By E.L. James
When Anastasia Steele agrees to cover her sick roommate’s interview with Seattle’s most elusive businessman, she is little prepared for the enigmatic Christian Grey. Not the elderly businessman she had imagined, Christian is much younger and much more attractive. After fumbling her way through the interview, Ana is absorbed with thoughts of him and is shocked when he appears at her place of work. His continued sudden appearances, as well as his lavish gifts, contradict his verbal statements that he is not the man for her and that she should stay away. Succumbing to their mutual attraction, Ana and Christian admit their need for each other and Christian reveals his reasoning for warning her away. Taken aback by his depravity, Ana initially rejects his offer. But their polarized need brings Ana literally and figuratively falling into Christian’s world of dark contracts and adult playrooms.
This New York Times Bestseller completely emotionally engages the reader in Ana’s struggles to accept the type of relationship Christian is offering and balance her own need for ‘more’. Written from the perspective of Ana, the first person writing style makes this novel extremely personal. Christian Grey is the cliche of every girls fantasy. He is handsome, rich, charming, and seductive, with just the right splash of control freak, self-deprecating humor, mercurial temperament, complete with a dark and twisted past; while Ana is the plain, idealistic, self-conscious girl that thinks she can save him. Struggling to resist her, Christian abandons many of his ‘rules’ just to have her. The one thing that saves this novel from being cliche is the BDSM overtones to the book. The only real plot point is the seduction of Ana and her initiation into the BDSM world, but the depth of character development and the detailed emotional processing makes up for it. The book includes explicit contracts and explanations regarding the specifics of a Dominant and Submissive relationship. Contrary to her understanding, Christian makes it clear to Ana that in this type of relationship the Sub actually has all the power. If the Sub says no to anything, the Dom must respect that. It is under these terms that Ana finally agrees, after much negotiating, to give it a chance. Another aspect that this reader particularly liked, was the portrayal of Ana’s inner struggle. She is displayed in three lights, her ‘Inner Goddess’, her ‘Subconscious’, and then simply herself ‘Ana’. Because of these facets in her character, the author is able to portray the struggle that every woman goes through in compromising her femininity in a masculine centered society.
This reader had hoped for a little more erotiscm in the novel, however found the tempo to be realistic due to the fact that Ana is a virgin at the beginning of the book. The BDSM is actually fairly light in the novel; it is more discussed than actually put into play. There is also little variation in the language used in the sex scenes; some of the phrasing gets repetitive (i.e. she shattered into a million pieces). The sexual tension between the characters is fueled by Christian’s ever present, ravenous need for Ana, so when the erotic scenes do finally occur they are quite steamy. As they progress deeper into Christian’s sexual world, he slowly relents to Ana’s insistent need for ‘more’. Trying to find some degree of compromise, for every level that Ana agrees to explore sexually, Christian makes a further effort to open up emotionally. His perfect mix of charming and tortured evokes Ana’s ‘Inner Goddess’ and awakens her own sensuality. Overall, 50 Shades of Grey is a good first read for any reader new to the genre or BDSM.