- Not diminished or moderated in intensity or severity; unrelieved
- Without qualification or exception; absolute
- Foolish, deceitful or boastful language
- Miscellaneous or disorganised items; clutter
- Cheap or shoddy material
I admit it. I bought into the hype. Everywhere I turned; on TV, in the paper, online, in real life, "Have you read 50 Shades Of Grey yet?"
Some liked it, some bagged it. Although, thinking back, the positive opinions were more along the lines of "I couldn't put it down", rather than "It is a really wonderful book", but I didn't quite catch on to that detail until now. An oversight on my part.
But the fact is, everybody was talking about it, in one way or another. "Ooooh, it's mummy porn." And I really dislike feeling left out. Not being able to offer an opinion. Not joining in. Just saying "No, I haven't read it" and retreating demurely to a corner to pour another wine and search for somebody else feeling ill-equipped for the discussion on the fastest selling fiction novel in the world.
Curiosity got the better of me. I went online to purchase it and... what the fuck? It's the first book in a trilogy? Dammit. I need to read three? Anyway, I've read the first book and NOW I CAN JOIN THE DISCUSSION.
The blurb on the back of the first book says "Romantic, liberating and totally addictive, this is a novel that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever", and then goes on to talk of a 'love affair' between the two main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.
Right. I beg to differ. It's not romantic at all. Romance, to me, is very different to what this book is about. My idea of romance doesn't involve being bullied. Liberating... well, while I was reading it I guess it liberated me from doing my vacuuming. Addictive? Not in the slightest. I could put it down. And did. A LOT. Especially to pick up my laptop and post a Twitter or Facebook status with a scathing comment about the book. And it only obsessed me as far as the fact I now have a deep-seated, yearning desire to.... smack the author. And not in a sexy way. It will stay with me forever, or until next Friday, whichever comes first, but for all the wrong reasons. And 'love affair'? No. There is no love in this first book. There is only sex and control and obsession and bullying and stalking and domination. It is not until the final chapter that the moronic Ana tells the psycho Christian she loves him. Unfortunately, it is not as they are both about to die in an exploding helicopter, which is what I hoped for, vainly (even though I have books 2 & 3 and knew it was unlikely), throughout the entire story.
Firstly, I found the writing style atrocious. I really struggled with it. The whole badly-written-first-person-present-tense thing was extremely off-putting. Some have likened it to creative writing projects they did in school. Like, when they were kids. Sentences starting with "I scowl with frustration at myself..." and "I roll my eyes in exasperation..." were clunky and annoying. And they were both in the very first paragraph. I probably got used to it by about page 513. Did I mention there are 514 pages in the book? It was also full of utter corn, ridiculous terms, and clichés which were repeated over and over, but I'll get to more on them later.
Anastasia Steele, what can I say. She shitted me to tears in so many ways. A 21 year old virgin who is about to graduate with a University degree in what I presume was English Literature in the year of 2011 AND DOES NOT EVEN OWN A COMPUTER. Nothing. Nada. Not a PC, laptop, iPad, not even a smartphone. I'm sorry, but only having access to your room-mate's lappy (who was also doing a degree and would have needed it herself) and the college library would not have been sufficient for the bazillion essays you would have had to write during your studies. I call bullshit.
Straight out of college, she lands a couple of interviews in publishing, and wham... she gets the job she wanted straight away. It seems the Global Financial Crisis has not yet hit the fictional publishing industry in Seattle.
Am I being picky? Yeah, probably. And I'm loving it.
Ana blushes, flushes, and colours crimson at an average of three times per page. Seriously, this girl needs to see a doctor and get herself some beta blockers or something. Oh, that's right, she's also managed to get to the age of 21 without having a personal doctor. Lucky her.
Ana seems to spend so much time rolling her eyes it's a wonder she can still read the Thomas Hardy classics she's so fond of without holding them above her head, and also bites her lip with monotonous regularity in almost every scene with Christian. Many readers have shared with me their hope that it would be bitten right off at some point, but alas, there was no blood in this book. Wait, yes there was. Not from her mouth though.
"My breath hitches." Oh my fucking god. This is the most ridiculously overused phrase, without a doubt. (I think Christian's is "Stop biting your lip") I estimate Ana's breath 'hitches' on about 450 pages. That may be an exaggeration, perhaps 400. Over and over again, ad nauseum. Honey, just stop breathing altogether and that will solve all of our problems.
Considering this book is erotica, or soft porn, or BDSM for mummies, or whatever you want to call it, this character referring to her genital area as "down there" on every second page was just comical. So was the continual usage of the term 'my sex', as in "he runs his hand over my sex." At other times, the words vagina and clitoris are used, so I'm still not sure what 'my sex' is. I'm confused. Are we talking one of the labia? (labias? labii?) The clitoral hood? The pelvic area in general? Or is there a part of my body called 'my sex' I don't know about? Seriously, do I need to get out a hand mirror?
So, this virgin, who has no less than three blokes lusting after her within the first 100 pages, who has never had a boyfriend, never really been kissed properly, and has never 'pleasured' herself, who agrees to being 'deflowered' by a strange man she has known for what feels like a full twenty minutes (oh, but it's okay, because he's BEAUTIFUL, and rich and hypnotising, and did I mention BEAUTIFUL?), manages to not only orgasm during her first sexual experience (and EVERY subsequent one), but multiple times! And she's able to climax whenever Christian tells her to! What a fucking legend! Literally!
