Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L James
Rating: * (out of five stars)
So I did it, I read THE book, the one that no one's shut up about all summer. I figured that if I was going to continue to argue so fervently against the damned thing I should probably have read more than a few random extracts that I'd seen online. Of course I was curious to see what all the fuss was about too, but in my head I liked to think I was doing it for "research purposes" (or at least that's how I referred to it before I realised it sounded like my research was something other than literary criticism).
I went into Fifty Shades of Grey with expectations so low they'd probably melted to nothing in the lava rivers of hell, and for the first few chapters even these lowly standards weren't met. I felt E.L James' portrayal of women was appalling; she very much went with the Victorian-esque extremes which I thought had perhaps been left behind. On the one hand we have Anastasia Steele, a girl so boneless she literally falls down at Christian Grey's feet when they first meet and apparently can't be trusted to deem whether her car us safe to drive. Then there's Kate Kavanagh, the workaholic who needs a "nice guy" to finally make her appropriately feminine again. Plus in these first few chapters Grey simply seems like a dick, and a creepy one at that.
The picture does improve and happens to coincide with the sex starting up. Once these characters become more complex they do develop into vaguely interesting characters, especially in the case of Christian. In no way did I like him; the quote "fifty shades of fucked up" fitted him quite perfectly. But his background did give him depth and even if I was no personal fan he was at least less one dimensional than Ana.
I suppose now it's time to talk about the sex. It was a bit of a let down for me, no where near as explicit as I expected and didn't seem to me to be anything particularly revolutionary. And that's coming from a teenager. Perhaps I've been spoiled by the beautiful fan fiction I've read, but it did practically nothing for me. It wasn't even amusing. As for the fabled tampon scene I don't quite get the hype.
Overall this was I suppose just marginally better than I expected. By no means a good book, but if you just want to know what all the fuss is about you'll probably make it through unscathed.