Thursday, 21 June 2012

Fifty Shades of What???

Warning: this review contains some spoilers – Do not read if you haven’t read or finished the Fifty Shades of Grey series

A few months back a friend from across the pond asked me if I had heard of this phenomenon that had hit the States called Fifty Shades of Grey.  I hadn’t but went and checked out the link that he gave me and have to say that I wasn’t entirely blown away by the description.  Or at least, the book didn’t scream ‘buy me buy me’ when I was reading the synopsis.  I didn’t think much of it after that until a few weeks later when a very good friend of mine texted me one afternoon.  I won’t say exactly what she said to me (much too explicit!) but basically ordered me to get Fifty Shades of Grey and read it immediately as it was amazing.  Having now had two people recommend the book to me, I decided to bite the bullet and downloaded the first of 3 books in the series called Fifty Shade of Grey.

So, who hasn’t heard of this book?  It's what everyone is talking about at the moment.  It’s everywhere.  On Facebook, Twitter and if you stop and listen, I am pretty sure you will hear someone talking about it on the bus or on the train.  Fifty Shades of Grey has taken the world by storm, pretty much like Twilight did in its prime. 

My experience with these books has been a little bit up and down really.  The first one hooked me and drew me in and had me gasping for more.  It really does suck you in and before you know it, you are addicted.  I am not sure if I was addicted to the book or if I was addicted to Christian Grey.  I even tweeted and facebooked a few times about wanting my very own Christian Grey.  It would be heaven to have a man as gorgeous as the author described him, or as rich as he apparently is with that dark brooding side to be obsessed with me like Christian is with Anastasia.  Oh yes, I will have some of that thank you very much. 
But what sets this series apart from anything else mainstream out there is the kink.  You want to read about sex?  Well, you need to be reading Fifty Shades.  You want to read about bdsm?  Have you bought the book yet?  There is oodles and oodles of it in the book.  I have read in a few places that the byline for Fifty Shades is ‘Mommy Porn’ and I would have to agree with that. 
What is surprising is that it has gone mainstream.  I personally think that is great and that is one incredible thing that Fifty Shades has done.  It has taken a topic – Erotica – and has got everyone talking.  It has turned shy, reserved and conservative women into raving sex goddesses.  Suddenly, its OK if you are telling your best friend (and in some cases, the world) that you plan on being hogtied by your lover this weekend.  I just heard a woman tell another woman that her friend told her she was going to be buying her very own bondage kit this weekend after reading Fifty Shades and aside from giggling, nobody sat there stunned by this revelation.  I cannot see that being the case a year ago?  For that, I think Fifty Shades has been awesome.  A lot of woman (Mommy's?) will also be living out secret fantasies when reading this, keeping them hooked and turning pages at the speed of lightening.

After I read the books, I recommended them to a few of my colleagues at work and the feedback has been the same from all of them.  Hooked.  Love it. When is the movie coming out?  And that is another thing that’s got everyone buzzing. Who is going to star in the movie? Who is going to play Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele?  I admit that if I happen upon an article about casting for it, I stop and read it.  I have my own personal favourites who I hope will star in the role of Christian and its not Robert Pattinson!

Now for the downside.
EL James, the author, apparently finished reading Breaking Dawn from the Twilight series in January 2008 (I read this a few weeks ago and hope I have remembered this fact correctly) and decided she was going to write her own book.  It shows.  There has been some bad reviews regarding her credibility as a writer, just like there has been some for Stephanie Meyer, but who cares?  If you can write a book that is selling millions and has become a cult phenomenon, do you really need to write like Charles Dickens?  Indeed, everyone has stood up and is now paying attention.  But that's not the point I am trying to make.  It's the Twilight references I am referring to.  Fifty Shades of Grey is Twilight rewritten. Just take out the vampires, the paranormal and add kinky sex and you have Fifty Shades.  While I don't think that's an unforgivable sin I do think the writer let herself down.  She had a brilliant idea, and has taken a somewhat taboo topic and made it mainstream which is incredible, but would it have been such a bad thing if she had chosen a new and original plot?  Instead, almost right throughout the book I pause as I realise that this or that character represents this or that character from Twilight.  Christian is obviously Edward as Anastasia is obviously Bella.  Other obvious parallels are Mia/Alice, Elliot/Emmet, Dr Grey/Carlisle etc etc.  And then there is the plot.  Brooding, gorgeous, unobtainable man meets clumsy, naive young girl.  Welcome to my world he says...only this time, instead of vampires and scary monsters, its bdsm and scary rooms full of sex toys.  

Don't get me wrong.  I didn't hate it. Not at all!  I still loved the story and in some ways, when I spotted the references I smiled, but she could have done so much better.  She could have done anything!

Also while I LOVED Fifty Shades of Grey, for me Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed didn't quite measure up.  I will admit that this is entirely a personal choice, but I loved the edgy, sexy side of book 1. While there is a constant supply of sex scenes through all the books (believe me, it never stops!) I missed the naughty, erotic scenes that was the focus of book 1 and became less and less so in the later books. Also, it felt that slowly the power started to shift from him to her and the story started to evolve into more of a love story than what it originally started out to be. In a small way, this was disappointing as I was initially totally enthralled by our hero Christian and it turned out he was just a regular guy after all.  Nothing wrong with that of course but the man that I read about in book 1 was really the man I was hoping to still be reading about in book 3 and it felt less and less like it the closer I got to the end. 
Perhaps EL James had intended to make him the flawed, soft hearted (yes, that he is!) man that he ended up being.  But I missed the tough guy with the firm voice and controlling manner.  Perhaps I am just a little kinky myself but judging by the reaction of all these women who are reading and raving about Fifty Shades, I don't think I am the only one.

Did I hate Fifty Shades?  Not at all. I loved it! I rated it 5 stars on 'Goodreads' and I am not changing my mind. It's a great story and its written in such a way that you cannot, nor will you want to put it down.  Do I understand the hype? Not really if I am honest.  But I do love that an 'Erotica' book has gone mainstream and perhaps that's what all the hype is about.  Everyone can finally talk freely and openly about kinky sex and not have people thinking you're a pervert.

Though I could be wrong about that? :)



Veronica Stewart said...

I have admittedly only read the 1st and loved it, will read the 2nd and 3rd, look forward to that too.
Great honest review! Well done you!!

Bernadette Davies said...

Thank you lovely. Funny, as I was writing a comment on your blog, your comment on mine just came through! x

Anonymous said...

Excellent review. Not sure that is my type of perversion, but, sounds like an interesting read.
By the way, Yes, You should write more often. Then again , I may be selfish.


Jane Isaac said...

Fabulous review, B. Love your honesty. So - I'm gonna have to succumb...

Molly said...

Great and thorough review. I admit I now find myself curious enough about what this kinky sex is like to order the book on my Kindle. I can then just answer hubby when he asks what I'm reading: "just another romance novel, nothing special". I know, I'm a coward. Maybe once I've read it, I'll be transformed!