Definitely not an advisable material for young (below 18 years old) readers, E. L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" tells the encounters of Christian Grey, a very young and handsome business tycoon, and Anastasia Steele, a smart-mouthed soon-to-be college graduate, in erotic details.
The story begins when Anastasia's (nicknamed Ana) bestfriend/roommate, Kate, succumed to the flu and couldn't make a scheduled interview with Mr. Christian Grey (who will be an honorable guest in their upcoming university graduation) for the school paper. Kate asked Ana to do the interview for her, and the latter did the former the favor. During the interview, Ana and Christian started to become attracted to each another.
This was Ana's first in everything - first romantic attraction to a guy, first sexual encounter (yes, she was a virgin), among others. On the other hand, it would also turn out to be Christian's first in softening his own hard method of romance.
The conflict comes when Ana was offered by Christian a rather quite formal yet different kind of relationship which would require her to sign a contract and bound by several conditions (non-disclosure agreement, health check-ups, soft and hard limits, etc.) - a BDSM agreement.
James explores romance in this romance through non-conventional sexual preferences such as bondage & discipline, dominance-submission, sado-masochism, which many refer to collectively as BDSM. The author wrote the novel in too much details so as to describe not only the sex scenes, but also the dominant-submissive relationship between Christian and Ana.
Words were written in first person of Ana so as to make the readers feel more of Ana's point of view in everything - from her relationship with friends and family, feelings for Mr. Grey and his "Red Room of Pain", internal struggle with her subconcious and "inner goddess," among others.
Being originally a Twilight fan fiction novel, the love story was expectedly cheesy, as it was patterned to the vampire book series, but elevated this time for adult readers.
Here are my issues and comments about the book:
- BDSM - I honestly don't find it taboo, because I'm sure couples (I'm not saying I've done it) add some kinkiness to their sexual encounters once in a while. But I don't see myself living it as a lifestyle, investing in my own room-of-pain. So I can't really relate so much to Grey's character who lives a secret life of ropes, whips, restrainers, or what have you! No, this is not for me, and the writer has not convinced me enough that there can be so much pleasure in hitting, and making it formal.
- Christian Grey's character still remains a mystery at the end - the reason why he ended in the BDSM lifestyle was not fully explained apart from his years of encounter as a submissive for a certain Mrs. Robinson when he was still an adolescent.
- Anastasia was described as learned (with above average GPA) woman with looks that can attract a man with the proper clothes and fixing. She's beautiful, but not in a modelesque or superstar kind of way. In short, she is a smart presentable-looking woman. Given this, it's hard to believe that an educated modern woman would succumb to being hit and disciplined by a filthy rich man in his kinky sex room. I wouldn't understand, would I?
- I never expected the plot to be just plain and simple - in a level of storytelling for kids (picture this: irritatingly screaming fan kids). I shouldn't have been surprised given its background as a Twilight fan fiction. The conflict was easily laid out, and it's just been the same problem of the characters throughout the story. And for me, the story was full of too much cheesy scenes. Sometimes I'm confused if this was a novel for dumb teenagers but suddenly I realize it's for adults when the scenes become sexual. No-brainer, in other words. Would not qualify for literary awards, I'm sure.
- Overall, "Fifty Shades of Grey" presented an anti-feminist tone through Ana's submission to Christian's "needs". So for me, there is a sexist overtone.
- The novel's strengths are its ability to excite the readers, make the readers feel the emotions and thoughts of characters in detail, and the general controversy that its eroticism and BDSM bring.
I have not read the 2nd and 3rd books of the series. Honestly, the first book has not excited me enough to go buy and read the other books. Besides, I have other books waiting for me to read them.
Other backgrounds (personal)
Everyone in our office was (and is currently) talking about the Fifty Shades series, and as an intrigued and bored individual, I looked for a copy in the local bookstore (Powerbooks Bonifacio High Street). Turned out, everyone was into it and there were no more copies of the first book anymore.
I BBM-ed my former boss who told me about the book, "Ubos na yung Fifty Shades dito sa Powerbooks High Street. Ang kakati talaga ng mga Pinoy. Haha." ("Copies of Fifty Shades were already sold out here at Powerbooks High Street. Indeed, many Filipinos are so sexual/horny. Haha.")
The store assistant asked for my name and contact details so she can include me in the reservation list. I said "Don't bother. I'll look for a copy in other stores." I started calling other bookstores and branches, and they all said copies were already sold out.
I was lucky to have called National Bookstore in Alabang Town Center and the assistant told me that their new deliveries of the book just arrived. I asked her to reserve a copy for me and that's how I secured one.
My rating: 65%