I was admittedly late to jump on the Fifty Shades bandwagon. I’d heard about the book way back when it was still only available in ebook format and many of my friends on Goodreads couldn’t stop raving. I read the synopsis time and again, wondering what all the fuss was about and debating whether or not I would be able to love it as much as so many women do. I knew the answer in the back of my mind. I really should have stuck to my guns, but in a way I wanted to read the book for myself to at the very least have the chance to either validate or change my close to cemented opinion.
I’ve seen a few interviews with the author, and before I continue I want to say that she seems lovely. Charming and friendly and funny. It also takes courage to pen something like this story and have it blow up into such a phenomenon so kudos to E.L. James for that. As a writer myself I know how hard the criticisms of others (readers especially) can be, but I figure that the book has already lauded so many favourable reviews that a not so favourable one can only just barely, if even, balance the scales.
I bought the book on a whim and started reading. At first it was fine, I can’t say I loved the writing style, it seemed amateurish at best but it could be overlooked. Although the amount of times Ana referred to her “inner goddess” made me want to hurl. You’re not a goddess little Ana, you’re a whiny, insecure girl who wants so badly to be a woman. I’ve read many a romance novel before and a few that would be better categorized in erotica and seriously, they all had a better story than this one.
Bottom line, I knew going in that the context of this book – a dominant/submissive relationship would irk me. I’m reluctant shuck it up to feminism. I think bottom line, it’s the fact that I couldn’t get on board with any woman who would willingly subject herself to what amounts to an emotionally and physically f’d up relationship between a man who wants everything his way, screw the feelings of the woman in the twosome, and a woman who is so eager to please and not lose the guy that she embraces all his whims and abuse. Honestly, if this were a relationship in real life, I’m sure many a female friend would corner the girl in question and berate her for her stupidity.
It wasn’t romantic. It wasn’t hot.
Neither Christian, nor Ana were likeable characters and frankly, despite the fact that Christian is supposed to be all kinds of delicious looking, I’m sure there a hundred other guys out there who look just as good in jeans and a white linen shirt (ew) who wouldn’t need to lock you away in a sex dungeon, attach you to chains and have his dirty way with you.
It was startling to me that Ana thought Christian was trying to be sweet and caring with her at times. In those moments I found him nothing but cold and detached. It was like he didn’t know how to be human. Sorry but that ain’t my cup of tea. More to the point, I found the whole book left me feeling angry and restless. I wanted to corner Ana and tell her how idiotic she was. How worthless she let herself seem and how at the end of the day she didn’t know herself well enough to know whether she could handle what Christian wanted.
For a girl who never clambered on board the Twilight Train, I could definitely see the similarities in character between Bella and Ana and it peeved me off. Ana I will say was mildly stronger, but she was still willing to throw all her morals out the window for a guy she thought she was in love with after all of a week. Come on girl, are you that much of a fool that you think sexual attraction equals the big L? They knew nothing about each other. How could she possibly love a guy who keeps himself so in shadows. And Christian, well he’s deep ain’t he? Listens to obscure classical music, plays the piano, and has a tortured past. Cry me a river.
The fact that she had never been in a relationship before, hadn’t even really had blips on the radar, let alone had a sexual relationship didn’t jive with the rest of the story and her instant attraction to Christian. Their first time together was neither romantic nor endearing. It left me feeling cold and somewhat disgusted that a girl who wants so badly to have a romance and feel loved, who has waited for the right guy, would throw it all aside for a pretty face. Talk about shallow. Christian’s behaviour is a step away from all out stalker. How charming – where or where can I find me a man like that?! The guy keeps constant vigilance on her every move, tries to ‘fix’ her life by insinuating himself in every aspect of it. Gosh, where would any of us be without a Christian Grey to buy us cars, laptops and upgrade our flights to first class. Don’t even get me started on his attempts to control her eating, sleeping and dressing habits. In what world would any woman be okay with any of this? Certainly not one who respects herself even a little bit. His only redeeming qualities for Ana seem to be his loveable ‘slips’, his money and his good looks. Christian is condescending at the best of times and fairly creepy most of the way through. The girl can’t slip and roll her eyes without a threat coming her way from her supposed sex God. On mention of the sex scenes, they’re average at best, let me tell you there are better written books with sex scenes in them!
Obviously this ‘review’ is more of a rant.
But bottom line, the message being drilled into readers’ heads all the way through is that given enough time and patience a girl can change a man for the better. Bring him into the light and fix all his traumas. I’m sorry but that just doesn’t work for me. I’m all about being sensitive to others’ needs, caring for them and accepting who the person is without judgement or recrimination. But to devote yourself and compromise your beliefs or comfort level for a man who is abusive and self-centered thinking that you can change his f’d-upness. Ana thy name is masochist. It seems as though the author, whether intending it or not, is promoting the idea that a woman should willingly sacrifice all of herself, her wants, needs, expectations, for a man. For any man really who can “love” and “protect” her. Oh, but don’t forget he should be good looking and rich. Whenever Ana stood up to Christian’s behaviour, readers were then treated to her alternating emotions of being pissed of with the guy and then feeling sorry for hurting him by standing up to him. Is this not classic abuse mentality?
The potential for rape is also dismissed in the book quite early on. Ana’s friend Jose, who has harboured a crush on her for years, corners her in an alleyway while they’re both drunk. He forces himself on her quite strongly even though she says no quite a few times. It was an uncomfortable scene to read, and yet Ana, who has her dark knight to step in and save her, decides to forgive and forget Jose after he does a week of groveling. One coffee date and they’re back to being best buds, walking happily arm in arm down the block. It’s pathetic and very off putting. The messages are messed up in this book.
Obviously I won’t be reading the next two. I wouldn’t survive without hurting someone. As it is, I only got through this one at the insistence of a friend who told me I should finish the book if only to write a review. He watched me read a page and huff, read a chapter and cringe, read a few lines and rant.
Ultimately, I’m somewhat disappointed that this was the book to legitimize the reading of romance novels. I would be reluctant to put this book in that category, but I guess if it means that people won’t be so quick to judge women for reading romance than so be it. I just hope that all the women who adored this book will branch out and find some actual romance to get lost in.