Home > Books > Fifty Shades of Awful

Fifty Shades of Awful

I heard about it on Twitter, which should have given me pause. But since I had an hour to kill and a handy new e-reader on which to burn money, I thought I would flaunt 2012 technology in my face, and download Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James, right away, to see what all the fuss was about.

It’s a hot mess, that’s for sure, but not the kind I was hoping for.

This novel, which women are gushing about and apparently buying since it’s on the New York Times Best Seller list, is best described as a poorly written Harlequin romance that tousled with sadomasochism in a back alley (or in Christian Grey’s red room, whichever.) It’s Danielle Steele’s alter ego. It’s Twilight gone wrong. It does for literature what porn does for the film industry – which is to say, extremely little.

Taken at that level, if that’s all you’re looking for, it has its fair share of sex scenes. My greatest disappointment was that the characters having the terrific, “mind-blowing” orgasms – as they are often described (does that mean anything to you?) are, how can I put this delicately; dumb. Thus, the dialogue, and the email correspondence that we must endure is more painful than the positions Christian puts Anastasia through.

I love being taken new places in literature, and within the confines of an S&M relationship is definitely new to me. I thought I might learn something. Stop snickering. Not just a few new moves; I was hoping to get a glimpse into why people get off on getting whipped. It’s the inflicting pain thing that I stumble with, the line (or, in my case, the mile between) where agony becomes pleasure. The protagonist (I can’t use the word heroine, I just can’t), Anastasia, is as perplexed as I am about this, but is so desperate to keep Christian that she bends over backwards (and sideways, and stays on her knees, and gets tied up, etc.) in order to keep him.

Here is the very likely, believable scenario: Christian Grey is a young, enigmatic, billionaire, who meets and is bedazzled by Anastasia Steele, despite her being a clumsy, virginal, poor, insecure college student. She has a habit of biting her lip, which drives Christian mad with desire. This either leads to his eyes darkening, or alternatively causes him to look at her with hooded eyes.

A small aside here: have you ever been driven mad with desire by someone chewing on their lip? Have you ever noticed someone’s eyes changing color simply because they are turned on? And by hooded eyes, does the author mean half-closed? If the answer is yes, and you don’t have a problem with eyes being hooded, you might in fact enjoy this book. But beware, it happens repeatedly.

The kicker, the most unforgivable aspect, is that James tries to use Anastasia’s favorite book, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, as a metaphor for her twisted relationship with Christian. As though Tess and Anastasia can have anything in common, besides youth and breath. If Anastasia were to be dragged dramatically to the guillotine, she would likely grace us with her usual eloquent answer to everything, “Oh, crap.” Or might it call for her more earnest reaction of “Double crap?”

I can only wonder. I certainly won’t read the other books in the trilogy to find out.

  1. lucieloves
    April 20, 2012 at 3:23 am

    DRAT! I just bought this to read too! I was wondering what the hullabaloo was about, but I guess it’s not mind-blowing reading orgasms 😦

    • April 20, 2012 at 3:25 pm

      Sorry to do that, I should have posted it earlier in the week!

  2. April 20, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Great review, Deanna. But why does this not surprise me? I wasn’t able to deal with the “Twilight” series either–oh crap–can’t like everything, I guess.

    • April 20, 2012 at 3:28 pm

      You see, I must admit I liked Twilight – I like both Edward and Bella. I’ve seen all of the movies with my daughter! Can say with certainty I will NOT be going to these movies.

  3. April 23, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Good move. While the first book can be said to titillate, the second is a downright snoozer. The writing deteriorated (trust me, it’s possible) along with the story. I had to abandon ship.

    • April 23, 2012 at 11:02 pm

      Yikes! It gets worse? Oh my, warn the troops, that’s all we can do.

  4. April 29, 2012 at 4:51 pm

    Thanks for the heads up. A couple of girls at school have been talking about how great it was and I just about bought it on my nook. I’ll use my money and time on something else.

    • April 30, 2012 at 4:33 pm

      Seriously, I felt my paltry IQ dwindling away as the chapters droned on, as if I need to be dumbed down any further! Save your brain cells from the trouble, especially since there are so many fantastic authors to read, and so little time. I just finished “The Last Waltz” by Anne Enright and thought it was remarkable. Others tell me Anne Rice has written some amazing erotic fiction under the pseudonym of A.N. Roquelaure.

  5. Judi Frew
    May 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    I figured this was very likely, and had a similar review given to me by a friend who had just downloaded it to her e-reader. She said it is very poorly written. With the limited amount of time that I can indulge my love of reading (I have three boys), I have to be selective in what I choose! Glad I can pass this one on the shelf and move on to something else, maybe even the one you suggested above!

    • May 28, 2012 at 4:06 pm

      It is horrifying to see how the Fifty Shades trilogy is dominating the Bestseller list when there is a plethora of uncelebrated yet brilliant writers in this world! I just read Cloudstreet, by Tim Winton and WOW. No S&M, just a cast of working class Australians trying to get through life. A great read.

  6. Georgina
    June 2, 2012 at 2:11 am

    I don’t care who you are, nobody has that many orgasms, and certainly not every single time!

    • June 2, 2012 at 2:59 pm

      Alongside everything else in this novel, it is far-fetched, and not likely to happen.

  1. June 13, 2012 at 2:33 am

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