Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

By M. J. Joachim
Updated 11/20/15

The climax for Fifty Shades of Grey is nothing compared to the psychological drama that easily played out in the story. The main character, Christian Grey, ends up on another of his many conquests, that of Anastasia Steele. His sexual prowess is extreme, falling into the realms of sadomasochism, while she is yet a virgin, completely unequipped to deal with such a controlling and manipulative sexual partner.

Ever believing she can change Christian, Anastasia endeavors to unwittingly fall in love with him. He’s rich, charming, gorgeous and cunning, as he leads her down the path, continuously dangling the carrot of “love” in front of her, all the while interjecting himself into her personal relationships, wining and dining her like the true whore he attempts to make her out to be.

Whatever the reason, Anastasia falls for it. She, reluctantly at first, begins giving into his demands, gradually losing sight of the woman she is and wants to become, yet striving diligently to keep her wits about her, vainly trying to keep some sense of self-dignity within her grasp.

It is an exciting story, particularly at first when the reader doesn’t know what’s coming next, and is dramatically tantalized with bizarre sexual behaviors most people only fantasize about, if they even allow themselves to delve into the depraved atmosphere presented. Dominants and submissives – Christian’s claim that submissives have all the power, while he remains guarded, demanding submission and punishing Anastasia when she doesn’t comply. Oh, but she can always say, “No.” Not without stern and extremely unsettling disapproval and guilt from Christian, though he never pushes her to her limits, opting instead to guide her in his professional, businesslike manner, until she trusts him enough to do exactly what he wants.

Tears and regret often follow, as Anastasia gradually moves her personal boundaries to a place beyond her reckoning, with the ultimate realization that she simply can’t live like this. All the money in the world can’t satisfy her denial of self, her willingness to give up her self-worth, allowing Christian to get his jollies, owning and controlling her, physically, emotionally and financially.

She walks out because he has gone too far, even though she clearly gave him permission to do so. And the story is over. All that build-up left flat – no heroine or hero, just a warped sense of sexual experimentation in the bedroom. Makes me wonder how this book made it to the best-seller list. Clarifies how some women can literally think of themselves as objects for men, and then wonder why they have no personal identity or sense of true self.

Fifty Shades of Grey is a disturbing book that gives new light to the definition of dysfunctional. No woman in her right mind would choose to be an Anastasia Steele, and no man has a right to dominate any woman that way – figuratively or really (if they have the means to like Christian Grey). It is a sad testament to the dismissal of human dignity, in favor of the sexual revolution – sex without intimacy or consequence.

On the other hand, it does encourage (albeit in a construed and misguided sort of way) releasing one’s sexual inhibitions to explore sexual intimacy in a whole new light. Some of those steamy and romantic scenes could be used to one’s benefit in personal relationships, providing they don’t let it go too far. Communicating and being honest about one’s sexual desires, limits and fantasies is probably a good thing in most relationships. Anastasia’s ability to overcome her fears, being open and honest about her inexperience, hard and soft boundaries and need for “more” is an important part of the story, encouraging clear and thoughtful discussion with one’s partner.

Still, the story left me flat, not wanting more, but simply wondering why all the intense and extreme buildup, only to end on such an easy and unsatisfying note. I won't be adding it to my Recommended Reading page. If I decide to read the next book in this series, perhaps it will shed some light. Will Mr. Grey pursue Anastasia, realizing he simply can’t lose her? That might be a story worth reading, as Anastasia redeems herself to him and readers alike. If it’s only another story of Grey’s conquests and insatiable, warped sexual desires, I think it will likely be a complete waste of money. Been there, done that sort of thing, especially since there are so many more interesting books to read.

Please share your take on this book, if you have read it. If you haven’t, how do you feel about my review?

As always, thank you for stopping by and commenting on Writing Tips today.

M. J.

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