Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James

image(1)Book Description (Amazon): When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.

This book is intended for mature audiences.

My Review (Spoilers!):

Executive Summary: unique

So I went on vacation for ten days and during that time, I read only books that I wouldn’t read during my real life. 🙂 I’ve been wanting to read these books for a while, and mainly just because of the press that they received. I don’t like making opinions about things that I’m unfamiliar with, and I also don’t like to be unfamiliar with things that are are so popular. I have also never read a smutty romance novel before so this was altogether new for me. I will do my best to review it in a PG-13 sort of way.

Anastastia (Ana) Steele is preparing for her interview with Christian Grey, CEO of Grey Enterprise Holdings, Inc., in place of her roommate Kate Kavanaugh who is sick. Kate has provided Ana with a list of questions and a tape recorder. Ana arrives at the interview, stumbles through the door, and is completely and totally awkward (they aren’t her questions). Despite all that, Christian seems to be interested in her. He allows her to stay longer than her allotted time and asks her questions about her future. She doesn’t have any plans post-graduation (which is in a few weeks) except move to Seattle with Kate and try to find a job. He suggests that she should intern at his company but she replies that she doubts that she would fit in, and then the awkward interview is over.

Ana returns to Vancouver (Washington) and thinks about Christian the whole way. Smart, gorgeous, confident but also arrogant and cold. When she returns to her apartment, Kate asks how it went. Ana tells her that she was upset that she didn’t get any back story about Christian from Kate before the interview causing her to ask awkward questions. Kate apologizes and during this tells Ana that Christian is in fact quite young, only 27. Later after Kate has reviewed the tape, she tells Ana that it is good material, but she really wishes that she had a picture to go with the article (it’s for the school newspaper). The two begin talking and Kate is astounded that a guy finally had an effect on Ana.

Ana was raised by her step-dad, Ray, rather than her mother who is now on husband #3, Bob. She doesn’t seem particularly close to either parent. Ray is friends with Jose whose son (also Jose) is friends with Ana. Jose is a photographer and has a major crush on Ana that is not reciprocated.

That weekend, Ana goes to work at her job at Clayton’s, a family-owned hardware store where she’s been working for years. As she’s ordering items, Christian Grey comes in and wants to know whether she will help him locate some cable ties, masking tape, and rope. Ana, being completely clueless about what this book is about, offers him some coveralls to keep him clean while he’s doing his renovations. (I thought that bit was funny honestly.) She musters up some courage to ask him whether he will be around for a photo to go with the article, and he gives her his card.

She gets home and lets Kate know that they have a photo if they can get a photographer, and they call their friend Jose who agrees. Kate knows that it’s unbelievable that Christian would “accidentally” stop at Ana’s shop, but Ana is still skeptical. Ana calls Christian and they set up a photo shoot for the next day.

They snap some photos, and at the end of the shoot, Christian asks Ana to have coffee with him. She nervously agrees. The conversation is basically Christian’s interrogation of everything about Ana–her friends, her parents, her lack of experience with men and traveling. She begins to reciprocate, and asks him if he has a girlfriend. He says no, he doesn’t do the girlfriend thing. Since she knows from the interview that he isn’t gay, she’s a bit confused about the response. As they are leaving, she trips and is caught by Christian. At this moment Ana realizes that she desperately wants him (duh) but she’s too afraid of rejection and putting herself out there that she thanks him for everything and goes home.

When her final exams are finished, Ana arrives home to a package of first edition volumes of Tess of the d’Urbervilles (I am not in any way familiar with this book. Perhaps I should add it to my list of classics that I need to read.) from Christian with a quote from the book. Kate and Ana decide to celebrate graduation by going out bar hopping with Jose. Partway through the night, Ana decides to drunk dial Christian Grey who comes and rescues her as she vomits in the bushes. (Christian’s brother Elliot comes too and takes a liking to Kate.) Christian takes Ana back to his hotel room and puts her drunk, unconscious ass to bed.

