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1,996 of 2,115 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unadulterated tosh, 20 April 2012
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This review is from: Fifty Shades of Grey (Kindle Edition)
I downloaded this one morning whilst listening to BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour and hearing E.L James being interviewed.

I'll confess: I did read it from end to end, and I must also confess that my Trollope took a backseat for a couple of days. But when I'd finished 50 SoG, it was a relief to go back to some proper literature, feeling saddened, cheapened, almost used, by having read it. Make no mistake: 50 Shades of Grey is utter rubbish!

The central theme is that a rather naive college student, Ana, is swept off her feet after a chance encounter with a fabulously wealthy business man, Christian Grey CEO. (He's ok though because his company sends aid to Darfur.) Not only is he immensely rich, but he has the looks to match - of which we are constantly reminded. He has "two penetrating gray eyes". Yes, that'll be both of them, and they combine to give him a "penetrating gaze"; he has "beautifully chiseled lips" and a square jaw. This together with the way his gray sweat pants hang off his hips "in that way", leave the poor girl wobbly at the knees.

His penis of course is equally magnificent. Indeed it scarcely ever appears without her being bowled over by its "impressive length". His erection (permanent, it appears) is "impressive". And of course he only has to enter her for her to have an an orgasm that causes her body to "convulse and shatter into a thousand pieces". Next time she "shatters again into tiny fragments", before "her traitorous body explodes in an intense body-shattering orgasm". She wonders will her body withstand "another earth-shattering moment". At least he is polite enough to comment in a moment of untypical post-coital congeniality, "You're shattered, aren't you?".
And so it goes on. The book does not reveal the mechanics by which the tiny fragments of the orgasm-shattered Ana were constantly put back together again. The secret of this process might have served Humpty Dumpty well.

The twist in the tale is that Christian is a sadistic sexual dominant who likes to tie his women up and thrash them before intercourse. It's not entirely clear whether this is consensual - but having been gagged Ana doesn't manage to say "no", so at least it's not rape. The agonising decision that Ana has to make is whether to lose him, or sign a contract submitting to his perversion.

As an undercurrent there is a suggestion that Christian himself was abused as a child, and this may explain his brutal treatment of women. Although she discovers that she is his 16th submissive partner, his own sad childhood engenders sympathy in Ana's mind - and so being whipped, spanked, gagged, tied up and forcibly screwed is the least she might do for him.
The man is not totally thoughtless: he arranges for her to be seen by his ice-cool, blonde doctor who prescribes contraception. After all, what fun would it be thrashing a woman who was pregnant? In the meantime he carries an endless supply of condoms, referred to by James as "foil packets". So he "grabs a foil packet"; releases her hair in order to rip a foil packet; and this delightful passage:
"You want it, you got it, baby," he mutters producing a foil packet from his pants pocket while he unzips his pants. Oh, Mr Boy Scout. He rolls the condom over his erection and gazes down at me. "I sure hope you're ready," he breathes, a salacious smile across his face. And in a moment, he's filling me [...] I groan... oh yes. "Christ, Ana. You're so ready," he whispers in veneration.

Again it would be wrong to traduce Christian while ignoring his good points: he replaces her ageing and much loved Beetle with a new Audi and takes her for a trip in his helicopter; and he buys her a first edition of Tess of the D'Urbervilles. Yes, he's not a total arse: he likes Delibes and Pouilly Fume and can play the piano with haunting melancholy - before his thoughts inevitably turn to sex. ""Maybe on my piano," he whispers. Oh my. My whole body tightens at the thought. Piano. Wow." I kid you not.

The story is desperately thin: poorly written, repetitive in its descriptions (there is an almost unbelievable amount of eye-rolling and lip-biting - both offences that lead to a spanking), one dimensional characters, and it's frankly stupid. Nothing really happens: rich man woos innocent women; he shags her; he beats her; she wonders if she is doing the right thing. That's about it.

Apart from using orgasms as some kind of punctuation, the book also features unbelievably tedious e-mail exchanges between the two characters. After reading a couple of lines I found myself skipping the rest. They are just puerile. You are, I suppose, to take note of some of the subtleties of these conversations: his use of "shouty capitals" and the funny way that he signs himself "Christian Grey Palm-Twitching CEO" after he has given her a good spanking. Oh dear! So endearing.

At a risk of sounding repetitive myself, how many times do you think an author might use the expression "my inner goddess" in one book? Once or twice might suffice, but Ms James uses it 65 (yes, 65) times. Example:

"Ha! My inner goddess is thrilled. I can do this." (She manages to get the Impressive One into her mouth.)
"My inner goddess smacks her lips together glowing with pride." (He gives her an 'A' for swallowing.)
"... he looks at me hungrily. Jeez, my inner goddess swoons"; (He "squeezes carnality" into her name. At least that is one you can try at home.)
"My inner goddess polevaults over the fifteen-foot bar" (she didn't wear her panties when she meets his parents for dinner);
"My inner goddess is still basking in a remnant of post-coital glow. No - we are all clueless. I towel-dry my hair...".
By the end of the book I was ready to strangle the inner goddess and the external part too.

