I’m a librarian. I’ve been reviewing books, popular fiction mostly, for fifteen years. This is the book that everyone is talking about and I simply had to read it. It’s been front page news, literally, of the Sun Sentinel and countless other papers. Worthy of a fabulous, filthy skit on Saturday Night Live. Numerous TV interviews. Over 500 people (mostly women) showed up at one of her first book signings in the U.S. at Books & Books in Miami. E.L. James is the ‘it’ girl of the year. Why?

After reading this, the first book in the trilogy, I’m still not sure. Yes, I can agree with all the reports (including the author’s own admission on the Today Show) that it is poorly written. It is annoyingly repetitive, cliché-ridden, and smarmy more often than not, yet somehow it’s also completely captivating. The story is as old as time; fresh faced innocent college girl meets gorgeous powerful “older” (he’s 27, my son’s age!) billionaire with some added kink thrown in. Call it “Intro to BDSM” or Bondage Light. I wouldn’t classify this as romance in the strictest sense of the word as there are no wedding bells at the end of the book, but it is definitely erotica. And not very good erotica. Yet somehow it works and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. It ends with a cliffhanger, forcing me to pick up Fifty Shades Darker. Stay tuned for that review…

FIFTY SHADES DARKER by E.L. James: Book Two in the trilogy of the year starts off where the first book ends. Christian and Ana are going through hell being apart. No worries, Christian works his way back to Ana, and she to him. Ana grows up a bit in this book, learns to be a bit more assertive and less intimidated by her domineering billionaire Christian. There are some subplots but the point of this book is, like the first book, all about sex. It is as poorly written as the first book, with frowns, lip biting, and smirks on every page, but there is no denying the heat between these two. It is an easy read, an easy book to skim if that is your wont, and still an engrossing story. See my review of the final book, Fifty Shades Freed, for more thoughts on this series.

FIFTY SHADES FREED by E.L. James: It’s hard to summarize these books without giving away the major plot points, and there is little point in reading them if you know what is going to happen. That said, as a trilogy, these books form a complete story arc. The length is due to all the sex, which is occasionally quite erotic, but more often than not, just repetitive. The glimmer of dominance and submission, bondage and discipline is fun and apparently quite fascinating to most readers. If you want more information, legitimate information, on the subject, I highly recommend Screw the Roses, Send Me the Thorns: The Romance and Sexual Sorcery of Sadomasochism by Phillip Miller and Molly Devon. If you just want titillation, stick with 50 Shades or for the real down and dirty, the Sleeping Beauty series by A. N. Roquelaure (also known as Anne Rice,) or the Story of O by Pauline Reage. The difference is that it is probably easier to identify with Ana than O for most women because the love story there goes both ways, while that is not clear in O’s case.

Final thoughts…the appeal of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy lies with the characters and their great love affair. We can’t help but root for the insecure girl who lands the gorgeous rich guy, and the damaged man brought out of the dark by her. Ana and Christian save each other, inspire each other so that their sum together is greater than their parts. Their torrid love affair, the “mommy porn” aspect is candy to some, inflaming imaginations and libidos, while others will fly past those pages. Nonetheless, Ana and her 50 Shades bring to mind other great loves in literature like Romeo and Juliet, and Scarlett and Rhett, with apologies to Shakespeare and Mitchell. Most romance readers are looking for that, and those that don’t usually read romance are perhaps surprised at how they are swept away with Ana and Christian, enough to overlook the abysmal writing, the lip biting, the smirking. I know I was. KINDLE

6/12 Stacy Alesi

Women’s fiction
Book Discussion

2 Responses to FIFTY SHADES OF GREY by E.L. James

  1. […] it seems to me that this definition is now in a state of flux, due to the enormous popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James. Or more to the point, the profitability of romances with explicit sex seemingly has […]

  2. […] read the Fifty Shades trilogy back in 2012 (and reviewed here) and these were my final thoughts…and they still hold true for Grey. The appeal of the […]

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