Nope. Does it mean that I condone or agree with his behavior or controlling personality? Absolutely not. That is exactly the kind of thinking that lands women in abusive relationships. But is Christian “abusive” per say? Not necessarily. Now, before anyone attacks, let me explain. What would be seen as abusive would be in the context of the consensual BDSM relationship between Ana and Christian. Punishment and physical pain are not unheard of in BDSM relationships, and the fact that they are consenting adults negates the “abusive” aspect of it.
Food for Thought: I have to wonder, what is it about Fifty Shades that has made it so controversial? Is it the fact that Ana is so innocent? Is it her lack of self-esteem? Is it Christian’s controlling personality? I have a feeling that it’s a little bit of all three. When mixing these three components together, it’s quite easy to see a potentially abusive situation, and it is true that many abusive relationships are founded on these principles. But it’s important to remember that, as popular as this book may be, it is simply a book – a book that tells of one woman’s fantasy to have a man who knows how to control her body and the bedroom. Nothing more, nothing less. A good friend said it best – what others do with their interpretation of the book is not the responsibility of the collective. Those that interpret a book like Fifty Shades as a reason to stay in an abusive/dysfunctional relationship would have stayed in that relationship, regardless. Those that interpret a book like this as one that tells them it’s okay to continue pursuing guys that hurt them would continue to do so anyway. And just in case you’re wondering, I’m not pulling these thoughts out of nowhere…I spent many, many years trying to “change” or “save” men from their tragic histories; I am a survivor of domestic violence.
All that said, would I read Fifty Shades of Grey again? No. Do I plan on reading book 2? Yes, when I get around to it. I’m not in a crazy hurry or anything. Like I said at the beginning of my very long review, I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it. I’m on the fence, but obviously, reading it elicited some sort of response out of me, otherwise, I wouldn’t have written such a long review.
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