Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James: a book review

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James: a book review

I had heard quite a lot about Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James. A number of women on sites I belong to have apparently enjoyed it. And I had also heard it started life as fanfiction for the Twilight saga, which I found moderately entertaining. So I decided to give it a whirl.

It's about this college student called Anastasia, who goes to interview a drop dead gorgeous bachelor billionaire called Christian Grey, for her college newspaper. Mr Grey, who as well as being gorgeous and fabulously wealthy is apparently unattached at present (we all know how hard it is for gorgeous billionaires to get girlfriends), takes an inexplicable fancy to the demure Anastasia, and offers her the role of his part time 'submissive'. He wants to be able to do kinky things to her at the weekends; the rest of her time is her own.

Anastasia is shocked but intrigued, and eventually agrees to give it a go. She is given a contract to sign which goes on for pages and pages. I'm amazed she has the patience to read through it, because I certainly didn't. Anyway, she decides to take him up on his offer. A few weekends are spent doing some mildly kinky activities, then she decides to end the relationship, because as she explains to Christian, “You can't give me what I want, and I can't give you what you want.”

And that is the story in nutshell. the characters never really come to life. The author makes a half-hearted attempt to give them some personality by making Anastasia interested in classic literature, and Christian a classical music fan, but you can't breathe life into cardboard characters by giving them unlikely interests. Let them fly a plane if they like (and at one point they do)—they remain obstinately one dimensional.

There are authors who can create improbably gorgeous hot men and make you believe in them, like Janet Evanovich in her Stephanie Plum series for example, or the late Georgette Heyer in her historical romances. But Christian Grey is not of their number. His allure is non existent. A robot of a man, he simply goes through the motions. Not for a second did I believe in him as a real person.

It is perhaps unfortunate that the name Grey was chosen for the male character. Some of you will recall that Grey is the name of the genuinely intriguing hero of the film Secretary, a man who has a real personality. Christian Grey remains but a pale shadow (a lighter shade of grey perhaps)

The book is incredibly repetetive, and most of all on the subject of Christian Grey's grey eyes. His grey eyes are mentioned at least once a chapter, sometimes several times in the course of a chapter. Sometimes they are hard and speculative, sometimes intense and smoky, sometimes narrow, but always grey. Most of all though, they burn. In fact, his burning grey eyes are mentioned so often that you wonder if perhaps he should see a doctor, or at least get some eyedrops.

I am not sure what it is about this book that has managed to excite so many people, but it totally failed to excite me. There is nothing here to inflame the senses. Christian's burning eyes do not arouse so much as a flicker of warmth. Stephanie Myers's prose style in the Twilight sage has been much criticised, but she is Charlotte Bronte by comparison to the grey author of this grey book.

Louise C

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Comments

Dreadful writing and a theme having no taken-in-hand thrills

I found it sheer torture to read this book, given the lack of plot, entirely unbelievable, undeveloped, stereotypical characters, and the appalling writing. Was the author, perhaps, having a laugh? Was her intention to see how many clichés she could cram into a single book? It is as much a mystery to me as it is to you, Louise, why this book has sold so well.

Boring book

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E L James is ostensibly a book about an early 20's college girl who loves a late 20's billionaire but hates aspects of his BDSM life-style. She admits to liking his helicopters and gliders and his riches and even admits to liking his control—in the bedroom and otherwise—but does not want her will over-ridden by him.

The story is told from the girl's perspective. She feels compassion for him because he was badly abused as a child. Because of this and her fascination with him she is willing to sacrifice and go along with his BDSM proclivities. She likes the sex that follows and his telling her what to do, but worries that it is not possible for him to love her fully, ultimately because he has not learned to trust her because of his fractured childhood. So she guesses that he needs to be in control because of the abuse that he had as a child when he was not in control. Now he is compensating. For a while she'll play along.

She ultimately decides to see whether she can withstand his full control by seeing if she can endure a "punishment" when he is much displeased with her. She is willing to sacrifice for love.

