Fifty Shades: Book One
Though the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by British author, E.L James technically falls under the genre of erotic fiction, I hope that you have not hastily made up your mind that this is a typical "trashy" or "slutty" novel comparable to those books with the exaggerated muscle-men on the cover, passionately holding a woman on a beach with waves crashing around them. I assure you, this novel exceeds the cliché. E.L. James managed to combine all of the elements of a truly great novel: an exalted love-story, dynamic characters as well as relatable characters, sense-heightening and highly detailed scenes that become unforgettable, installments of passages that elicit utter fear and others that create a sense of peace and happiness, elements of wittiness and charm, and of course, the passion. I fear that I will run out of words in my review of this novel, which is unfortunate considering there are two more in the series. If you have not read the book, skip the summary section (there will be some spoilers), and check out some of my favorite quotes, and learn some more about the author E.L. James.
I will attempt to keep this as PG-13 as I can, but I can't make too many promises considering some of the content of the novel.
Fifty Shades of Grey is the story of a young woman named Anastasia Steele, a recent college graduate, and an immensely successful businessman named Christian Grey.
Anastasia (Ana to everyone except Christian) is one of the most relatable characters I can remember reading about in a novel. Graduating with an English Literature degree, Anastasia has a deep interest in the classics, namely British literature, and has few other sincere interests outside of that realm. From the very beginning, Anastasia is jealous of her roommate Kate, who is described as a beautiful strawberry blonde who has a power over men that Anastasia never had, until she meets Christian Grey. Although a pretty girl, Anastasia frequently feels inadequate, insecure, and simply awkward. She is also charming and witty with a dry sense of humor, all of which make her a very likable character and one that readers will identify with. Her sole comforts come in the form of reading, and drinking tea and the very occasional glass of wine. Admittedly naive, Anastasia had never been in a serious relationship, therefor had never engaged in the type of sexual relationship many people have by the end of their college career. That is, again, until she meets Christian Grey.
Anastasia meets Christian when she is obligated to do an interview of him for her roommate when she falls ill, for their school newspaper. After she embarrasses herself by literally tumbling into his office, we get our first description of Mr. Grey.
"So young- and attractive, very attractive. He's tall, dressed in a fine gray suit, white shirt, and black tie with unruly dark copper-colored hair and intense, bright gray eyes that regard me shrewdly. It takes a moment for me to find my voice."
After the interview, Anastasia feels overwhelmed and says, "No man has ever affected me the way Christian Grey has, and I cannot fathom why. Is it his looks? His civility? Wealth? Power? I don't understand my irrational reaction." After recollecting herself, she analyzes her emotions (as she does quite frequently throughout the novel). "Okay, so he's very attractive, confident, commanding, at ease with himself- but on the flip side, he's arrogant, and for all his impeccable manners, he's autocratic and cold."
It doesn't take long to learn that Mr. Grey had also been affected by Anastasia. He shows up at the hardware store where Ana works shortly after their interview, and from there on he makes multiple requests at seeing her until we get to the real plot.
Like I said before, I'm sure many of you guessed that there was erotic material in the novel, but what you may be unaware of is that the plot revolves around it. Anastasia learns that Christian Grey has plans for her that terrify (yet strangely excite) her. Christian presents Anastasia with a contract that defines her as a submissive, with Mr. Grey as her dominant. Every aspect of submissive's life, from sleeping, eating, dressing, and exercising will be controlled by the dominant, and if obedience is not given, the submissive will be punished and (in case you don't see where this is going...) queue the S&M. Ana is hesitant and fearful of signing this contract, thus declaring herself completely under the control of the wealthy demi-god. With so little experience, Ana is unnerved by the aspects of the contract that detail the methods of punishment/pleasure Christian plans on using. She instinctively wants to run from this frightening man who wishes to show her things she never even knew existed, yet she feels trapped by the developing feelings she has for the less sadistic, slightly more human side that Christian slowly introduces to her.
Ana continually manages to stall the singing of the contract, negotiating certain details, which Christian begrudgingly agrees to out of desire to have her in any way he can. While negotiating the contract, Ana also works at discovering the true Christian. She fights to learn why he became the way he is, why he's so reserved, and why his emotions shift at an exhausting frequency. The more disturbing details she learns of Christian's past the more information she craves. In the meanwhile, Christian eases into their contract, providing Ana with first experiences and new overwhelming feelings, both physical and emotional.
As Christian fights for her to sign the contract that he has gotten so many women in the past to consent to, Ana fights to bring out the loving human in Christian, and the two are trapped in a constant battle of emotion and passion that eventually leads to extreme pain, in more ways than one.
About E.L. James
E.L. James, wife of 20 years and mother, started her career writing fan fiction for a variety of books/movies, most notably for Twilight. It was her work on Twilight that eventually became The Fifty Shades series. James was also a TV executive prior to writing her best-selling trilogy. James and her family live in West London. This year, James was listed as one of the Time's "100 Most Influential People in the World". Click here to see E.L. James' official website.
“Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. Perhaps I've spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high.”
“Why don't you like to be touched" Ana whispered, staring up into soft grey eyes.
"Because I'm fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia"
“Never trust a man who can dance. ”
“Are you smirking at me, Mr. Grey?” I ask sweetly. Pompous ass.”
“Men aren't really complicated, Ana, honey. They are very simple, literal creatures. They usually mean what they say. And we spend hours trying to analyze what they've said - when really it's obvious. If I were you, I'd take him literally. That might help.”
“Your stepfather? I'd like to meet him."
Oh no... why?
"I'm not sure that's a good idea."
Christian unlocks the door, his mouth in a grim line.
"Are you ashamed of me?"
"No!" It's my turn to sound exasperated. "Introduce you to my dad as what? 'This is the man who deflowered me and wants to start a BDSM relationship'. You're not wearing running shoes.”
After reading the first book, do you think you will read the other books in the Fifty Shades trilogy?
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Fifty Shades Darker
Review of Fifty Shades Darker, the second book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, can be found here!