British author E. L. James published this ‘erotic, romance novel’ in 2011. It had a reputation for explicit BDSM scenes. Personally, I thought it was rather vanilla. To begin, she wrote the fanfiction under the pen name ‘Snowqueen’s Icedragon’ on FanFiction.Net, by no means a professional like the classic authors we revere such as Stephen King, Terry Pratchett, Ray Bradbury or John Steinbeck. To give James a fair perspective, author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Harper Lee did not really write prior to her best-selling, prize-winning book. After it was published, she rarely appeared in the public eye and aside from a few essays, didn’t publish much else. At least she could write.
Supposedly, 50 Shades was based on the Twlight saga by Stephanie Myer (let’s not even begin to discuss her literary ‘skills’) even though Amanda Haywood of The Writer’s Coffee Shop stated it ‘bore very little resemblance to Twilight’.
Worse still, the depiction of BDSM within her novels which is confused with abuse, shows the personal preference of sexual variety to be something that should be overcome. It also shows possibly harmful and incorrect techniques.
Then we get onto the worse issue of glorification of abuse. Some critics and scientists have expressed the relationship has characteristics of an abusive relationship and is not BDSM at all.*
If we delve into the actual detailed writing of the book, it can be considered very poor. In my personal opinion, the characters are unbelievable. A virgin college senior meets an excessively rich businessman and suddenly it’s all creepy contracts and teenage sexual abuse stories.
I found it hard to get through the first paragraph without wanting to slam the book shut. The cliché of looking in a mirror to describe the protagonist’s physical appearance and shortage of actual concrete description but inclusion of every pointless, boring thought, for example: ‘I am trying to brush my hair into submission. I must not sleep with it wet. I must not sleep with it wet.’ is so telling my brain cells begin to die from lack of stimulation. The writing continues like this throughout.
This takes me to the plot. I am so utterly sure the only reason this has become a hugely successful seller is the fact it has some raunchy themes, if she had written about anything but sex she wouldn’t have made a penny. If you took out all the times Anastasia blushed or chewed her lip, you’d nearly have no content left. The sex scenes are more laughable than erotic. If I didn’t have such a deep respect for books, I’d burn this one.
*Bonomi AE, Altenburger LE, Walton NL; Altenburger; Walton (September 2013). “Double crap!” abuse and harmed identity in Fifty Shades of Grey”.