But she hates it. It hurts. She can't stand it. She decides that though she finds him beautiful, still loves him, and finds the sex between them fabulous, she must leave him because he is a broken man. She will never allow her will to be over-ridden again, because his desire for that is pathological. Implicit is the idea that genuine love requires full consent and she will never consent to him overriding her wishes. There is no consensual non-consent. In her case, she likes his control, but only when he is leading her in directions that give her pleasure. But he wants more control than that. And she won't let him have it. She walks out on him and book 1 ends.

What's fascinating is how many women like this book. Millions of copies have sold and it is being made into a movie. It is as if some women secretly like the control and the consensual non-consent that implicitly pervades the books. But they can't admit it because that would mean admitting that they sometimes enjoy when men override their wishes. There is risk associated with consensual non-consent, because you have to trust *the man* to actually look out for your interests. And women who like this book don't want to go there. After all, it is possible that when there is consensual non-consent, what the man does might not actually be pleasurable. *There is risk* involved in such a real relationship. But the female character will have none of that and I suspect the housewives who like the book won't, either. That's why there needs to be the moralistic subplot described below.

Those who love this book get to read about great sex where the man is in control. But they also get to feel virtuous as they empathize with the female character who becomes his sexually willing near-therapist and ultimately heals him of his demons by teaching him to trust again. In the mind of the author as revealed in the book, this enables him to love her without him ever needing to actually overcome any resistance of hers, at all. She does not need to be Taken in Hand, and he must learn that in the book. But the reader can nonetheless fully enjoy the Taken-in-Hand themes, while never needing to admit that she likes them. Indeed the female character cures him of precisely what the reader has enjoyed. And the third book is even more boring as a consequence.

We all know that when everything becomes perfect, male characters—including the protagonist in the book—will always lead women just where they want to go. And in a fairy-tale world, only childhood victimization prevents men from being ideal—not their choices, desires, or anything else. In the mythical world that is the world of this book, once healed of demons, the ideal man becomes omniscient about how to be good to his girlfriend. And boy does this ideal man then satisfy her material, sexual, and spiritual needs. This is a narcissistic smorgasbord for women!

Her fixing him even fixes herself. Because how could such a boring woman be that important, unless she possesses a deep, powerful, and highly impressive knowledge about how to release the ideal man.

Yes, this is the fantasy of an immature 17-year old girl. And it can be fun, for a while. But the series cannot ultimately be good. The book implicitly condemns BDSM, but there is a paradox. I think you can see where I am going with this. The male character is supposed to be the twisted person (fifty shades of "f-cked-up"), but with a heart of gold. He chases his princess to release him from his demons which becomes the moralistic subplot of the book, so that he can learn to trust again. But it is *she*, ultimately, who tells him when and how to stop being with her in book 1, when arguably he did not do *anything* that is evil, and most of the time she fully enjoyed what was happening to her!

There can be no consensual non-consent in their sexual relations. She must consent to everything about their relationship (forget the sex) ultimately because *she does not trust him*. Her relationship with him therefore becomes not real, just like a BDSM relationship that relies on explicit consent, when real relationships evolve trust. Taken In Hand builds trust to allow the man the necessary control to patiently overcome his wife's resistance.

But in the book it is she who wields the metaphorical "safe-word" in their relationship, because his flaws do not give him the moral authority to have genuine power in the relationship. She can change him. But unlike in a Taken In Hand relationship, he can't change her.

And what a fantasy for the young female reader. Like a "rape-fantasy", she directs the whole thing, while imagining he's fully in control. And there is no real trust between anyone. And no real relationship…which ultimately makes the books…..BORING.

My Thoughts...

From a writer's perspective (having done a bit of freelance in the past), after reading all three books, I would say that the author's character development and overall writing does improve with each book. I believe the author is a former CEO or TV producer (or both?) and this is her first attempt at a novel (or three). As the plot thickens, you get to really know what drives Christian and why he is so controlling and 'robotic', so to speak, and with each book, he becomes more 'human'.

It's not going to win a Pulitzer—but I think the true appeal of the trilogy can be summed up in a few basic ideas.

1. The strong, dominant man who can make anything happen, can take care of you no matter what situation you may find yourself in, and who can satisfy your every sexual desire (several times a day). I don't know a female who hasn't fantasized about this.