She awakes in the morning completely flustered. Christian’s assistant Taylor has bought her new clothes (as hers were covered in vomit). She showers and has breakfast with Christian. He’s very angry with her (somewhat understandably) for putting herself in such a reckless situation by not eating and going out drinking. (This starts 3 books worth of Christian pressuring her to eat which is really annoying.) They begin talking about her new apartment in Seattle and other mundane things, but eventually the conversation makes an erotic turn. Then Christian mentions that he won’t touch Ana until he has her written consent. Uh, ok.

As they are riding the elevator to leave the hotel, Christian suddenly proclaims, “Oh, fuck the paperwork” and then presses Ana up against the elevator wall in an intense make-out session. He then takes her back to her apartment where Kate and Elliot are waiting. Along the way, they make plans to fly to Seattle that evening in his helicopter, Charlie Tango.

After finishing her shift at Clayton’s, Ana meets Christian to fly to Seattle. They go to Christian’s place where he provides her with a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This seems fairly reasonable for someone who is like the biggest CEO of everything (or whatever). Once signed, Ana asks Christian whether they can make love tonight and he tells her that he doesn’t make love, that there’s more paperwork, and that she needs to see the playroom.

The playroom has a variety of cuffs, whips, crops, paddles, etc. inside it and Ana begins to realize that there’s a bit more to this situation than just a sexy billionaire who is sort of interested in her. As she begins to ask questions, Christian reveals that he is a Dominant (dom) and he wants her to be his submissive (sub). Ana is obviously shocked but continues to go along with it to find out all of the details. They won’t have any sort of “normal” relationship, only the Dominant/submissive one because that is the only relationship that Christian is interested in.

He provides her with a list of rules which include the obvious that she is to obey any instructions that he gives her. The other rules include how much sleep she must get, how much food she should eat, what sort of clothes she should wear, exercise schedules, personal hygiene and personal safety. And also that she is not allowed to enter into any relations with anyone except Christian. (This is the part of the book that I thought was interesting. It is where the book shifts from being a typical romance story into something a bit more edgy.)

Ana is held up on some of the silliest reasons –him buying her clothes suggests that she’s a ho. Or that he shouldn’t mandate how much she exercises (um, you should be exercising that much anyway). Not like, hey this guy is going to control my entire life.

They move on to the “hard limits”, essentially everything that will not be done in the playroom no matter what, and Ana reveals to Christian that she’s not really sure what her hard limits are because she’s a virgin. He’s pissed as obviously this is totally unexpected, and he wouldn’t knowingly let a virgin become a submissive. So he goes against everything he knows and “prepares” her with lots of basic vanilla sex. Like a full day’s worth, and then Christian’s mother shows up just to say hello (awkward), and then Christian and Ana, contract in hand, leave to go back to Portland.

On the way back they stop at a restaurant and Ana learns why Christian doesn’t do the whole relationship/vanilla sex thing. He was brought into the dominant/submissive lifestyle by one of his mother’s friends when he was only 18. And he’s had 15 subs since then.

In the meantime between seeing Christian, Ana goes over the contract. She goes back and forth between being completely appalled by the idea and considering the possibility. Also in the meantime, Christian sends her a laptop to do some *ahem* research on. And also so that he can keep track of her. (Um, this book was written in 2011. How did an English/journalism/whatever major get through college without a computer connected to the Internet?)  She does some research on her new computer, goes for her first run ever, and then sends Christian a coy email telling him that she’s seen enough and it was nice knowing him. He shows up in person to remind her how nice it was to know him.

She responds to him with her issues about the contract, and satisfyingly, she has a lot of them. They address them at dinner on Wednesday. Ana ends up leaving early as the conversation overwhelms her.

Christian is the speaker at her college graduation. (Kate is the valedictorian and also gives a speech, which is weird because I don’t know any colleges that have valedictorians or current students as speakers at the graduation.) He talks about hunger as he was adopted at age 4 and somehow remembers what it was like to be hungry at ages 1-3. (I’m not saying it’s not a nobel cause; I’m just saying it’s a little forced.) After the graduation, Christian meets Ana’s stepdad Ray who likes him.

