Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review | 50 Shades of Grey by EL James Review

7 out of 10

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review

My Fifty Shades of Grey Book review (50 Shades of Grey by EL James review)

Where to start on this hugely controversial, media saturated book? If you haven’t heard of 50 Shades of Grey by EL James you must have been living in a bin liner for a good, long time. After reading plenty of scathing reviews, criticism, and an absolute Twitter furore, I decided that I need my own opinion on the Fifty Shades of Grey book.


Related: Read all our Fifty Shades of Grey reviews

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review | 50 Shades of Grey by EL James ReviewIn case I did hate it, I didn’t even spend my own money on it. Happily, within a few days 50 Shades of Grey (plus a free vibrator, thanks Lovehoney!) turned up at my doorstep from my wish-list. I eyed the book sceptically.

I soon got down to the task at hand; after all there’s a mammoth 514 pages to get through in the first Fifty Shades of Grey book.

I will warn you all by saying, the first 4 chapters are awful. Terrible. The only thing that kept me from tossing it across the room in disgust, for it to lie there gathering dust for evermore, was the fact that I really wanted to be able to give my own, full and honest critique. To have an opinion, one must first be in possession of all the facts.

Overly descriptive, scene setting, boring even… the opening chapters of the Fifty Shades of Grey book does not herald the next best thing in a vanilla’s introduction to BDSM.

Then there are the characters names. Anastasia Rose Steele. Katherine Kavanagh. Christian Trevelyan Grey (CEO, no less). Where are we, on the set of Dynasty?

You have to do an awful lot of reality suspension with 50 Shades. Anastasia (Ana) is a young English Literature student at a University in America who has a gorgeous journalist student friend. Her friend is so beautiful she’s envious but not too envious. She loves her, despite knowing for a fact that Katherine is oh-so-much-more-pretty than she is. ~yawn~ All this despite the fact that Ana herself seems to have a stream of suitors falling at her feet wherever she goes. Is she completely blind and stupid?

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review | 50 Shades of Grey by EL James ReviewAna has such insecurities and self confidence issues I was frankly amazed she even signed up for a university course never mind has not only embarked upon one but also ends up meeting and interviewing Christian Grey. Not before falling through his office door that is. Seriously, how nervous do you have to be to literally fall through a doorway and land (cue kinky connotations here) on your hands and knees, only to gaze up at ‘the most beautiful man’ you ever did see?

For a literature student, Ana seems terribly shallow. Her entire attraction to Christian seems based on physical appearances. Sure, a guy may be, to use one of Ana’s favourite adjectives, hot; does this mean you’ll want to do everything they say, instantly upon meeting them? Also, for one so interested in the English language, isn’t the word hot ever so slightly lacking in imagination?

Throughout the first four chapters of the Fifty Shades of Grey book I wanted to repeatedly punch Ana in the face. That would stop her chewing that damn lip. It’s not sexy, it just brings to mind the image of a scared teenager possibly with a cold-sore problem. Christian wasn’t much better with his lips, for all the ghosts of smiles upon them. Can the man just have an all-out honest facial expression? He’s either smiling, or he’s not. No ‘ghost of a smile’, no ‘corner twitched into a smirk’ – for goodness’ sake, Christian, either smile or frown or do… something confidently.

A lot of focus seemed to be placed on Christian’s appearance like I’ve stated, which has an inexplicably profound effect on Ana and her knickers. Oh, sorry – ‘someplace down there‘. Back to being vague. The reader is quite evidently 12 years old and couldn’t bear to read such words as pussy, clitoris, or even that her filthy slut of a vulva was throbbing with intense passion at the thought of his elusive manhood plundering her virgin territory. Quite.

Oh yes I forgot – Ana is a virgin, that hasn’t even masturbated. At the age of 21. What the fuck has she been doing?

Despite her inexperience with men, sex and to be honest, the outside world and the use of her feet without falling over them, we somehow make it to chapter 5 together. There is a sudden shift in gears.

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review | 50 Shades of Grey by EL James ReviewRomance blossoms. It’s quite sweet actually. I hated myself for starting to like the Fifty Shades of Grey book at this point, having so ‘correctly’ hated it for the first 4 drawn out chapters.

Ana and Christian finally communicate with one another and the scenes that follow are quite delightful. Sure, they are still cliched, flawed and could be a lot better, but still – enjoyable.

Throughout the rest of the Fifty Shades of Grey book the reader is drawn more into Ana’s attraction towards Christian and the slowly unfolding world of his sexual desires and depravity. I say depravity: I didn’t expect his hard limits list to include watersports and breathplay. I found that personally disappointing. He is also really against drug use, despite the fact that he keeps tipping wine down Ana’s throat even during and around BDSM sessions. That’s something frowned upon in the actual BDSM scene.

From a vanilla point of view, the Fifty Shades of Grey book is sweet, romantic, trundles along with a nice pace (from Chapter 5). It introduces ~gasp~ spanking and ~shock~ a dungeon room, plus other accoutrements such as a flogger ~oh-my-I-just-fainted~.

If you’re in any way, shape or form interested in actual BDSM, power exchange or Fetish, te Fifty Shades of Grey book will at most amuse you in that sense. Don’t expect actual kink, it’s a  vanilla love story with a couple of light spankings. Nothing new at all.