2. The interaction that takes place via e-mail between Ana and Christian is probably my favorite feature in all of the books. I found it more exciting than any of the sex or action that takes place throughout the entire trilogy. Ana is incredibly intimidated by Christian and only seems to find the courage to speak her mind when she can hide behind a computer screen (or blackberry). The witty, sexually charged banter that ensues is fun to witness.

3. It's really a classic love story. Bad boy meets good girl who wants more than the bad boy is capable or willing to give. You have to read all three books to see how that one ends, and while I'm sure you can imagine the outcome, in my opinion, it's worth the read. There are a few twists and turns in the second and third installments that kept me wanting more.

I suppose at its most basic—the protective, dominant, controlling (admittedly to a fault) male character was definitely a huge draw for me. This isn't real life—it's a story, a fantasy. It was surely a change from the usual romance/erotic novels I've read (like the Dark-Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon) in the past.

All in all—it's good fun. I would never pick up a romance novel expecting to find the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird inside... but as far as this genre goes, I loved it and would recommend it to any woman (or man) looking for a little guilty pleasure.

No mocking birds

I wouldn't pick up a romance novel expecting to find To Kill a Mockingbird inside either. But some romance novels are well written and have interesting characters. This isn't one of them.

And Christian isn't really a strong, dominant man, he is totally screwed up, as is made clear. He spent six years as a 'sub' to a dominant woman, and that in itself suggests a man who is not strong or dominant in the least.

As for 'witty banter' I totally failed to find any evidence of wit in any of the banter that takes place between these two empty headed characters.

Louise

I liked this book

So glad someone wrote a positive point of view. I've read the first two books and am looking forward to the third. I agree with Lailie--- it's not literature--- it's a quick & fun read that allows me to escape into another's world... even if that world is a little 'out there' (for me).

Christian and Anastasia

Louise is right about the stupidity of the writing and the shallowness of the plot, yet I read all three novels in no time flat. There was something I liked about the newness of the relationship and the getting-to-know-you conversations and her frustrations trying to understand him.

Anastasia has unrealistically maternal feelings towards her mother and even towards her old stepfather.

Christian is interesting in his Red Room of Pain. He's got a lot of equipment, quick and slow moves, and some nice things to say. But we realize quickly that he has been so hurt, and he's so scared of touching and love, that really Anastasia must lead him if their love is going to have the chance it deserves.

But I bet it's not the undermining of his control that has made the novels so popular. The parts of the novels I liked, and I bet I'm not alone in this, were the parts where he reined.

Um

Yes I agree but....

"But I bet it's not the undermining of his control that has made the novels so popular. The parts of the novels I liked, and I bet I'm not alone in this, were the parts where he reined."

Yes. This is unconsciously what many women do want. But many New York housewives and other housewives around the world find it hard to admit this. The subplot, where Anastasia is curing Christian of his depravity (because he is said to be "f-cked up") is what many women can *claim to like*. In their reviews they say that they like the "evolution of the relationship", or something like that. But there is no real evolution. The characters are flat and boring.

If this book had been a well-written book about a dominant hero controlling a beautiful woman—without the hero needing to be cured—there would not have been a mass market for it. There are many such books that are much better written with far more interesting relationships. And millions of copies of these book are not sold.

The women on this site, because they are honest with themselves, have liked and would like well written books like that. But these books are not international best sellers.

The author is very clever in that she created in this book a drama about a dominant man, but with another part that allows women readers to distance themselves from what is socially unpopular (being controlled by a man).

Like a politician who watches pornographic movies (and secretly likes them) in order to figure out which ones should be banned in his community, conventional egalitarian women surreptitiously comment about the "evolving relationship", while unconsciously longing for the dominant man (even though the book in some ways emasculates him as he is being cured of his problems). Women can be normal like everyone else, while reading about the "depravity" that is the part that they actually enjoy.

Some women are not mature enough to admit what they actually like about this book.

Perhaps...

I think you make some good points... but I'd like to just comment on something that struck a nerve. Just for the sake of friendly debate. :)

"Some women are not mature enough to admit what they actually like about this book."

