Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: "Fifty Shades" Trilogy


"Fifty Shades" trilogy by E. L. James
First published in 2011
My rating: 4 out of 5

(image source)

I have to admit it: I loved these books, albeit begrudgingly. There were times I wanted to scream in frustration, and yet I absolutely could not put them down.

By now every woman in American probably has at least a vague idea of the plot -- innocent, lovely-but-doesn't-know-it 21-year-old Anastasia Steele falls in love with Christian Grey, a gorgeous gazillionaire with some dark secrets and extremely kinky sexual tastes.

I started reading the first book with lukewarm feelings -- I'd heard so much about the poor writing style that I was really worried I would hate it. I was surprised to find that, for someone who never planned to publish her work, E.L. James is hardly a terrible author. But for god's sake, someone give the woman a thesaurus! She repeats the same words and phrases over and over and over... and over some more, and it quickly becomes completely maddening. In the last book, which I just finished, I read "once more," "bleak," "hiss" and "first one, then the other" so many times I wanted to cry.

But I didn't cry, and I kept reading -- our, more aptly, devouring -- the overly repetitive writing. I have yet to figure out exactly what it is about "Fifty Shades" that hooked me -- and so many other readers. The writing is mediocre, the plot, which is loosely based on "Twilight," is weak, predictable and unrealistic, and I didn't always sympathize with the characters.

Perhaps we're drawn to the novels in part because Christian Grey is the quintessential dream guy. He's perfect in most ways -- hot, sexy, rich, smart, funny, clever, intense, devoted, protective, beyond amazing in bed -- but he's royally fucked up in one major way. And Ana is the one and only woman on the planet who can fix him, who can make him whole again so he can love and be loved. And reading the books, we get to live vicariously through Ana as she helps Christian overcome the obstacles that have held him back for so long.

Though the "Fifty Shades" series is far from perfect and I'm not sure that I'd want to read it again, I know that these intense, arousing, moving novels will stay with me forever. It's so rare that a book makes such an impact on me that I know I'll remember it years and years down the road, but E.L. James, somehow, has managed to do just that.

P.S. By far my favorite -- and the most well-written -- book of the series was the second, "Fifty Shades Darker."

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