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Fifty Shades: Book One

Updated on October 08, 2013

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.

Summary

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.

Favorite Quotes

“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?

See results

Get started on the next one!

Fifty Shades Darker
Fifty Shades Darker

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Fifty Shades Darker

Review of Fifty Shades Darker, the second book in the Fifty Shades trilogy, can be found here!

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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Nicely done! You've outlined the book without giving away the farm. I enjoyed your review and give it a thumbs up! Voted up and interesting.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      I haven't read this so this article was very interesting. I will share this!

    • DFiduccia profile image

      DFiduccia 4 years ago from Las Vegas

      This is a nice open-minded review of a controversial book.

      Voted up—DF

    • Michelle Taylor profile image

      Michelle Taylor 4 years ago from New Jersey

      I agree with tillsontitan that this is an excellent overview without giving anything away. I read all three books and I am still debating in my mind if I liked them or not. As an erotic novel I felt it to be slightly lacking. My tastes tend more towards the Black Dagger Brotherhood and the Night Huntress series. However I was oddly intrigued by the story and finished the series in three days simply because I HAD to know what happened next. I am definitely going to direct people who are still on the fence about reading this series to your review! Voted up!

    • CrazedNovelist profile image

      A.E. Williams 4 years ago from Hampton, GA

      I really liked that you told the people who hadn't read it to skip the summary. I appreciate the spoiler alert. Also, I've heard a lot of controversy about this book and I think you did a great thing by being concise and giving your opinion in a broad spectrum. From what I understand is that it's not a typical erotic fiction and that its characters are dynamic and supported by a wonderfully stylized prose. Right? I think I may pick them up or at least add it to my never-ending list of "Books To Read". Thanks for this article! :)

    • uNicQue profile image
      Author

      Nicole Quaste 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I appreciate the feedback from all of you so much. It really makes me look forward to writing more!

      CrazedNovelist, it is certainly not a typical erotic novel, and the characters are what me made me such a big fan. I wouldn't say the prose is particularly unique, but I also wouldn't say it is simplistic in a way that is relatable to the Twilight series or something of that nature. It is often witty and moving, and I think it takes a great author to do that.

    • profile image

      NaomiPickett 4 years ago

      I really like grey :) nice hub

    • writerjj profile image

      writerjj 4 years ago

      wow, thanks for this hub. have already placed it in line once done with game of thrones (urggg, why did the tv series have to be so good!!!)

    • uNicQue profile image
      Author

      Nicole Quaste 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      I'm about to read the Game of Thrones series as well! Couldn't resist after that show.

    • Jean Bakula profile image

      Jean Bakula 3 years ago from New Jersey

      I read all 3 after hearing all the fuss, and think you did a good job on your review without giving too much away. When Ana questions Christian's lifestyle choice (as Dr. Flynn describes it), it appears he really isn't sure why he's the way he is. Yet even from that first meeting, it was obvious she had just as strong affect on him as he had on her. Both were people in their mid 20's who never had a real romantic relationship or steady BF or GF before, so in that way they were on level playing ground. Or both were a little behind in that way, despite all of Christian's knowledge of sex he picked up from his lifestyle. I thought it was better written than people were describing. Both Ana and Christian are complex people, and both struggle with it. So once I got to the 2nd book, I sort of liked them as a couple. I think after we got the gist some of the sex scenes got boring, but it did explain the whole Dom/Sub thing. I think the author left it kind of open, I wonder if we will be seeing another book from it? Christian may get bored after a while, he lived the old way a long time. Plus they jumped into marriage after knowing each other after what, 3 months? Good job though.

    • belleart profile image

      belleart 3 years ago from Ireland

      Is it true that fifty shades started as "twilight" fan-fiction, cause that would def put me off reading it. I've also heard its a bit misogynistic, but as i haven't read it, i wouldn't know.

      I have a friend who read it and gave out loads because apparently it shows people who are into S&M as having something wrong with them or really bad childhoods, she was not at all impressed with that :)

      I don't think it stopped her from reading the whole trilogy though...

    • uNicQue profile image
      Author

      Nicole Quaste 3 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Belleart- I do not know for sure about the Twilight fan fiction. I did read that the story developed that way, but it's hard to be sure about those things. I can completely understand how that would deter you. It actually took a lot for me to read them at first as well. As I mentioned in one of my reviews of the three books though, it all depends how you want to read the book. As for the S&M thing… I didn't get the sense at all that it was making generalizing statements about people who enjoy S&M having issues or bad childhoods. I think that may be reading a bit too far into what is a rather simple, entertaining novel. There are PLENTY of criticisms that can be made for this trilogy, but again, if you read it simply for entertainment and a little bit of romance (albeit a nontraditional romance) I think anyone can enjoy it.

      I find while reading these comments and talking to other people that most people have a ton of critiques and pull the novel apart, yet everyone ends up reading the whole trilogy, because it really is fun to read. There is nothing wrong, in my opinion, with reading novels for the sole reason of being entertained, and not because the novel is worthy of great literary respect. If you do decide to read them, let me know what you think!

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