Perhaps... though I think the women on this site are not only mature enough, but know themselves well enough to admit what they liked about the book(s). Why are we all here otherwise? Though—I think that is part of the point you are making. But in defense of the millions of other women who read the book(s)...

I think you make a valid point that the Taken in Hand relationship is not what many in this day and age would consider socially acceptable—so, as a result, many of us register with this site using fake screen names instead of our real names because society as a whole would point their fingers and label us 'freaks' or lump us into the BDSM category (or our friends/relatives would try to rescue us from our 'abusive' husbands). Maybe some people are okay with that—but the inner workings of my relationship with my husband are private and I'd like it to stay that way.

So to assume that someone isn't mature because they won't openly admit to the world that they want to be controlled by a strong, loving man (and as a result—won't admit that this is what they liked about the book), is not a safe or accurate assumption. Some of us (outside the confines of this website) just want our private lives to remain private—kinks or no kinks, Taken In Hand or not. Some things should remain sacred. I share personal things on this website—but only because I can do so openly without having to reveal my identity. Yes—when I discuss the book with my girlfriends—I keep my true feelings about what appeals to me to myself. But that is not a lack of maturity, it's an overwhelming feeling of respect for my husband and our privacy.

I think we need to also keep in mind that this isn't a book about Taken In Hand relationships. Most of the women who will read it don't even know what Taken In Hand is (even if they would fit very comfortably in that dynamic). It's an erotic novel that happened to go mainstream. It's not a great work of art—it's fun, fluff... something to read before bed.

Which leads me to a question.

"The women on this site, because they are honest with themselves, have liked and would like well written books like that. But these books are not international best sellers."

Please—do share the titles of these books! I'm an avid reader (classics, horror and erotica included) so please, I'm always looking for a new book to devour. I have yet to read a book that is truly about Taken In Hand and would be very interested in finding such a book. :)

Plausible

Your argument is plausible for many women. I think I am almost persuaded. Social convention is certainly one reason why some women can not say publicly why they actually like the book.

But many women also feel ambivalent about their inclination to be controled. They have not made peace with it. And this book helps them to maintain their ambivalence, not deal with it.

In that sense, there is something dishonest about the book.

I recently downloaded the

I recently downloaded the free sample for this book on my Kindle after reading a newspaper review calling it an example of a new genre called "mommy porn". Since I had never heard of mommy porn I though I should read some. (Just to expand my horizons, of course, not because I wanted some free titillation, no siree!)

I've only read as far as Ana starting the interview with Mr Grey and already it's clear the writing is dire; the hero and heroine are two dimensional and the other characters would struggle to reach one dimension. Mr Grey seems like a very boring person who lives in a concrete and glass office block and only employs blonde women. The writing style is linear and flat and would probably be classed as "OK" if submitted as a school essay. It's not deathless prose by any stretch of the imagination.

The goods news is that if this is best-seller material then just about every poster on Taken In Hand has a stellar career ahead of them as a top author because most articles on this site are more gripping.

Will I buy the book? (You are certainly wondering.) Well, if something hot happens to Anastasia before the end of the free sample I might be tempted, but otherwise probably not. (Anastasia is a typical all-American name, you know.)

And speaking of American, what happens when this book reaches the American market? Does Mr Grey become Mr Gray? If not, the Fifty shades of Grey pun doesn't work anymore.

That's okay...

To quote myself... "It's an erotic novel that happened to go mainstream. It's not a great work of art—it's fun, fluff... something to read before bed."

I'm okay with the fact that besides Um, I might be the only person on this website that enjoyed the books.

Then again, I've always been a cup half full kind of person and I think it's enabled me to always see the positive side of things and to gain enjoyment from seemingly boring, mundane tasks. It's how I choose to go through life. I also have a very vivid imagination and suppose I'm able to imagine more from the characters than the author reveals—this is true with every book I read.

Where there is black and white, I see color.

