Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One - erotic fiction by Vintage Books - review by She & him

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Masturbatory Fantasy at its Absolute Worst.

If you value your sanity, if you have even a shred of respect for actual books, if you've read anything more than a picture book explaining the differences between colors at the ripe age of five, give this offensive, problematic book wide berth. You can find far, far better erotica online, and for free.
Published:
Pros:
Pages are able to be re-purposed into something useful, so terrible that it's amusing
Cons:
Offensively unrealistic, communicates a dangerous view of relationships
Rating by reviewer:
1
extremely useful review
From her: Though I did not have high expectations for this book, as an educator in the field of literature I consider it one of my responsibilities to be well-informed about popular fiction. On a technical level, it was sloppily written - double adjectives and verbs abound; complex synonyms are used without any real regard for nuance of meaning. The characters are cardboard, the author's endless references to other literary works and characters display just how vapid her own writing really is, and the sex scenes are absolutely unrealistic (and not in a sexy way). However, all of these characteristics are really to be expected of popular romantic / erotic fiction, so I'll give it a pass on that one. Yes, it was painful to read, but that's not my main critique of this book.

One of my larger issues was, as others have noted, its absolutely warped view of the BDSM world. Everything, from the highly suspect contract that Grey attempts to force / coerce Ana into signing, to his insistence that she share in his kinks even though the majority of them horrify her, is a grossly distorted picture of BDSM. Grey claims to have had over a dozen submissives, but he fails even to teach Ana proper safeword practices.

My final, and biggest, problem with this book was the overall message, linked to its skewed view of BDSM, that abusive behavior in a man is desirable. Grey stalks Ana in person and electronically, constantly monitors her food intake and forces her to eat, and plies her with expensive 'gifts' that she insists she doesn't want. This is to say nothing of his constant pressure for her to sign the contract declaring her as his submissive. I am not saying that power exchange within a D/s relationship cannot be sexy - but that is because the submissive willingly surrenders to the Dominant, with full consent and with appreciation for what that means. Ana, who is totally new to the BDSM lifestyle, constantly protests against Grey's attempts to control her, but he continues despite her objections. What little concessions she does gain out of him are overshadowed by his absolute refusal to listen to most of the behaviors she objects to, such as his constant monitoring of her and insistence that she eat. This is precisely how an abusive relationship is sustained, and it is profoundly disturbing to see this message in yet another piece of popular romantic fiction.

From him: This was probably the most painful thing I've done in recent memory. She and I were just enjoying an evening, when we got on the topic of this 'new book' that the both of us had seen whilst out. We traded stories and checked out snippets of the book posted online, and we couldn't believe our eyes as we read. "Surely, it couldn't be this monumentally terrible, could it?" we wondered, and got a copy for ourselves. My eye started twitching halfway through the first sentence. I'm not being dramatic. It was almost physically painful to read. Even the dedication elicited stifled snorts, as it seemed more a He-Man reference than a literary introduction.

I personally have had a couple coworkers rave about it and laughed to myself because I'd heard a thing or two about the content. Now, though, I'm afraid that I'll just be doubling over laughing because I've read this dreck. It's just terrible. I've written better - and more erotic - things because I was bored and wanted to troll some people on Yahoo Messenger. While reading, I quickly lost faith in literary integrity. We sat in bed, trading passages to each other between howls of laughter. There's not too many other ways I can say just how terrible this book is. It reads like the author has no grasp of the subject matter, and is simply putting things together that they think might sound correct and erotic, but the end result is basically a multi-car word pileup. Somewhere there's a poor, spent thesaurus, crying out, because the abuse that the writer and editors inflicted on it were leagues worse than anything described in the book.

The writer, E.L. James, seems to only have 2-3 ways of describing almost any event, and relies heavily on the same, rapidly tiring phrases. The phrase "Inner Goddess" is used with such frequency that I've seen it appear over 5 times on the same page. James can't make up her mind as to the tense, changing rapidly even mid-sentence. She invents terms and phrases - and not useful or innovative terms, but perplexing and problematic ones like 'white-slave' as a verb. She condones stalker behavior, condones statutory rape, and exhibits blatant and overtly racial stereotypes. Above all, this thing is just pure and unfiltered masturbatory wish fulfillment.
Experience
From her: As a Dominant woman who has been involved with the BDSM lifestyle for almost a decade, I was disappointed and offended by 50 Shades' lazy, inaccurate, and frankly dangerous portrayal of a D/s relationship between a male dominant and a female submissive. As a woman for all of my life, I was thoroughly disgusted at the misogynist myths that this book perpetuates through its romanticizing of a relationship between an abusive man and a woman who not only tolerates, but is portrayed as understanding and even welcoming, his abuse.

From him: Being a person who is still really exploring BDSM, I'm glad I read this book after I knew enough about the practices and lifestyle to know that this book is actually dangerous to people who go into it thinking they'll be presented a healthy view of what a relationship with this flavor will entail. Please, if you do choose to read it, know that the relationship presented between Ana and Grey is toxic and dangerous. Don't be fooled into thinking it's romantic because the author portrays those two as if they are like that, because they have no comprehension about how things actually work. The author's view of the BDSM lifestyle is pure fantasy, with none of the possibility of things going wrong, and she submits forth her own shallow comprehensions of how the world works, which are very different from reality.

UPDATE: Check out our review of the second book in the series here.
Follow-up commentary
Aside from "liking" the occasional humorous, and critical, posts regarding 50 Shades that pop up on my Tumblr dashboard, I haven't given this book a second thought since reading and thoroughly disliking it.
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My Fifty Shades of Grey: Book One tags
  • Who / How / What
    [ ? ]
    Who might this product be best for? How is it best used? What are the best circumstances or situations for using this product?
    • Gag gift
  • Where
    [ ? ]
    Where / what types of places can this product be used?
    • Camping trips
  • Features
    [ ? ]
    What kind of features does this product offer?
    • Burnable
This review was edited by
  • Apirka Apirka
  • Rank:
     
    6.7
  • Edited reviews: 321
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Comments
  • LaSchwartz
    LaSchwartz  
    I have yet to here anyone from Eden like this book.
  • Ms. N
    Ms. N  
    Great review, guys. Thanks to both of you for sharing. I am torn between curiosity of reading this to see just how bad it is, and allowing myself to skip the whole series. I have much better things to read, so I am thinking, unless someone just gives me the books, I will pass on them.
  • geliebt
    geliebt  
    Thank you for reviewing
  • Bbiz
    Bbiz  
    Thanks for the review on this terrible book
  • animepanda89
    animepanda89  
    Great review!
  • bayosgirl
    bayosgirl  
    ty
  • EdenUser
    EdenUser  
    Thanks for the great review!
  • mrs.mckrakn
    mrs.mckrakn  
    Great review. Sorry it was a waist of your time... Ty for reviewing this one
  • Terri69
    Terri69  
    Great review! Thanks!
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