Traditionally, I don’t read romance novels. I certainly don’t read erotic romance, and when 50 Shades of Grey was mentioned to me, I immediately brushed it off as a cheap and tacky Twilight rip off. I read a lot, every day in fact, and am interested in many subjects. I am not the squeamish type, and the more daring and unconventional, the more interested I am. I am an unabashed reader.
This novel piqued my interest when my mother mentioned it and warned me against it!
I found out that it was about a college-aged girl who falls in love..with a Dominant, or so it was explained to me. I am not your run of the mill "reader," I have a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and read fiction like an English teacher. I always try and look beyond the "cover," read between the lines, understand all the layers of meaning.
However, the cover of "50 Shades of Grey" immediately drew me in. It is beautiful, haunting, dark, and mysterious. I like the shimmer in the tie. The simplicity of the cover, the single subject, the tie against the opaque background; chic and sophisticated. The cover shows sharp contrasts of color dark and light, grey and black, the focus, simple and strong. Really hadn't jumped out at me from the shelves, though. But, of course I had to find it after being told about its general subject matter. Can’t be that bad if Target is carrying it, right?
I picked up the book, and read the back, feeling rebellious, cutting edge, and a bit naughty. Expectant and anxious, I was drawn in, and within 10 minutes purchased the book. Now, you readers, if you are here in my review, you too have decided to read on. Are you curious too? Curiosity is the bait. I am hooked.
E.L. James is brilliant. She hooked me, just as Christian hooks the main character Anastasia Steele. Once you are hooked, you are compelled to keep reading. "Ana" the protagonist, is curious and astute, educated and independent, and at a crossroads in her life, when she unwittingly interviews Christian Grey for her roommate, who needs the article for the school newspaper.
Begrudgingly, Ana goes in place of her roommate to interview Mr. Grey.
This simple act of kindness, to "save" her friend from not meeting a deadline, changes Ana’s life. It’s funny how one seemingly mundane event which doesn’t have to be a milestone or a celebration, can change your perspective and take you to a place you never thought you would be, ever .
James slowly wraps the reader in, just as Ana is slowly wrapped in to a relationship with Christian. She lulls you into a sense of false security, leads you to read more, want more, creates a strong justification to you the reader, that you are just "finding out what happens." Just as soon as I was reaching a point of disdain, in that I was predicting the future of this couple, James shocks me with an unexpected twist. Again, I am intrigued, and don’t want to be wrong, I need to keep guessing. What happens to Ana? I am in it now. Just like Ana.
James writes the novel from Ana’s perspective. The commentary is in the first person, and although you may not relate to Ana’s situation, there is something about her that is relatable to all women. She's curious, she's strong, she is willing, and a loyal friend. Aren’t these the very characteristics that we cherish as women? These are the very characteristics that work both in Ana’s favor, and against her. Ana is shrewd, or so she thinks. Ana likes the volley back and forth with Christian. She pushes and pulls, teases and flirts, is confident and insecure. She is both intrigued and wary of Christian; he is an enigma. Much about the thoughts Ana has is relatable to all women. I understand why Ana finds Christian alluring. I find him alluring, too.. he is the ultimate modern bad boy. It seems that both the people and things that scare us a little often intrigues us, and keep us wanting more.
E.L. James keeps Ana's and Christian’s relationship tense and sweet. I found myself asking the same questions Ana does, feeling the same way she does. Ana is an innocent; naive, but not ignorant. She, like so many of us, is swept away in love and lust. As hard as she tries to rationalize the relationship she has with Christian, her emotions get the best of her, and
she maintains her emotional connection and even deepens it with him.
Ana is a realistic. To me, her actions and emotions are genuine. James’s gives her life, makes her a sympathetic character. Similarly, Christian is not someone that I have ever known in real life, but his caricature is. I have wondered many times if what people look like on the exterior matches who they are on the interior. Christian is a modern Heathcliff~brooding, dark and dangerous. He has secrets that keep him locked in his own world. The question is, can Ana unlock them? Or not?
Thus, the quest Ms James entices us to keep on.
"50 Shades Grey" has been touted as "Mommy Porn." Yes, the sex scenes are raw and descriptive, but if you are an adult woman, you can handle it. To me, they are not the focus of this intense novel. It is the relationship between Christian and Ana. Their relationship parallels the dominant submissive sex scenes throughout the novel.
I often asked myself through the novel, who is the dominant?
Is it really Christian? Or is it Ana?
Sting says it so beautifully in the lyrics to his song, Wrapped Around Your Finger, "when you find your servant is your master." It is always a paradox, isn’t it? In a split second the position of power can shift, leaving the master the servant and vice versa. I don’t find these scenes offensive. They are intended to be graphic, intense, and peircing. If James had written these scenes in a less intensive way, I as the reader would be less likely to believe them. I read through the scenes, and moved on. To me, in this day and age, like it or not, these scenes are shocking but not outrageous. If the reader makes this the focus of the novel they will lose the beauty of the story as a whole.
In conclusion, I loved the book" 50 Shades of Grey." Shocked?
I have since bought the next two books in the series. I understand why women and men all over the world love this series. It is fresh, exciting, dark, and engaging. Ana and Christian are just as real to the audience as Bella and Edward are to "Twi hard" fans. Move over twi-hards! There’s a new couple in town, and they are here to stay. If you haven’t gone to get your copy of" 50 Shades...," you better go now! These books are flying off the shelves faster than the stores can keep them ordered.
I believe this series will be discussed for years to come. It's a literary phenomena.
You may just want to take a chance to peek at it. You may want to open Pandora's box. You won’t be disappointed, I promise. Aren’t you curious?
Written by Jessica Magill
Guest Writer for A Bookish Libraria
May 24, 2012