Able to see deeper than the surface

I agree with several of Lailie's comments about "50 Shades of Grey". I recognized character development taking place in the first book.
However I don't think Lailie is the only one that sees deeper than the author reveals.... Lailie is following the author's lead to use her imagination and consequently enjoys many of the books she reads. I think it takes a talent that some writers/authors just have, and open-minded imaginative readers are able to benefit and enjoy.
I have just read the 1st in the series and will read the 2nd.

50 Shades

I couldn't agree with you more Louise C, I briefly flicked through it after so many of my friends and acquaintances raved about it. My feelings are mostly of pity for these women who do not know the intense satisfaction of a real Taken In Hand relationship with a real man.

Diane

A Place for Fantasy within Reality

While Christian is a shrinking violet (surely most men could manage to keep their wife at home when there's a murderous kidnapper after her), enjoyment of the novel doesn't seem good evidence for a void in the reader's reality.

My relationship with my husband has actually increased the frequency, intensity, and variability of my fantasies. I know some people think fantasies undermine reality or become superfluous in the face of reality, but I continue to learn a lot through fantasy, and in fantasies, I can be a lot braver than I ever would be in real life.

Um

Couldn't have said it better myself...

I totally agree with you Louise. I felt the book was absolute trash, predictable, and it was torture reading. I too, wondered what all the hype was about, so I downloaded a free copy (wrong, but hey, I wasn't paying 10 bucks for it!), and I couldn't get past one chapter without cringing. 50 Shades of Grey should be labeled as an erotic book, not a novel of any sort. I felt Anastasia was over the top. Her cussing in the book seemed dramatic and forced...as if the writer wanted us to feel Anastasia's surprise at everything Christian was doing, but she failed...miserably. Plus, this was supposed to be a book about bdsm, but I saw nothing a normal vanilla couple wouldn't do. (besides the extreme whipping at the end) All of the other kinky, demands and language used by Christian just seemed like rough sex talk to me. The writer also failed to correctly illustrate a true dom/sub relationship. Some of the things Anastasia did she would have never gotten away with with a real dom. She would have been beaten or punished several times a day. *shrugs* Anyway, I think the only reason so many people like this book is because it's erotic and the theme of BDSM is taboo, so that adds a bit of cheap thrill. Not my thing, though. Horrible book.

50 Shades Changed My Life

First, let me defend E.L. James from her most frequent, biting criticism—that her erotic trilogy began as "Twilight fan fiction." Never mind that Twilight at its core is fan fiction of Emily Bronte and Jane Austen, but I digress.

Through the entire trilogy, E.L. James transforms the brooding Edward/Heathcliff/Darcy archetype into a much more richly developed character, flawed, but ultimately understandable, and even sympathetic. Had she not woven such a rich tapestry, no one would even be talking about the "poor writing" or "mommy porn" aspects of the series, because one simply would not have cared enough about the characters to get past the novelty of the story and the explicit eroticism.

These books changed my life. They changed my wife's life. They awakened something in us that neither or us knew we needed.

Without getting into our personal histories, I am convinced that at the end of our lives, we will define our lives by the time before and the time after we read E.L. James.

Now That I Have A Taken In Hand Relationship

I finally got around to reading these books, so I thought I’d throw my two cents into the conversation.

I have to admit that I wasn’t going to read the series at all after seeing the mostly negative comments on this site, but while on vacation with several families and friends this Summer, I noticed that there were four different people in our group, all reading these books. So I decided to see what all the hype was about for myself.

There is something compelling about the writing or plot structure that made me want to just read one more chapter (until I finished the whole series), in spite of the stilted descriptions, poor writing style and incomplete character development. In that sense, I think the author created a similar series to the Twilight books, which I also devoured in a very short time frame in spite of its shortfalls.

I agree with Lailie when she says:

“All in all—it's good fun. I would never pick up a romance novel expecting to find the likes of To Kill a Mockingbird inside... but as far as this genre goes, I loved it and would recommend it to any woman (or man) looking for a little guilty pleasure.”

Having never read “erotic fiction” I was definitely intrigued by the descriptions of what went on in the bedroom as well as in the Red Room of Pain. And I was surprised to see aspects of what I like about the way Mr Lucky is dominant with me echoed in some of the ways that Christian was dominant with Ana. Small things like how he spoke in a soft commanding voice for example, or how they sort of spoke to each other with their eyes.