But wait, there's more! At Ana's first attempt at a blowjob, her mouth and tongue move perfectly, she has a deep throat, NO gag reflex and.... SHE SWALLOWS! Is there nothing this angelic creature can't do? You'd think having her period would at least slow her inexperienced self down though, right? Wrong. Not only does she let this dysfunctional man she's only known for three weeks soldier on regardless, she only bleeds for a couple of days, feels great, and has NO CRAMPS. Biaatch.
She's the perfect woman, clearly. I suspect the character of Ana will be played in the movie version by a blow-up doll.
And then there's her 'inner goddess'. This inner goddess appears as often as the lip-biting and breath-hitching, adores all the sexing and dances and jumps around and pouts and sways from side to side and smiles and claps her hands and loves the word 'panties'.
I wanted to high five Ana's inner goddess. In the face. With a baseball bat.
Christian Grey. Psycho. Stalker. Dominator. Bully. Wanker.
I hope that's what his business card says, but I'm guessing it says Rich & BEAUTIFUL. Anyone who thought Edward Cullen of the Twilight vampires was the ultimate creepy weirdo who sent a bad message to girls about putting up with stalkerish, obsessive behaviour will now have another target.
The first time Christian and Ana meet, she is interviewing him. He is a rich, powerful businessman. Ana is flustered, naive, unprepared and polite, and does the demure "Yes Sir, No Sir" thing. In that moment, Christian decides she would make a great 'submissive' in his BDSM playroom, as you do. Say WHAT??
But Christian's BEAUTIFUL. And rich. And BEAUTIFUL. So it's okay, clearly.
Of course, his 'impressive length' may have something to do with it too. Ana notes this a LOT..."It's so big and growing". Which begs the question... impressive compared to what? She was a virgin, no boyfriend, no prior penis experience. I'm guessing Christian is really a needledick. He is a knobhead who refers to Ana's virginity as a 'situation' which needs rectifying, has never had 'vanilla sex' (no toys or add-ons), and when presenting her with his 'impressive length' on one occasion, delivers this amazing speech...
"I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I'm very attached to this."
If a bloke said that to me, I would either laugh so hard I'd have convulsions, or I'd reach for the sharpest implement I could find. I thought this mummy porn was supposed to arouse all the bored, frustrated housewives, not make them laugh until they pee out of their poor old prolapsed bladders.
Christian knows where Ana lives and where she is all the time. He tracks her. He follows her when she flies across the country to have a break from him (bullshit it was for work - this sort of stalking behaviour being written as normal and acceptable pissed me off and made me very angry, more than I can articulate). He knows her mother's name and where SHE lives. He wants to control the food Ana eats and the clothes she wears, all in the name of sexual arousal, all in the name of the Dominator and Submissive game. His excuse? "It's all I know." Fifty shades of pathetic.
The sex scenes are either mildly bemusing, comical, or just plain laborious. It's like the author is explaining (in minute, graphic, unsexy detail) a game of Naked Twister. Or Naked Hokey Pokey. You put your left leg in and shake it all about....
Look, I'm sure there are some okay-ish parts.
*has a shower, makes a cup of tea and thinks some more*
Right. Umm. Well, some of the email exchanges between Christian and Ana (after he buys her a laptop and Blackberry and sets up an email account for her so he can stay in constant communication with her; psycho much?) are admittedly amusing and entertaining. And there was one conversation (just one, mind you) which I actually enjoyed. I thought it was sharp and witty. So much so, that I immediately came to the conclusion that somebody else must have written it.
In summation? Hey, each to their own. Whatever floats your boat, levitates your wand, or wets your whistle. It's not for me. It did not stimulate or satisfy me one iota; not in the literary sense, not romantically, not emotionally, not sexually, not psychologically, not intellectually, not escapismally (yes, shut up, I know that's not a word, but if she can write crap, so can I). I have absolutely no problem at all with two consenting, functional adults on even terms (or for money as worker/client) getting their BDSM on. All power to us. Err, I mean, them. In this case, I feel the character of Christian is dysfunctional and has emotional and psychological problems (alluded to regularly), they are not really on even terms (rich, powerful, domineering, experienced vs poor, naive, clueless virgin) and while she doesn't say no, I think she's subtly bullied/persuaded into the consent on occasions. As I've said, I have greater issue with the stalking and dominance outside the bedroom. And the shit writing.
What worries me is that due to it's popularity, hype, and availability (apparently selling for as little as £3 in UK supermarkets, probably in the condom aisle), I know that girls as young as 11 are reading it. I sincerely hope they don't think this book is indicative of how your first 'romance' should be, or there's going to be a major rush on cable ties and brown plaited leather riding crops in a few years time. And possibly restraining orders.
I don't want any girl to think it's okay to be swept off her feet and onto her knees just because he's rich and BEAUTIFUL. We need to look after our knees, or we'll find ourselves at age 47 making bone-crunching noises every time we go up or down a step. So I've heard.
Jokes aside, it is a dreadful, demeaning example of a 'love affair'. Nothing to aspire to here.
So buy it, don't buy it, read it, don't read it, love it, hate it... I don't care. This is just my opinion, and I thought it was unmitigated crap. And I have two more of them to read to finish the story, for fuck's sake...
My breath hitches at the thought.