Monday, March 11, 2013

Book Review: 50 Shades Trilogy [2012]

It seems almost ridiculous for me to weigh in on this trilogy after everything that has been written about it already, but I want to provide my take here before I move on to reviewing some of the books that have been offered as readalikes.* I read Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker on paper, and listened to the audio version of Fifty Shades Freed. I got all three through my library without a long wait. Let me tell you, it is very weird to listen to an erotic story being read aloud when the heroine shares your name.

I’m not sure whether I would have picked up the books (and persevered through all of them) if I weren’t a librarian; what motivated me initially was a desire to discover for myself what was compelling so many of my patrons to read the books, which required them to put their names on enormous holds lists. I interacted with several people who, faced with the fact that they would be 450th in line, told me they were just going to buy the book.

I believe that the appeal of the books (in terms of the public’s consumption) wanes by about 30% after the first book, as the sales figures and holds ratios seem to bear out. In my library system, there are still twice as many holds on the first book as the successive volumes (159 holds on 428 total copies vs. 73/300 and 86/284). The first book of the trilogy has sold 168,959 copies in 2013 (as of this week's Publishers Weekly data) vs. 115,447 and 112,251 for the second and third books, respectively. I’m not sure if this is a result of a bottleneck created by people still waiting for their hold on the first book to come in, or how this drop-off after the first book compares to other series.

But enough idle speculation, let me get to my thoughts about the series. The trilogy involves the complicated, often tortured relationship between a young mogul, Christian Grey, and Anastasia Steele, who is a college senior when the first book opens. Christian copes with the traumas of his tortured past by attempting to exert absolute control over his environment, especially his sexual partners. Ana is an innocent who is swept up by his magnetism and power, but she finds it impossible to be the completely submissive partner Christian wants, even though she comes to care for him deeply. They learn to compromise as various challenges threaten their relationship. As you have probably heard, the books were originally conceived as Twilight fan fiction.

I will say up front that I enjoyed parts of the trilogy, but felt that it would have been a much stronger product if someone had taken a firmer editorial hand with the text. Never mind the plot points, James repeated so many phrases (“Oh, my sweet Fifty!”) and descriptive terms that it was very difficult for someone like me, who approaches life with red pen in hand, to remain immersed in the story. As a longtime romance reader, I wasn’t particularly shocked by the content; in fact, it was a bit tamer than I had been led to expect by some pearl-clutching reactions.

The trilogy is essentially a romance with a more explicit erotic content (some BDSM-related) than you would find in your garden-variety genre book. Ana and Christian (spoiler!) end up living happily-ever-after. The books feature the reformation of an overbearing male character that is not unlike the redemption of a rake in a historical romance. Although I found the primary external threat to their relationship unbelievable, I did appreciate the push-and-pull of negotiation between Christian and Ana over the course of the books, which didn’t stop after their marriage. It was interesting to see how things developed, as well as the material she was drawing from Twilight. One of the most peculiar reactions I had was to feel that James had created a backstory that made the actions of the characters in the Twilight Saga (which I also read and enjoyed portions of) make sense.

Grade: C+

I recommend that librarians on the front lines read (or listen to) at least the first book in the series, so they will be able to make informed collection decisions and be able to do the best reader’s advisory they can. There are various reasons that a patron might be interested in the series; this article on its appeal factors is a good starting point when trying to understand why it has been and continues to be such a phenomenon. I will say that when I tell patrons that I have read the series, they are immediately put more at ease and willing to open up to me when they’re asking for my help at the reference desk.

Book Review Index


*As part of my run-up to an upcoming presentation on erotica and collection development in the library. Since 50 Shades of Grey has kicked off a lot of discussion in the library world, in terms of collection development and reader’s advisory, it makes sense to start here. Future reviews will evaluate potential readalikes for the trilogy.

11 comments:

rasel ahmed said...
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Wintress said...

I don't believe this is a love story nor is the true ending a happy one. I think there must be a reason why EL James uses symbolic references like Icarus, Tess, The Doomed Courtesan. Why is she referencing tragedy ?

How can someone like Christian change in such a short space of time ? How can a person change in 26 days (since they met to the time he proposes to Ana) ? Tell me does that sound logical to you ?

“How can your compulsion just go, Christian? Like I’m some kind of panacea, and you’re—for want of a better word—cured? I don’t get it.”
He sighs once more. “I wouldn’t say cured . . . You don’t believe me?”
“I just find it—unbelievable. Which is different.” Fifty Shades of. Grey Darker.
See what I mean ? Ana doesn't believe it too !