Interestingly, I had a strong negative reaction to her wanting to change/emasculate him and found myself becoming frustrated when she repeatedly disobeyed him and he did nothing about it. It was a bit odd that he would spank her for rolling her eyes at him, but not for endangering her life or the lives of others. Seeing him repeatedly cowed by her was distasteful to me.

I wonder if my reaction would be the same if I had read the books a couple of years ago, before Mr Lucky and I embarked on our own Taken In Hand relationship.

I do think Taken In Hand does color my outlook now. And although I don’t think this book is a reflection of a Taken in Hand relationship, I like that it has brought some of the ideas of Taken In Hand out to the general public. It might be a way to chat about the subject in general with friends in a sort of neutral setting.

The Conversation

I agree with Hahn's initial assessment of the books, for the most part, but feel that Joe 32 and MrsLucky have hit on something very important that I'd like to expand upon. Louise is not wrong, either, in her literary assessment of these books, but let's all remember that this is EL James' first literary effort. Not bad for a first timer to become an international sensation—we all know she didn't get there with her fabulous prose, so what is it about these books?

Joe32 said it was life-changing for him and his wife. He isn't saying how, but I suspect that, in some way, this story gave them a picture of something that intrigued them, satisfied some deep itch, made some hidden need come to light and take on life. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but he is not alone in feeling that there is something about Christian Grey (probably not the annoying Anastasia) that stirred something in them, or something about the male/female energies and the themes of dominance and submission (however gingerly the author handled the subject) that made them look at their relationship with new possibilities in mind.

MrsLucky said:
I had a strong negative reaction to her wanting to change/emasculate him and found myself becoming frustrated when she repeatedly disobeyed him and he did nothing about it.

I think one of the biggest frustrations for most of us (even those of us who are not naturally writers or picky about the quality of the prose we read) is that the promise of the books never really materialized. The disappointment I felt when Christian's dominant bent transformed to "all talk, no action" in the name of trying to keep her around, was deep and frustrating.

Most of all, I was frustrated that the author never really went deeper into her subject than the level required to play out the fantasy. As Louise and others rightly point out, the characters are one-dimensional, because they are not allowed naturally to evolve. Christian does not evolve so much as adapt.

This is not the stuff of a real relationship. Christian learns to trust, and surrender, but Ana, unfortunately, never does. I felt rather sorry for her, in the end.

The reason, getting now to my point, that this was all so frustrating for me is that the book seemed to have promise—of exploring something we have all come to appreciate has real power when manifested in a loving relationship—but never delivers. Remember, though, that this author has been interviewed and has stated publicly that this book is simply a compilation of every fantasy she's ever had. In that sense, it accomplishes what it sets out to do, and all of our criticisms of what she should have done regarding character development, etc. seem arch in that context.

The real power of these books, IMHO, is that they have done something that, for some reason, previous erotic novels and Gothic romances have failed to do—they have opened The Conversation. Women (and men) are talking about Christian Grey and dominance and submission. They are considering the power dynamic in relationships. They are admitting to being attracted to Grey, not for his millions or his planes or his damaged past or his "burning" eyes—but for his quiet, firm, confident, control. I've never heard so many women talking openly about spanking before. What was a closed community and a subject best discussed anonymously on forums is now openly debated on airplanes and at the office and in backyards (and front yards!).

To the extent that this book has sparked The Conversation, and even made it possible for some of us to introduce the subject to the uninitiated, I think the book has real power. I don't care that it isn't great literature. I can name some classics that bored the snot out of me. I am watching in amazement as the topic of male-led relationships now seems to be less taboo than before, and I'm grateful, at least, for that. EL James didn't intend any of this, I'm sure, but I'm grateful, nonetheless, and will be watching with interest to see whether any of my friends enters The Conversation.

Agree 100% - The Conversation

I agree 100% with what you've said here Belle.

While 50 Shades wasn't the most well written book - agreed 100% - what this book DID was bring about THE CONVERSATION for so many marriages and relationships. It showed a dynamic - Dom/Sub - that though not played out truthfully and correctly in the books - intrigued MANY.

