So, I read “Fifty Shades of Grey”…

11 Aug

A while back, I was part of a conversation where people were talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey books. At that point, I had only read a part of the sample from Amazon and I was less than impressed with what I saw. I had a good time reading the reviews of the books, and making jokes about them but I had no desire to read on.

After that, I found myself working with a group of women who had read the books. I was listening to them talk about the books and I could see how enamored they were by them. Based on what little I had read, I couldn’t understand why they enjoyed these books so much. Certainly, there had to be sexy stories that were also well written, right?

I have this personality quirk where I like to understand where people are coming from. Even if I don’t agree, if I see people getting caught up in something like this, I will want to understand why. I’m the same with politics and TV shows too. I will watch TV shows that I don’t even like, just so I know what people are talking about and I can form a valid opinion on the subject. So… Fifty Shades of Grey. I wasn’t curious about the stories, I was curious about the reaction to the stories. Finally, I decided to sign into my local library’s ebook selection and read the books.


I will start with the positive. I did find the books entertaining, in much the same way that I enjoy eating cotton candy. They are the type of books that you pick up when you don’t want the challenge of reading something deep, like a comic book. That is a perfectly valid thing to be, I suppose. Lord knows, the audience ate it up. I’m not going to claim that everything I write is the greatest, most sophisticated thing ever written, and not every books should be. Sometimes you just want to turn the brain off for a little while. These books are good for that.

Now to the less positive.

At times, I found myself rewriting scenes as I was reading them, just so I could relate to the characters or so that the desired emotional notes would be hit for me. I don’t imagine that most people think the same way that I do, so this is probably more of a “me” issue.

The characterization was not really well done. While setting the book in the US, British author E.L. James continuously fell back on what she was familiar with. This resulted in a lineup of the most British Americans I have ever seen… which made them all seem a little pretentious. Having one character who enjoys parts of another culture is fine, but when it expands to more and more characters it just becomes a weakness of the writing. It is a failure to properly set the scene. I don’t know of any American that I have ever heard refer to someone’s teeth as “all-American teeth.” We usually just call them teeth. This issue left me wondering why the books weren’t just set in a place and culture more familiar to the author.

Did I find them super sexy? Only in the way that I find any somewhat abusive relationship sexy… which is to say, no not really. This is part of what puzzles me about the reaction to the book. Whereas I see emotional and sometimes physical abuse, those I have witnessed discussing the books saw something sexy and appealing. But different strokes for different folks, I guess.

As I said, there is some entertainment value in the books. I have certainly read far worse. Does that make this review positive or negative? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure that I’m any closer to understanding the craze surrounding these books now than I was before I read them.

What I can safely say is that the movie version of this story has a really solid cast… so, there’s that.

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