Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James

A review of the erotic romance novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James.

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Where do I even begin? Two pages in and it’s already littered with vomit-inducing shit.

As the editor, I can’t blow this off.

Supposedly, they’re best friends. She knows you’re the bloody editor.

I set off from Vancouver WA.

It’s an inner monologue. Show me one person that has ever listed the state they live in after the town in an inner monologue? It’s like thinking “I really like living in Thanet, Kent.”

Oh, the merc is a fun drive and the miles slip away as I put the pedal to the metal.

I have run out of fingers to count the clichés, Ana, and we’re two pages in. And then she mentions the state again!

Let’s start over…

Fifty Shades of Grey is a book written by E L James. I use the words book and written very, very loosely. Our protagonist, Anastasia Steele, steps in to help her sick journalist friend/flatmate/roommate (the slang switches between generic American and generic British throughout, despite the story being set in and around Seattle) by interviewing a business mogul, Christian Grey. Turns out that Mr Grey is a naughty, naughty boy that is into some slightly non-standard things, sexually speaking. Ana, on the other hand, is your bog-standard nice, plain girl, devoid of all personality and with a tendency to bite her lip a lot. Naturally, Mr Grey unleashes the sexual devil in her and awakens the desire she didn’t know she had to be tied up, dominated and controlled, all within the remit of a naughty contract. If you’re thinking that you’ve heard that kind of plot before, it’s because it follows the same format as every single porn that has been made since mankind realised that looking at two people in the middle of relations of an adult nature was fun.

As the “plot” progresses, Ana realises that the life of a submissive, under the thumb of a controlling stalker in what is clearly an unhealthy relationship, is not for her. She leaves Mr Grey and gets very upset. But it’s a trilogy so we all know that she’s going to go back to him in the next two books for some more pseudo-erotic, mildly kinky fun.

I could talk about how this book is glorifying abuse and list all of the complaints in that area that littered the release of both the book and the film, and was emphasised by the subsequent success of both, but that’s been done a thousand times now and is easy to find with a quick search of the internet. And, to be honest, it’s not the main issue that I have with it. Writing about an unhealthy relationship can make a stunning novel, if it is handled correctly and the difficulties are addressed instead of glorified. My problem here is that it’s just a very, very long piece of poorly written trash masquerading as a credible erotic novel. Treating it as anything else is just insulting.

So let’s take a moment to break down why it’s a monstrosity. Firstly, the writing is beyond terrible; it reads like second-rate erotic fan-fiction that someone writes just so that they can have special alone time with the finished product, which is apt as it began life as exactly that. Secondly, the dialogue is amateurish at best and embarrassing at worst; the whole thing is littered with badly-written exposition and the conversations and internal voice constantly repeat things to drum them into the reader, as if James has taken cues from “reality” TV shows about the real housewives of wherever on how to prevent the audience forgetting what happened two minutes ago. Thirdly, the characters are completely unbelievable, unrealistic and rather undefined; at least the cardboard cut-out that is Christian Grey has two dimensions to him, but Ana is as one-dimensional as you can get. She goes beyond audience surrogate to become a the epitome of a puppet protagonist. Her only real defining characteristic seems to be that she doesn’t own a computer. Hang on, a 21 year-old college student (in Vancouver WA) doesn’t own a computer, in this day and age? Okay then.

This piece of garbage should never be considered literature or part of the literary world. The main reason it is still talked about is due to the huge sales the book generated, but that did not happen overnight, nor by accident. On the one hand, this is an example of self-publishing success, but on the other it is a cash-in on an already lucrative franchise that drew an initial audience through serialised fan-fiction and later converted that into revenue. Talking about this book like it has any merit for legitimate critique is a waste of time and my energies would be better spent reviewing pornography. Some of them are a damn sight better-written than Fifty Shades of Shit.

David Chitty was born and raised in Thanet in the 90s. He devotes most of his energies to writing fantasy fiction novels.

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  • 1

    Oh how I laughed; I’m sure you have put into words what many of us felt when we started reading and then abandoned Fifty Shades. Someone lent it to me, have you ever known anyone admit to buying it? I wanted to discover what all the fuss was about. I certainly had no desire to see the film, but the books come back to haunt we self published authors; how many times do people tell us encouragingly ‘E. L. James started off as a self publisher.’ The author lives in Brentford, Midddlesex or did when she was writing it, so why set it on the other side of the Atlantic?

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