After graduation, they continue through the list. Christian agrees to try to separate and maybe go out as “normal people” one day a week. But only if Ana accepts his graduation present to her–a new car. They do some nasty stuff, and then for eye rolling, Christian spanks her. And she sort of likes it. But the emotion overwhelms her, and later that night, she sends him an email about how let down she feels that he never stays with her. So of course he shows up (again) to see if she’s ok, and she falls asleep in his arms.

When Ana arrives to work, a package awaits her. It’s a Blackberry (yeah because those were cool in 2011) so that she can’t avoid Christian’s emails no matter where she is. She simultaneously loves and hates it. Taylor comes by to pick up Ana’s old car, and Ana, Kate, and Jose have one last night out before they move. She briefly speaks to Christian when she gets home as he has left her a bunch of messages (doesn’t he have a job?)

Elliot helps Kate and Ana move to Seattle. Elliot is a lot different than Christian–warm and fun. They are both adopted along with a sister Mia who is arriving soon from Paris. When they arrive to their new apartment, a bottle of champagne is attached to a helicopter balloon from Christian.

Ana arrives at Christian’s to get her OB-GYN appointment to get on birth control. Maybe that’s common for rich people. It seems weird. Christian begins instructing Ana on her submissive duties per se. What do do, where to sit, to respond with “Sir”, etc. After Ana’s nap due to sexual exhaustion, they head to the Grey’s for dinner. Ana learns that Elliot is joining Kate on her vacation, and Ana announces that she is going, last minute, to Georgia to visit her mom. (Right because unemployed poor people buy flights last minute. I’m employed and not-broke and I search for the absolute best deal every time.) Christian is very upset that she hadn’t told him this so after dinner, he takes her out to the boathouse to um, introduce her to the lifestyle again.

They continue their “50 shades of fucked up” relationship learning a bit about each other. Christian’s birth mother was a crack whore and died at the hands of her pimp when he was a child which of course explains a lot of his issues. His adopted mother was the doctor at the hospital where he went for treatment.

Ana goes to her interviews, rocking the one she really wants–Seattle Independent Publishing (SIP) with Jack Hyde. She then heads to Georgia to visit her mother. Arriving at the airport, she finds that she has been upgraded to first class (Honestly she should have just taken Christian up on the private jet offer. Let’s be real here.) She meets her mom and step-dad, and they go to the beach. Her mom can tell that Ana has met someone, and Ana takes her mom’s advice because “she is on her fourth marriage. Maybe she does know something about men after all.” Um, I think she might not know anything about men if she’s on marriage #4. ??? Ana and her mom go to the bar for drinks, and unsurprisingly, Christian is there. Ana was mad that he had had dinner with “Mrs. Robinson” the night before, so obviously to fix everything, he flew to Georgia in his private jet. Does this guy ever actually work? She spends the night at his hotel, and in the morning, they go gliding, which in fairness sounds awesome. Christian returns to Seattle while Ana remains a few more days with her family.

Ana returns to Seattle, first class of course, and goes straight to Christian’s. They continue with the possibility of the contract (not fully sure why this is still in discussion) and she decides that she wants to know how bad it can get. So he shows her, and she can’t take it. Through some emotional turmoil, she tells Christian that she doesn’t think that she can be what he wants, and she leaves, returning the computer, Blackberry, and car. Taylor drives her home where she curls up and cries.

Verdict: 3 stars.

I know that seems a little high, but I think there is value in bringing women’s sexuality to a mainstream audience. The story is not particularly creative or deep, but I have certainly read many more contrived novels. In general, I found the writing to be decent, however I really wish that the author had found another way to describe Ana’s “inner goddess”. I literally cringed every time I read what her inner goddess was doing. Every time.

I enjoyed the general idea of the story too. It was something outside the mainstream, but not so far that it would be hard for people to understand. I also thought she did a good job with the ending because it certainly did make me want to read book 2.

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1 Comment

Filed under 3 stars, Book Review

One response to “Fifty Shades of Grey – E. L. James

  1. Sweet review! This is basically a great book. And it’s not just all about the kinky things. There was also romance in the plot and maybe that’s what made me feel drawn to it. 🙂

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