I was also hugely disappointed to learn that the author chose to give Christian a disturbed background, as if to explain why he is the way he is. As if anyone with such predilections to Fetish and BDSM must be psychologically damaged in some way.

I say damaged – his past as a submissive to a Domme. Emotionally damaging to him or just part of his growth as a person? Seeing as this book is about maledom and female submission, I found it hypocritical to cast FemDom in such a negative light. YKINMK, and in BDSM each and every Fetish should be equally respected.

Fifty Shades of Grey Book Review | 50 Shades of Grey by EL James ReviewNotes about the sex scenes. It is difficult to believe that Ana, a 21 year old virgin who hasn’t even touched herself, has abso-fucking-lutely amazing sex on her first ever time. Orgasming through nipple stimulation alone. Not only that but managing somehow to take Christian ramming fully into her virgin vagina without leaping up, screaming, and punching him square in the face.

Oh yes, she orgasms through vaginal penetration too. As all women do, of course. Don’t we ladies? Hmmph. I can’t remember much mention made of her clitoris, I assume she has one, but it was somewhat forgotten in the Fifty Shades of Grey book.

Luckily, all the sex scenes end as soon as Christian has cum in her. Such a lovely man. Because we all know that a man ejaculating inside a woman signals the end of sex. Hmmmph again.

However, lucky Ana! For she always, without fail, orgasms through penetration before Christian does. Hurrah!

In my opinion, 50 Shades of Grey should have been heavily edited and be a quarter of the length it actually is. For example, from even my veteran Fetish standpoint (never mind a vanilla one) there was really no need to dedicate an entire chapter to the Dominant/submissive contract as well as appendices. Irrelevant and unnecessary. Made for boring reading.

I feel like I should really dislike this book. The repetitive adjectives and metaphors. The unlikely sex. The fact I want Ana to tell Christian Grey exactly what she’s thinking and for him to stop being an arrogant twat – and if he is going to tie her up and ‘punish’ her, fucking get on with it or she’ll find someone who isn’t afraid to let rip in a dungeon.

So why do I have the second and third Fifty Shades of Grey book on the way? There is something addictive about the 50 Shades trilogy. The innocence? The good motives of the author, on a mission to ‘bring BDSM to the masses’? The fact that you have to keep going just in case Ana does finally tell Christian where he can stick his flogger? I’m not sure, but I was surprisingly sad to finish the first book.

Perhaps I’m an incurable romantic at heart. I’ll be here, biting my lip, chewing my nails (at the same time) and falling through doorways to ghosts of smiles until the next instalments arrive.

A note to you all out there: don’t let the media hype, other people’s opinions and the mountain of reviews out there sway your opinion without even reading a copy (in entirety) yourself. If you want to have an opinion about the Fifty Shades of Grey book, you’ll just have to read it. Or I may be inclined to hunt you down and give you a proper spanking.

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  1. *offers bare arse* you know my thoughts on this “book”.

    HOWEVER, Master and I have both mentioned that we’d probably read it (if we didn’t have to pay for it) just this last weekend… I guess it’ll be one to find if it makes its way into a local library though. I’m sticking to my guns and not buying it.

  2. Great review, Cara!

    I’m still trying to analyse why I couldn’t stop reading Fifty Shades, when like you, I found so many flaws that it was almost funny, and yet, I read all three because I had to know, and … okay … because I couldn’t stop:)

    Clearly E L James has hit on some powerful themes that move people deeply, and those of us who write erotica can’t help but be amazed and thrilled that finally someone has thrown the mainstream doors open and invited erotica in out of the cold to the warm welcome it so richly deserves. That’s worth a lot.

    I’ve always believed the power is in the ability to tell a story. Though we’d all prefer our stories to be well-written too, it’s still the story that keeps us coming back for more.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review and thanks for suggesting that people read it for themselves.


  3. Fab review Cara!

    Now as you know I haven’t yet read this…and going by your excellent review, I doubt I ever will.

    Tbh it sounds like Judy Blume for adults that haven’t quite found out about fetish literature!

    I think I’ll stick to my books that use the words clitoris, cock, arse and dare I say it pussy…because I’m a grown up…and I’m allowed to read naughty books with naughty words in it!

    Hugs & rubs
    GP x

  4. I read the entire book in an afternoon probably because I skipped so damn much of it out of sheer boredom. If Christian ‘found his release’ one more time I’d have thrown the book across the room. You’re right, the story was ok and once I got going I really felt like I needed to finish it, but jeeeez, by the end I just wanted to post her a thesaurus.

    Great review!

  5. God, what a drag this book was. I take it as a proof of my theory that kinky sex can make even the worst dross marginally interesting. Strip away the fetish stuff and you’re left with an agonisingly dull version of Pride and Prejudice with a hysterical amount of wish fulfilment thrown in.

    What’s that, Ana, need something? Car, helicopter, multiple orgasms? Let me just put that on my billionare ultra-platinum card.

    Also he smells of ‘expensive bodywash’ and his company is called Gray Enterprises Holdings Incorporated. Yes, really.

  6. Great review Cara!

    To read or not to read I don’t know.

    I have read so many reviews on this now and I still cannot decide!

    You are right though to say for people to read the book themselves as we all end up with our own perceptions from what we read and how we interprete it.

    Will I read it/them who knows, but reading the reviews has been quite enlightening!

    ~Mia~ xx

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