50 Shades of Grey

Warning: Explicit content. It's the book that's been taking the world by storm, but does it actually live up to the hype?

50 Shades of Grey by EL James (Arrow Books)

WARNING: Considering that this is a work of erotic fiction that features elements of BDSM, this review may contain a few references to sexual and deviant acts. Not your kind of thing? Click here to check out our other book reviews.

When I first heard about 50 Shades of Grey, I at first, did my best to ignore it. I've got issues with book hype you know.

Ultimately though, this ended up being one of those times when my curiosity overrode every single impulse to ignore the furore surrounding the book, and to give it a read. 

So what did I think of it? And just how similar is this book to Twilight, considering that it did start off as a work of Twilight fan fiction?

Finally, is the book really worth all the hype?

What the book is about:
For those who haven't heard about the book, 50 Shades of Grey is the story of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey.

Young, naive, unworldly and innocent (as in “virgin” innocent), the young literature student meets the enigmatic and attractive billionaire when she's forced to interview him for their college newspaper after a friend falls ill.

Simultaneously attracted to and intimidated by the billionaire, she's convinced that she won't see him again, especially after that embarrassing and disastrous interview. But, that's where she's wrong, because Christian, for all intents and purposes, is a man who goes after what he wants. 

And it turns out, that inexperienced Ana is just what he's after.

When he turns up at the store where she works, invites her out for coffee and warns her away from him (pretty silly, considering that he was the one that initiated the contact), Ana finds it hard to resist him.

What follows is a passionate affair that takes on a whole new meaning when Ana discovers what lurks beneath the surface of the entrepreneur.  Christian, as it turns out, is a man tormented by demons, and dominated by a need to exercise control in every way, but especially in the bedroom.

And when he shows her his kinky playroom, filled with all sorts of BDSM material (whips, chains, riding crops, canes - the whole shebang), by then Ana realises too late that she's gotten herself involved in something that goes beyond the realm of her expectations.

What I thought:
Let me say start off by saying this: It's time for Edward Cullen to move over and make some space; we've got a new tortured hero (well, anti-hero to be more precise) on our hands and his name is Christian Grey.

And judging by the memes I've come across on pinterest (there are a ton by the way), women are all going gaga for this fictional character. Not that I blame them. But, more on that later.

I think if you're looking for a well-written piece of literature, with engaging and thoughtful dialogue, you're probably not going to find it here. 

The book is a work of erotic fiction, and you'll often find that with books in this specific genre, the writing of the book is often sacrificed due to the specific focus on the graphic sex and other salacious content within these kind of reads (There are of course, exceptions to this rule).

As my colleague Lili put it, kinky fiction is about sex with a bit of love tossed in, while romance fiction is about the love story, with a bit of sex thrown in.

So, If you're looking for romance in this book, you'll probably find some of it, but, just so you know, the sex play is the predominate feature. 

And trust me when I say that there is a LOT of sex. In fact, I'd say a quarter of 50 Shades is dedicated to giving readers a brief introduction to the characters, while the rest of the book focuses on the many, various horizontal and vertical and diagonal ways in which Ana and Christian engage and indulge in.

Both of the vanilla and kinky variety.

I could barely bring myself to read this book in the train; the book had me blushing 50 shades of scarlet (by this you can probably tell that I don't normally read books in this genre).

About the writing:

While I certainly found myself rolling my eyes throughout the book (one case in point: Ana has an inner conscience and an inner goddess whose voices make themselves heard throughout the novel - it was both cheesy and REALLY, really annoying), I have to admit this book is a compulsive and very, very addictive read. 

There were instances where it felt like the author was repeating herself (Ana's constant lip-biting habit and Christian's instant reaction to said habit for one), but I found myself being rather forgiving as the dynamics between Ana and Christian were what interested me.

So, is it similar to Twilight?:

I do see some over-lapse between the two books in the sense that the relationship between Ana and Christian is just as compulsively obsessive as Edward and Bella's. He is, after all, a dominant, and Ana his submissive (Not that she makes for a great submissive by the way - she tends to balk at most of his suggestions).

I should add here, that the author portraying her in this way, is probably a good thing, due to the fact that BDSM is often viewed as being demeaning towards women, and considering that this book has now gone mainstream.

Christian is as protective of Ana as Edward is of Bella, but I think he takes his stalking and protective tendencies a notch higher than dear old Edward.

Of course, Ana is naive, clumsy and doesn't know the power of her own beauty until, yup, you guessed it, Christian Grey starts showing an interest in her.  Does sound a bit like Bella Swan, doesn't it?

So, is it worth the hype then?

That, I think is up to you to decide, because at the end of the day, I think it's going to be one of those books that you either love or hate.

Personally, all flaws aside, I am, much to my  own shame, ridiculously addicted and already currently devouring Fifty Shades Darker, book 2 in the trilogy.
 
You can look out for an exclusive interview with the author and reviews of the next two books coming your way shortly.

Keen on reading this book? Buy your copy now. Read our review of 50 Shades Darker here.

Read this book yet? Tell us what you thought of the book in the comment box below.

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Goodbye, dear Sue Townsend

2014-04-14 14:57
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