‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James

Unless you like to read erotic sadomasochism, don’t buy this.

Because you may have seen this book everywhere lately, you might be wondering about it and I felt a responsibility to address it.

It amazes me that booksellers are shamelessly promoting ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ as a powerful bestseller. Normally it would be lurking on a back shelf somewhere with a warning attached. The cynic in me suggests that publishers saw $$$ signs in their eyes with this one and went for it, publishing immediately in paperback with a classy looking cover, and launching a bold marketing campaign.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not a prude. I am not against a trashy beach novel with a few steamy scenes now and then, but this one goes too far and has no literary merit whatsoever.  The writing is poor, with a thin plot line and undeveloped characters providing only a stage for the erotica. I couldn’t finish it.

Sex is not a spectator sport and a book like this undermines the beauty of sex in committed relationship. So should there be any sex in novels at all?

Sex and violence are part of human story and therefore do belong, unless they are gratuitous. Some authors hint at sex and others are far more explicit, making it a matter of style for the author and matter of taste for the reader. If sex is handled well by an author it can naturally flow from the narrative and add to the story. Author skills vary in this area but we do recognize those who capture a moment well and those who do not. The purpose of the author in any case, is to produce good literature and depict human story. The purpose of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ however, is to titillate and stimulate, not to educate, appreciate or acculturate.

6 responses to “‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ by E.L. James

  1. Excellent analysis… but, now I do want to pick up this book! Can’t win, I guess.

    • Incidentally, Kindle has beaten book sales two to one with this one, because it offers discreet reading – no raised eyebrows from a librarian or bookseller. The publisher tried to achieve that with a nondescript cover (ie. no one in a passionate embrace) but that backfired because the book and series have sold more than a million and now everyone recognises it!

  2. I have been curious why this book received so much attention… maybe it’s because it makes the erotic available under the guise of literature. When I heard the author interviewed it squashed any interest, especially when she cited the Twilight series as an inspiration. If you need to escape with an intense romantic story, read Jane Eyre. Read it again if you have already done so… much better in every way no matter how many times you read it. Thanks Joanne for this review!

  3. Oh, and I did not read these books… I don’t have the time or inclination.

  4. I too am amazed at how this series has skyrocketted into prominence! It’s Harry Potter for adults – people lined up at the book stores! All my colleagues are reading the series…huge watercooler discussions happening. Think I’ll give the books a pass – too squeamish for torture!

  5. Delighted to see your review saying it is shocking how this book has been promoted and its horrendous success. To me it seems like a warped form of Mills and Boon for the 21st Century. Certainly the writing has no merit yet it attracts an audience because of its content.I read the first of the Twilight series and I thought it was very well written and I enjoyed it, the sequels were less successful however to my mind. I do not understand the connection that James makes with the Twilight books and I gather Stephanie Meyer politely responded in a way which made clear she also did not understand the connection. Anyone can claim that something inspired them but that doesnt mean that the source of inspration has anything to do with the “inspired” result.

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