This book is extraordinary in some ways and, after so long of not really getting pulled into anything, a great change and a total keeper on my shelf.
The plot in short.
Anastasia Steele stumbles ungracefully into Mr. Grey’s office to interview him for the university’s newspaper. Oh, what a hot and enigmatic guy he is. He falls for her smart mouth and her innocence at the same time. An immoral offer is the consequence. But Mr. Grey is fucked up and he expects the impossible from Ana. She’s trying really hard to maintain a relationship with him where she gets what she wants (love) and tries to give him what he wants (submission). It doesn’t work out.
But there’s more to this book. In fact, there are fifty shades more. (I’m rolling my eyes here.)
Christian’s reason for his fucked up personality stems from a terrible beginning of childhood. The way he is – dominant, controlling, demanding, closed up, detached – it’s all coming from something that’s gone terribly wrong. Throughout the book you feel that Ana, though she doesn’t exactly know what happened to Christian in his past, is trying to reach past that part of him and find more of the small boy who can laugh and be excited about sunrises. She’s willing to give everything, but she’s expecting a door – however small – to the most protected part of him in return.
It’s clear in everything Christian does, that he cares deeply for Ana. He wants to give her what she’s seeking in a relationship, which they both call “more”. And he succeeds in very small steps. But for two steps forward, he takes one step back. He needs to control people, also Ana. If she doesn’t obey, he punishes her – by spanking, flogging, whipping, or just fucking her hard. He soon has her intimidated in a way that was hard for me to handle. She was afraid of speaking her mind, let go of life-long habits, like rolling her eyes, frowning or even just biting her lower lip, and changed to someone that wasn’t her. In fact, the only time when she could talk honestly about how she felt about all the shit that was Christian Grey is in their epic e-mail conversations. He gave her a Macbook and a Blackberry, just so he could stay in contact with her when she wasn’t with him. How awesome is that of a guy – even of a control freak. I loved the e-mail parts in this book the most.
What I didn’t like was the fucking (among other things that I will get to later). Too much. Even if it’s part of what makes this book so popular and outstanding (was it sales strategy to pack the book with as many sex scenes as possible and then some?), it really bothered me at some point, especially where Christian took Ana’s virginity. In a few places he told her that he didn’t fall under the normal department. He doesn’t do the girlfriend thing. He doesn’t make love, but he fucks. He inflicts pain for pleasure. If you don’t believe all this, you’ll be taught a lesson in this book. Christian Grey always means what he says. But he’s ready to change. Slowly. Veeeery slowly. In fact, the change happens over 1,500 pages.
There was also something absolutely essential missing. The talk before a BDSM relationship. The character Anastasia Steele could have used some more shaping and it really didn’t work that she headed into something that she didn’t even have the guts to talk to him about. This probably is where the opinions about this book drift apart. It gave me a hard moment considering putting the book down even, but then I couldn’t because I was mystified by the character Christian Grey and just had to get through to the end.
Sometimes, during reading the first book I was thinking “Oh dear (author), you could have written this story on one third of the amount of paper used. It would have delivered the message, the emotion, the mood, and all just as well.” But then I really happened to enjoy the world around Christian Grey and loved to explore with Ana. I mean, the man flies a Helicopter to get from one town to another. He has a garage full of boy toys (mostly Audis) and he knows his way around food and wine. So yeah, why make it a short book when you could live in that place a little longer?
Things that bothered me nonetheless were Ana’s permanent blushing. Oh damn, she does it twice on every page, throughout the entire book. Can you imagine? Come on, I get it she’s a shy girl after her first two or three blushes and I’m capable of remembering that without reading it time and again. The story could rightfully have been titled “1001 flushes”. It’s also something about Ana that made me roll my eyes quite early into the book. Her referring to her inner goddess and her subconscious with half-moon spectacles is just too much. And I really mean it. Those two disembodied characters give their opinions on everything by either scowling, hopping, or clapping their hands. They even hide behind the couch, duh! It is getting tiresome. Nothing in that book went that badly on my nerves as this. Oh wait, one thing did. It’s called “Fifty Shades”. Ana refers to Christian as her fifty shades after he used that term for himself once and, apart from it being the most impersonal term Ana could use for Christian, it’s totally overdone and out of place. There are so many redundant lines in this book actually (Holy shit! Holy fuck! His long fingers. I look at my hands. Beatiful man, bla bla bla) that they get predictable really soon, which again didn’t really turn me on. But on the other hand, the author has a style, that totally speaks to me and kept me turning pages long after I should have been gone and doing something else. What can I say? Impressive writing.
Fifty Shades of Grey is a book of contrasts, polarities even, without much of a plot, but with an intriguing story just the same. And then I’m yet to figure out into what genre it really belongs. Quite obviously, it’s a romance. But is it also erotica? I don’t know. There’s a lot of kinky sex in it – things that make you wonder if you could ever be content with simple “vanilla” sex again. And yeah, that’s just what this book does to me.
FIFTY SHADES DARKER
I’m not going to give a summary of the plot, because you get it in the thousands of other reviews anyway. Just my personal thoughts here:
After loving Fifty Shades of Grey, I had high expectations for the sequel, Fifty Shades Darker. Unfortunately, they weren’t met. The book is over 500 pages long, while it basically tells a story that could have been done in three chapters, if all the redundant sex (again, marketing tactics of the author?) had been cut. The minor subplot about a mental ex of Christian stalking Anastasia didn’t really capture my interest. A little more did finding out what it really was with “Mrs. Robinson”. At least that part had a cool showdown in the end. Other than that there was really only one scene in the entire book – I’m serious here – that made me go “hey, now that is a cool twist of things”. It’s when Christian can’t cope with his panic in a moment and turns into the sub. But that was it. Nothing whatsoever interesting happened in this book otherwise. Any yet I’ll read book three, because I do love the character Christian Grey and I want to see his personal happy ending.
Having that said, I love the cover.
FIFTY SHADES FREED
This book seemed endless. They are married now and other than having sex again (lots of it – surprise, surprise) there’s not much going on. The plot around someone wanting to get back at Christion for whatever reason fades into the background and is overshadowed by a dramatic overuse of “Mr. Grey” and “Mr. Grey” as they love to call each other. It’s only the last 50 or so pages that gripped my attention again, really, because there was an interesting twist of things. Christian found his happy ending at long last and everyone could breathe again.
What I loved most about this book, however, was the bonus material after the end. It’s a POV switch. Christians perspective on the beginning of the story, when Ana fell into his office and when he met her again in the store in Portland afterwards. If there’ll ever be a book in his POV, I’m certainly going to read it.