Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey - E.L. James If you're reading this review, I'm sure you've already heard of Fifty Shades of Grey or the Fifty Shades trilogy. Though I'm not much of a romance reader, I was anxious to find out what all the hype was about; why so many people were raving about this book, while other BookCrossers and BookObsessors had plenty of criticism for it. What is it that gave the Fifty Shades trilogy the push to cross over from the erotica genre into mainstream? And is all the high praise that's been poured upon it truly justified? ETA - I since feel that this book was never really erotica to begin with. More details on that below.

For point of reference, I have a wide range of experience to draw from, both real life and fiction, and there is so much about the BDSM lifestyle portrayed in this book that just doesn't ring true. But knowing that the author was drawing from research as opposed to first hand experience, I was able to overlook that to a point. This is a fiction title after all.

Moving along to the writing style, I found it a bit amateurish at times; I mean, just how many times can Anastasia and Christian murmur to each other? When they're not arguing, they seem only to talk to one another in murmurs, mutters, whispers, and sighs. And the author often got pretty repetitive in her descriptions. I swear if I had to hear about Christian's tousled hair one more time, I was going to go shave a hairy mole just for the satisfaction of pretending it was Christian Grey's sexy tousled locks! ;)

So why did I keep reading? Well, it was like a beautiful train wreck! It just sort of snuck up on me and sucked me in. And the fact that it even ended on a bit of a cliffhanger left me anxious to find out what happens next. Though I knocked this book in several places on the writing and even the believability of the story itself, I actually liked Ana's character somewhat; she's the kind of girl I'd like to be friends with despite all her flaws and shortcomings (or perhaps because of them). Just like a real friend, I found myself exasperated with her over how clueless she could be, or for keeping certain things from Christian that she really should've fessed up to earlier on. While at other times, I applauded the way she stood up to him. Yet it was that same odd combination of both vulnerability and strength that I admired about her, so much so that I even cried along with her at the end!

So what do I think made this story so "great" that it crossed the erotica genre into mainstream and made the bestseller lists? Well for starters, I'd call it more of an erotic romance than full erotica, more comparable to the soft porn one might find on late night Showtime for example. Really nothing to get too hot and bothered over, and the sex scenes didn't really work me up at all the way full erotica books do. I think that fact made it a bit more digestible to the masses. ;) Though one might think the BDSM aspect of the story would place it into the full erotica or hard porn category, all that is really just an aspect of Christian's personality and the BDSM does not really dominate. It's definitely more the relationship itself, and the feelings Ana is experiencing along with it, including her conflicting feelings about being submissive, which pull together the pieces of the story.

The story started off as online fan fiction of the Twilight series, so it had already gotten a wide audience through that channel. And finally, I think timing played a key role. At a time when our economy is just pulling out of a serious depression, a bit of control and dominance might be appealing to a lot people, that and the focus on the "darker side". ;-)