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Nessa's Thoughts

Just a British girl who reads a bit too much.

Currently reading

The Dead Zone
Stephen King
The Diving Bell And The Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby
Clarissa, or, the History of a Young Lady
Samuel Richardson, Angus Ross
Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Piper Kerman
The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith
Fifty Shades of Grey (Fifty Shades, #1) - E.L. James Fifty Shades of Grey. Oh, Fifty Shades of Grey. Around page 260 or so, there is a quote that sums up my feelings for this entire book."...fifty shades of fucked up."Let me preface this review not with the quote that summed it all up for me, but a declaration to everybody in the UK who paid for this. SHAME ON YOU. A POX ON ALL YOUR HOUSES. GET INTO THE COLLAR OF SHAME. (If you don't have a veterinary cone, then please feel free to make do with an Elizabethan ruff.)Apparently, this book is sociologically important in the history of literature, because it is the bestselling paperback of all time in the UK, and it was the first to reach one million copies sold on the Kindle Store. But... is it really worth all this attention? All it's shown to me is that there is an untapped market of women who have computers and Internet access to spread the 'gospel', yet have never heard of FanFiction.net (and its Adult sister site), Fiction Press, Archive of Our Own, or even Lit Erotica. The success of the Fifty Shades trilogy is also proof that you can write terrible fan-fiction, just swap out a few names and references, and earn quite a bit of money. Then again, look at the success of Cassandra Clare.The story is about, as we all know, the passionate love affair between the virginal Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, the billionaire tycoon with a fetish for BDSM. It's the same old 'woman gets swept off her feet by a more experienced, gorgeous man' storyline that entertains some of us from time to time. Yes, well, that only works for me if the rich bloke actually has a nice personality. Christian does not. In the slightest.Anastasia is completely ridiculous as a character. I swear, it's almost like she's supposed to be a parody of a ditzy, clumsy and innocent girl. Within the first 150 pages, she trips over, swoons, or stumbles about five or six times. There are babies learning how to walk who can balance themselves better than Anastasia. Our heroine also lives in the year 2011 and studies at university, yet she doesn't have a computer, and reacts with complete bemusement when she is set up with an e-mail address. How the heck does she do her assignments or contact her lecturers? By candlelight and a small army of passenger pigeons?Don't even get me started on Christian Grey. If he was supposed to be a sexy Casanova, with riches and allure aplenty, then I never got the memo. He's a miserable sod with nothing but his riches and the occasional mention of abuse being used a way of making us feel sorry for the git. It always comes across as: 'Oh no, he was starved, oh no, he was abused by somebody he trusted, isn't it SO sad?' rather than any meaningful character revelation. He just continually smoulders around Anastasia, and rather than sweet nothings, he just lavishes her with sexy e-mails and/or gifts if she behaves the way he dictates. Hell, if Christian is happy to give her a brand new MacBook Pro ($1,500+), a snazzy Audi hatchback ($20,000+), a brand new Blackberry (let's assume it's the latest model, which would be about $400 plus contract) and several first edition copies of the works of Thomas Hardy (valued at $14,000 each), then let her rinse the twat for all he's worth! (Okay, so maybe don't rinse him, since that's a bit morally sketchy. But still, that's nearly $50,000 worth of gifts!)The other characters in the novel are all very bland. I believe the author must have anticipated this, since they're all very underdeveloped. José is a car fanatic and photographer, and the sweeter side of a potential love triangle. Ray is her stepfather who genuinely cares for Anastasia. Anastasia's mother is scatterbrained and always trying out new hobbies. Katherine is a boring girl who Anastasia occasionally giggles and gossips with. (“Like oh my god, Katherine, you won't believe me when I tell you this, but I KISSED CHRISTIAN GREY ON THE LIPS!!! EIIIEEEE!”) You could draw cardboard cut-outs of these characters and get more personality out of them.Of course, who cares about the other characters? People are just going to fly straight through to the sex scenes. And what wonderful sex scenes they are...Now, it's a fact by now that this novel has BDSM in it. Christian has the old 'Red Room of Pain', with canes, riding crops, clamps, and cuffs. He also has rope and carabiners hanging from the ceiling, and obliges his partners to sign a contract that details basically all of his kinks. One of which is anal fisting. Charming.It's just... the sex scenes are so badly written. I mean, so badly. Christian almost always growls, strokes his long fingers along Anastasia's body, goes down there, and he and Anastasia almost always have explosive orgasms. The only kind of orgasm, it seems. My god, do these scenes become dull and predictable after a while.Also, E.L. James: why do your characters have sex all the time? Can't they find something else to do? Is there no common hobby they have other than sex? In 30 years' time, will Christian growl for the last time as he realises he can't get it up anymore, and have the Red Room of Pain converted into a library, or something? I just really don't see the appeal in this couple. At all. That's not to say I think BDSM is wrong and disgusting. I really don't care what couples get up to behind their bedroom doors. There just isn't any chemistry. It's just two characters having sex all the time. Every single sex scene is disturbing, a cluster of all the words that pop up on Fifty Shades drinking games, and it all just comes across as really repulsive and stilted.Anastasia (and the book itself, in fact) is written way too much like a sheltered British girl, in my opinion. Sure, if you gave her a time machine set to 1820s London and set her up into the aristocracy, she'd jump at the chance. But my problem is that she's American, and there really ought to be more Americanisms used in the writing, since it's from her point of view. I don't care if she exclusively reads British literature, no American would speak like that.So, is there a plot at all in this book? No, not really. There's no conflict to their relationship, nothing else happens, it's just sex then downtime then sex then downtime, and maybe a few ridiculously boring e-mails. The only time the setting changes is when Anastasia moves house, visits Christian's parents, and goes back home to Georgia. That is not a story. This is just like watching a soap opera. Albeit one with a bigger concentration on sex.Now, here's something that seriously baffles me, and it seems like it's started cropping up in YA and romance books only recently. It seems like you can't get to know a person through the usual avenues anymore. You have to stalk them 'til you wind up knowing more about them than they know about themselves. Case in point, Christian Grey tracking Anastasia's address, phone number, and pretty much demanding that they stay in constant contact, lest Anastasia's fear the wrath of his 'twitchy palm'. Oh, sure, Anastasia jokes about it with him, saying he should seek therapy and what have you... When what she really should be doing is filing every kind of restraining order available to her. It's not some adorable little quirk that Christian has thanks to his previous trauma. Putting your tongue firmly into your cheek doesn't help anything either, in fact, in this novel, it comes across as a mask how disturbing this issue really is.All in all, this was yet another terrible book I seem to be drawn to like a moth to a flame. I assumed it would be a sociologically important book, and it certainly is, but you'd assume the public would latch on to something that is at least of decent quality. But then again, the public gave us the continued success of Jersey Shore and The Only Way Is Essex. 1/5.(This review is also available on my blog: http://book-wyrm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/fifty-shades-of-grey-by-el-james.html)