Who hasn’t heard of Fifty Shades of Grey? I think even those living under rocks have heard of it. It’s all over the media, and the three books, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, and Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James have taken the world by storm, holding the top three spots on the NY Times Bestseller list for several weeks running.
Just as a little background, if you didn’t already know, the book started out as fan fiction for Twilight. If you’re not familiar with fan fiction, it’s taking characters, etc. from another author’s books, and putting them into your own story, either in the same universe that they were originally written in, or your own, alternate universe. There are several websites dedicated to fan fiction. Some of it is actually pretty good. Some is crap, but whatever.
So Fifty Shades of Grey takes place in Seattle, and the main characters are Anastasia Steele (previously Bella Swan) and Christian Grey (aka Edward Cullen). There are some similarities between the characters and Stephanie Meyer’s characters, as in if you knew that it was originally fan fiction, you could pick them out. If you didn’t know, it’s not blatantly obvious. Oh, and there’s no vampires.
These main characters have different life stories as well. When they meet, Ana is a soon to be college graduate who is sent in as a replacement for her best friend Kate, to interview the absolutely gorgeous and intimidating billionaire, Christian Grey. There is an automatic spark between the two of them, and after the interview, Christian finds ways to see her again. It very quickly comes to light that he has a very dark side and quite the past. He is a dominant, among other things, who has had several submissives in the past, and is very eager for Ana to become one of them. She of course, has never even had a boyfriend, and is as inexperienced as he is experienced in the world of sexual pleasure.
It’s not really giving anything away to say that the two fall in love, and they have sex, sex, and more sex. All three of these books are quite explicit sexually, and that, combined with the fact that Christian is depicted as an absolutely drool-worthy, complicated, very vulnerable man who uses BDSM as a means to have control – stemming from his childhood and the horrific nature of it, and I think that’s why these books are so popular with the middle aged mommies.
The books follow these two characters and their story together, with the supporting cast being somewhat similar to those in Twilight, but again, no vampires, and no wolves. The story weaves in and around the bedroom scenes, and elevator scenes, and boathouse scenes….you get the idea. We see, as Ana slowly chips away at Christian’s cool, controlled demeanor, why he is the way he is, why he does what he does. As we go through the story, we see them both struggle with Christian’s constant desire to be in control of everything, and the boss of everybody, including Ana.
In Twilight, the relationship between Edward and Bella is in my mind not healthy at times, with how completely attached they are to each other. How totally ones existence depends on the other. Edward is controlling of Bella, mostly because he doesn’t want her to get hurt, but for the most part, though it annoys her, she goes along with it. Though she does finally grow a bit of a backbone and goes against Edward when it comes to protecting her child.
In Fifty Shades though, Ana is slightly stronger than Bella I think. She at least is willing to stand up for herself a little more and learns very quickly to set limits with Christian, whose controlling nature does get pretty old pretty fast. Though she does put up with a lot more than many women would, which I think might annoy any feminists that may read these.
As far as my impression of the books, when I heard all the hype surrounding them, and what they were about, I could hardly not read them! I purchased them all as e-books, and devoured them all pretty quickly.
These books are not literary masterpieces. The writing is not fantastic, they are not polished. The sex scenes are good, and though they are varied, the language used to describe them is quite repetitive. The thing that kept me hooked I think was the way the author wrote the character of Christian. He is absolutely beautiful, but very tortured. The intensity with which he loves Ana is something that we all crave at one point or another. The feeling that a gorgeous, powerful man can be brought to his knees simply because he loves a woman so much, is quite enticing.
Do I recommend these books? Well, it definitely depends on who is asking! If you like romance novels, if you liked Twilight I guess (but are old enough for these books), than I say go for it! Heck, you should just read them because then you’ll be able to join in the conversation about them. If you’re a woman, and you’re married or attached, I think that they will get you revved up enough for your significant other to thank you for it!
I would love to hear comments from those who have read these books. I don’t know a single man who has read them and would love to hear an opinion from a male perspective, though I can kind of guess what that might be.