Fifty Shades Trilogy by E L James: An Expected Disappointment

Fifty Shades Trilogy, Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades FreedBook Review
Title: Fifty Shades of Grey
Author:  E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 3, 2012
Pages: 528
ISBN-10: 0345803485
ISBN-13: 978-0345803481

Title: Fifty Shades Darker
Author: E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 17, 2012
Pages: 544
ISBN-10: 0345803493
ISBN-13: 978-0345803498

Title: Fifty Shades Freed
Author: E L James
Publisher: Vintage
Released: April 17, 2012
Pages: 592
ISBN-10: 0345803507
ISBN-13: 978-0345803498

Stars:  3.0

When you read 1,664 pages of a trilogy that only covers a period of a few months in the characters’ lives and end up giving it 3 stars, there’s a part of you that cries out, “I can’t get that time back!”  I have 200+ other books on my shelves that are waiting to be read that are probably better than these erotica novels by E L James.  In fact, I don’t usually read erotica (if you like this genre, I recommend A Love That Makes Life Drunk by Karen Roderick) but I read the Fifty Shades trilogy because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about.  No less than four of my girlfriends and my sister (who lent me her books) demanded that I had to read it.  Now that I have, I don’t understand what the fuss was about because it’s not a great piece of work, neither as literature, chick lit, erotica, or fiction.  It was the result of a brilliant marketing strategy as this story could have easily been told to great effect in one book of 800 pages or less and wouldn’t have lost any of its meaning or impact.  That being said, the main characters were interesting enough that I wanted to continue reading the series until the end, although when I got there, I was disappointed.  But I expected to be.  Talk about being wrapped up with a big, shiny bow!

Fifty Shades of Grey should have been called Fifty Shades of Fucked Up.  While the first installment of the tale of 21-year-old literature student turned graduate Anastasia Steele and her handsome, sadomasochistic, control freak, Dominant billionaire lover, Christian Grey was interesting in a psychological way and made me to want to read Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed (the bestselling trilogy of all time in the UK) to find out how things would unfold, the sex scenes in these books did not have me reaching for my vibrator or eHarmony.ca, but instead left me cold.  I’m a diehard romantic who is turned on by getting emotionally involved and attached to the heroes and heroines in a romantic novel, and when I am, and the author (Diana Gabaldon or Jane Porter for instance) writes a sensual and sexy love scene, then I am often capable of being aroused by it.  However, there is something too clinical and matter of fact in the sex scenes in Fifty Shades and they’re so frequent that they became boring.  I just wanted to read about the other parts of the characters’ lives.  I’m not attracted to Type A alpha males, but like Ana, I wanted Christian to talk more about his past so that I could understand why he was so emotionally and psychologically stunted.  And over the course of these three books, talk he did.  James didn’t leave one single thing about the lives of Ana & Christian to readers’ imaginations.  You could see absolutely everything coming for miles, there were no real surprises in the plot line, and she even went so far as to write excerpts at the end of Fifty Shades Freed from Christian’s childhood and his point of view on the day he met Ana.  That was too much for me.

There has been a lot said about the quality of E L James’ writing and while I didn’t think it was awful, it wasn’t great either.  Ana’s constant references to her inner goddess and subconscious drove me crazy and James’ use of them, to me, seemed like lazy writing.  The only way Ana responds to Christian’s words or actions most of the time is to exclaim in italics, “Holy fuck!”, “Holy cow!”, “Oh my!” and that’s just really lame.  She’s supposed to be an intelligent literature student so I think that she could have thought of some other way to express herself.  Mind you, she was a virgin when she met the most disturbed (yet loveable) man she could have possibly got involved with, and had absolutely no reference when it came to sex.  To Ana’s credit, she does get to say some clever things throughout this tale and I did care about her enough to finish reading it.  She’s a strong female character and not submissive at all.

The secondary characters, including Christian’s & Ana’s parents, his siblings Mia and Elliot and staff, Ana’s ex-boss Jack Hyde and closest friends Kate and Jose are almost superfluous and don’t really add much to the story, except to set up reasons for ensuing drama, including Christian’s rage and Ana’s concern for his safety (not her own), followed by more sex.  They are not written with remarkable personalities and Jack Hyde is a caricature of every revenge-seeking antagonist I’ve ever come across.

As a social experiment of a read, Fifty Shades is like watching a train wreck.  I was fascinated by it to the extent that I wouldn’t give up on the story or throw the book away, but it was so ridiculous at times, in the way that Ana & Christian (who I envisioned as Henry Cavill, the actor who seems to be the most excellent choice to play him in the inevitable films) kept enduring one drama after the next, with no time in between except to fornicate and experiment with new sex toys, that you’re just left shaking your head in exasperation.

Would I watch the film version of this trilogy?  Yes, if a reputable director and screenwriter took on the project, Henry Cavill played Christian and someone like Krysten Ritter played Ana…I’d watch it.  I think that Hollywood might be able to make it into something worthy to watch because there’s no way they could put as many of the sex scenes into the film as there are in the books and get away with a publicly acceptable rating.  And sometimes, less is just more.