The book ends inconclusively. At first I thought that maybe the author had got bored with the whole thing and decided to pack it in. Then I discovered that there are two sequels. I also didn't realise until later that the book had originally been posted as fan-fiction. I don't pretend to know much about this, but I guess it may explain the lack of structure and the repetition. If you are turning out a couple of hundred words at a time for serialisation, maybe there is no imperative to write well.

As a piece of titillating light-hearted fun, this might keep you amused for a little while; but as a piece of literature worthy of the author making the hallowed interview seat on Woman's Hour, NO! It's awful.
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Showing 41-50 of 362 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2012 19:58:26 BDT
jelly 1960 says:
I was a bit worried about my use of the expression "earth-shattering orgasm", so I decided to remove the post in case people thought I had been borrowing from Ms James.
Somebody turned me onto some hilarious reviews on Amazon. Try looking up Veet Men's Hair Removal 200ml. Some made me sob with laughter.
I may revisit the chocolate condoms if I sense that there is a real interest in my views on the subject.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2012 20:01:45 BDT
jelly 1960 says:
Download it on Kindle. It costs about £2.
Of course it's utter rubbish, but worth reading just for the sake of reading something that awful. And of course you can then have an informed opinion in the great debate that rages on Amazon and elsewhere.
If you really want a laugh, look up the Amazon reviews on Veet Men's Hair Removal 200 ml. There were a couple posted last night that were brilliant.
Thanks very much for your comments - much appreciated.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2012 20:20:28 BDT
jelly 1960 says:
Well, all I can say is that I am a slow reader with a short attention span and usually fall asleep after a couple of pages. But Life and Fate I read from cover to cover in about 2 - 3 weeks.
There are parts of it that are genuinely exciting - for example there's a brilliant chapter where the commander of a tank corps holds back his tanks in contravention from a direct order from Stalin to attack. Amazing tension - and real relief when he gives the order "Attack!".
There are many passages where the subject matter is grim - really grim - but the quality of the writing keeps you reading. There is the most awful description of Treblinka and the terrible fate of the thousands who were sent to the gas chambers there. There is one scene that sticks forever in my mind - that of a childless woman who "adopts" a little boy as they go together into the gas chamber. Heart-wrenching stuff, but again the quality transcends all. In the hands of a lesser writer this might be prurient or just sickening, but in the hands of Grossman it is masterful. The book is concerned with war, death, separation, life in a totalitarian regime - be it under Stalin or Hitler -, prison camps, and so on. Not light material at all, but I found it engrossing and was very much moved by it.
I read more on Grossman. An amazing man. A Soviet hero and yet he became a non-person when Life and Fate was seized by the authorities. I felt that by reading his book I was somehow honouring his memory. He died of course before the book was spirited out of Russia and published; reading his book seems to make his struggle worthwhile. Go for it! When you've finished it, you'll feel privileged to have read it.

In reply to an earlier post on 26 Apr 2012 21:35:46 BDT
booksy says:
Thanks Jelly - you've really made me want to read it. Those books that stay with you long after are rare but the sort of gems readers always look out for. I read an introduction via 'look inside' and it mentioned on the childless doctor who stayed with the little boy. That alone, just in a top-line account, made me think that this is probably a book which hones in on what it means to be human. I definitely will give it a go. Thanks for the recommendation.

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 10:15:25 BDT
Last edited by the author on 29 Apr 2012 21:23:15 BDT
gingerbam says:
I love your review, I was persuaded to purchase via the school playground where it was highly recommended... not a book I would suggest on the school run, but hey just been told I am a prude. I am stunned that it is such a bestseller, what does that tell us about our society? Are we all secretly into kinky stuff? I made the huge mistake of thinking it would get better in the sequel, make no mistake it does not. Save your money and download a Jackie Collins, I wished had read the reviews first. Thanks for your interesting review.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2012 21:15:09 BDT
jelly 1960 says:
Oh dear! I can't imagine anyone reading it and then buying the sequel. That is seriously sad.
My guess is that there are a lot of people out there (you and me included, by the looks of it) that get excited by the idea of reading something a bit saucy, and discover after the event that we have been sold a pup. Serves us right for thinking that there would be anything worthwhile in this kind of tosh. Mind you I'd never heard of 50 Shades of Sh-te or Ms James until I heard her being breathlessly interviewed on Woman's Hour. I assumed that a book whose author is worthy of interview on the BBC is something worth reading. How wrong I was. I blame the BBC.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Apr 2012 22:49:20 BDT
booksy says:
I did read quite a good one recently (but it's for Kindle) Taming The Stallion Not high literature but I enjoyed it and there was no mention of inner goddesses at all! That said, it is an erotic novel and isn't pretending to be anything else!

Posted on 28 Apr 2012 23:07:21 BDT
Cate says:
Absolutely spot on...I down loaded the book out of curiosity following the hype. What a load of boring, repetitive, unbelievable rubbish! Finished it though and now feel inspired to have a go at writing my own erotic bestseller....!

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Apr 2012 01:27:24 BDT
jelly 1960 says:
Well let me know when you've finished it. I want to write the first review!

Posted on 29 Apr 2012 13:15:05 BDT
Thank you jelly 1960 for your hilarious review - you made me laugh out loud.
My inner goddess is grateful that I can give this book a miss :-)