There must be something more to it. In fact I believe the BDSM is a distraction for the real issue.

Here is my theory to explain the absurd timeline and to prove to people it isn't truly love and Christian's apparent change ("As we talk. It strikes me that he's turned from Hardy's Alec to Angel. debasement to high ideal in such a short space of time"). I had to go down to the subtextual level like I would with any Hardy novel- look at subtextual and intent and read all the clues. Tell me what do you think ?

Christian's Pov
"Are you gay, Mr. Grey ?"
Shit! that's going to be in a newspaper. People are going to start questioning, maybe they'll find out about my lifestyle. Fuck !I don't want that - it could really tarnish my perfect public image and it would be bad for business. Okay, damage control... Let's see .. I can't use any of subs or give them more because they are trained and people would recognise them as belonging to that LIFESTYLE - maybe I'll use Ana Steele - she doesn't have one assertive bone in her body- she can be trained as my sub, she's a virgin, no boyfriend -never had one (press would think we dated all along in secret) and she looks like my crack whore mother- perfect. I will take every photo opportunity to pose with her so the press would know I am not gay. I will give her more ... "Have you had to sacrifice your family life for work, Mr Grey" - Fucking great idea, bag yourself a trophy wife and a family say in five months- the world would love the wholesome family man image. Make this trophy wife believe in this illusion( remember the poster on the wall The Matrix, Fight Club, Truman Show). She is an idiot who can't put two and two together anyway. Strong woman ?!!! What woman needs an assistant to take care of scheduling her own birth control shots ???

All this is merely Christian's diabolical plan to conceal his BDSM lifestyle. Ana is just the woman who walked in with the right criteria at the right time to be his fulfil the trophy wife role. This adequately explains the short space of time and his so called change.

Grey solved ... And that's romantic hero, ladies !!! Christian doesn't give Ana the space or time to think clearly.

Trouton Abstract may hold a clue.
"They are exquisite – a series of mundane, forgotten objects painted in such precise detail they look like photographs. Displayed together, they are breathtaking."

Look like photographs - deception -image of something- superficial view (Ana's)- erotic romance

But painted - has some real element or truth behind the illusion (Christian's) - a diabolical plan of deceit.

Forgotten objects- when we let our desires over rule our jugdement - Icarus- we lose our true selves, our moral core.

Tess represents - true self.
Angel - image, idealism. Public self
Alec - corruption

Ana - desire
Christian - corruption of the truth, image and illusion.

Ana can be easily corrupted because her values are misplaced - her inner Goddess is actually her libido.

Appearance versus reality.
If you want the tragic factor, look at the history behind Elena, history always repeats itself to Hardy.

Brian said...

Any reader who liked 50 Shades will LOVE the new novel Starbucks Bitches. Its longer, has more depth, better characters, better romance, better sex, better everything. It is based in Dallas, Texas, and is coffee centric. Here is the description from the website www.starbucksbitches.com:

Five very diverse women band together to form an unlikely, but unbreakable circle of friends, collaborating and scheming their way to better relationships and better lives. When one of them vanishes suspiciously, the others must work together to find her before she disappears forever.

With a wide range of emotional and complicated relationships that span the highs (and lows) of life, Starbucks Bitches takes the reader on a wild ride that is deeply touching, thought provoking, and intensely romantic.

One of the most erotically charged and overtly sexual novels of the century, Starbucks Bitches is an unprecedented adventure in love, lust, and unconditional friendship.

Brian said...

Any reader who liked 50 Shades will LOVE the new novel Starbucks Bitches. Its longer, has more depth, better characters, better romance, better sex, better everything. It is based in Dallas, Texas, and is coffee centric. Here is the description from the website www.starbucksbitches.com:

Five very diverse women band together to form an unlikely, but unbreakable circle of friends, collaborating and scheming their way to better relationships and better lives. When one of them vanishes suspiciously, the others must work together to find her before she disappears forever.

With a wide range of emotional and complicated relationships that span the highs (and lows) of life, Starbucks Bitches takes the reader on a wild ride that is deeply touching, thought provoking, and intensely romantic.

One of the most erotically charged and overtly sexual novels of the century, Starbucks Bitches is an unprecedented adventure in love, lust, and unconditional friendship.

MoviesPutlockerMe said...


fifty shades of grey the movie that has no words to give reviews really amazing movie i had enjoy this film in theaters 3 time's and also used to Watch online now days. this is how i become great fan of fifty shades of grey and waiting for its another installment...!