Fifty Shades of Grey book 1 - erotic fiction by Vintage Books - review by SexyPenis

Twilight with Sex

If you like Twilight, stop reading my review and just go read the book. Nothing I say should stop you from reading this book; you'll like it. If you're still reading, I think there is a large demographic of people who are not that comfortable with their own bodies and sexuality, who have trouble expressing their thoughts and feelings about sex. This book might help them expand their horizons, but if you can use the word vagina I would say look for something better.
+ Pop Culture Icon
+ Lots of sex
+ Familiar plot
- Unrealistic portrayals of sex, BDSM, and any stretch of functional relationship
Rating by reviewer:
useful review

About author

This is the first book by E. L. James. This series fulfills her dream of writing. Her history as a TV executive must have given her a good grasp of what might be popular, judging from the success of the books. The Fifty Shades series was not necessarily meant to be a great literary work; the books started out as fan fiction. "This is my midlife crisis, writ large," she said. "All my fantasies in there, and that's it." More information about her early life can be found on her website.
    • First time author
    • Very personal approach

Content / Style / Audience

Fifty Shades is written in a very stream of consciousness first person, as told by a graduating college student, Anastasia Steele. The frustrations expressed about this book (repetitive, inarticulate, etc.) MIGHT convey a sense of urgent passion and confusion that overwhelms speech and reason. As many others have noted, the writing is basically subpar, even for romance novels. It's James' first outing as a writer, and it is a fantasy written by a middle aged Twilight fan. All of the main characters are fairly cliched (and particularly familiar from Twilight). The two main characters are Anastasia Steele (insecure plain Jane who is the object of every man's desire) and Christian Grey (gorgeous guy). Anastasia has had basically no past sexual interest, much less relationships, and Christian has had sexual but not fulfilling relationships and it's pretty easy to see why. He is controlling, brooding, and self-centered but not really malicious.

Unfortunately, I can see a lot of myself in Christian, at least prior to my wife's influence. He hasn't known real romantic love, just desire, and assumes that all he needs to do is give the object of his desire something shiny--in his case, a new computer, phone, car, etc. He does seem to develop somewhat over the course of the book and I think this is a sign of a meaningful relationship. He's not "reformed" by the end of the book (still the confident/arrogant bad boy) but he is definitely different. Ana has grown as well by the end, although she is still navigating uncharted waters, as she starts the book as a virgin and proceeds to have numerous sexual escapades with this dashing, extravagantly rich stranger. This is mostly vanilla sex with a dash of kink; most of the BDSM is only conceptual in the book, nothing very intense actually takes place.
    • Bdsm


This is written as a novel and should NOT be taken as a guidebook for anything. The relationship described frankly freaks me out because he is so over the top controlling and obsessed. The paperback edition is fine for a quick read and holds up well. The one formatting annoyance is the series of e-mails. I did not particularly enjoy those and my wife said that they were especially distracting in the audio version she listened to on her commute. One other thing to note is that a big part of the appeal of the series was the more discreet formatting, that the book was published in electronic form and the print copies had very tame covers compared to the standard romance novel bodice ripping. However, now that it's so popular, the cover is somewhat iconic.
    • Discreet cover
    • Soft cover

Personal comments

I--and apparently a lot of other people--had frustrations with the Twilight books and I have some of the same frustrations with this book. I had also heard a lot of negative criticism (Fifty Shades is poorly written, it presents seriously disturbing precedents, etc.) prior to reading it myself. Most of it is justified but I don't think I'm the intended audience. I got this book for my wife because she has enjoyed other romance novels and loved the Twilight series. I tried to read the Twilight series to understand my wife better because she enjoyed those books so much but I was appalled at Bella for being so self-centered, even when she thought she was thinking of others, and especially for her attitude towards her dad, which scared the hell out of me as a father. These books are not as well written as the Twilight books, but the characters are older, Ana has more respect for her foster dad than Bella had for her dad and more confidence than Bella, and the subject matter is more mature. I can't say I agree with a lot of it, but I like comic books and many of the comics I liked have had questionable story lines, relationships, and writing, so I have tried to keep my complaints to a minimum. That said, I didn't enjoy this very much and don't think I'll be reading the rest of the series.


My wife really enjoyed the book and told me I should read it because she was going to take notes on all the things she liked and why. It has definitely opened her eyes to spanking and restraints. On the other hand, the sex scenes did almost nothing for me because I like to read something a little more descriptive and eloquent. I can see how this gets people excited (in a good way) if they're not ready for technical descriptions, anatomical lessons, or a how-to on arousal. It's erotica; it's just not my kind of erotica, I guess.
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Do you like this review?
  • Hallmar82
    Thanks, it's nice to hear how your two views differed.
  • married with children
    thanks for sharing.
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