Much like Joe 31 these books CHANGED MY LIFE AND MY HUSBAND'S LIFE. It broke apart the shackles of our limitations in our relationship and brought out our true tendencies. It made us brave enough to see what we both TRULY wanted, needed and desired in our relationship and marriage.

All you cynics can cackle behind your oh so superior hands when judging these book and the effects they have had on millions of women and relationships - but you'd be wrong to do so.

This opened up THE CONVERSATION in our relationship and we now have a fully explored fully functional amazing Dom/sub relationship both sexually and relationally and we both have never been happier in our life.

So snicker and judge all you like - but don't you dare claim that these books can't and didn't change lives for the better. You'd be wrong.

Twilight as Jane Austen fan fiction

Twilight is certainly not Fan Fiction for Jane Austen. none of Jane Austen's heroines would ever have been as silly as Bella.The books have nothing whatsoever in common with the novels of Jane Austen. Possibly Bronte fan fiction, though even that is a stretch.

As for Fifty Shades changing anyone's life, I will just take your word for it.

Fifty Shades of Mr Darcy

Well, there was I thinking there was no possible connection between Jane Austen and the Fifty Shades books, when i came across this book in our local Waterstones. Like most parodies, a little goes a long way, and some of it is merely vulgar rather than funny, but bits of it are very good. I particularly enjoyed this exchange between Elizabeth and Darcy:

'From the very beginning, from the first moment, I may almost say, of my acquaintance with you, your manners impressed me with the fullest belief of your sex mania, your arrogance, and your verging-on-stalkerish behaviour. I have recognised you as an overgrown public schoolboy with a penis fixation. What is more, your constant exhortations to "Ooh, give it to me baby," belong in a bad amateur porn film rather than a romantic novel. In short, Mr Darcy, your character needs more weight,'
Mr Darcy's mouth set in a grim line. 'I must take issue with you, Miss Bennet' he remarked coldly. 'I am, as you know, unbelievably hot, which makes most of my character flaws forgivable. If a balding, paunchy, middle-aged guy with bad shoes kept turning up when you least expected it, it would be creepy; when I do it, it is both ardent and deeply flattering.'
'You, sir, are a badly drawn, one-dimensional figure!' Elizabeth countered. 'Fifty shades? more like two: "gagging for sex" , that's one, and "in a bad mood". '
Anger made her voluble, and she continued: 'Who - who - I ask you, at twenty-seven, controls a multimillion global company just by occasionally picking up the phone and saying, "Talk to Peters" and "Get it there by Tuesday"? What do you actually do anyway? Furthermore, what heterosexual man even has tracks by Nelly Furtado on his iPod, let alone considers them a suitably erotic soundtrack for an S&M sex session?'
'Miss Bennet' Mr Darcy remarked coldly, 'I do believe you are discussing the wrong book.'
Elizabeth checked herself. 'You are correct, Mr Darcy,' she replied gravely. 'On that point I must beg your forgiveness. It is somewhat confusing being in a mash-up of two very different novels.'

And this bit where they are out on the river listening to Mozart:

Elizabeth listened to the music in silence for some time, staring out over the sun-dappled water.
'I must ask, also, Mr Darcy' she said eventually, 'is this scene in Miss Austen's book?'
''No, it is in the other one' said Mr Darcy with a wry smile. 'Its purpose, I believe, is to further reveal what a capable, sauve, all-knowing alpha male I am, and cast light upon your own helplessness and general ignorance about everything from sex to classical music.'

Some characters appear in startling form, Lady Catherine de Burgh as a leather-clad dominatrix for instance, and Mr Whickham as a publisher intent on making Lydia his secretarial assistant.

Some of it is just crude rather than funny, but there are enough humorous passages to make the book worth reading.

Louise

50 Shades

I too am quite baffled about the success of these books. And that has nothing to do with the subject matter. I don't think anyone who frequents this website has a problem with that. After all, male-led relationships are what Taken In Hand is all about.

My problem is and always will be with the bad writing. Just because a book is "entertainment" does not mean it has to be badly written. This goes for many other light entertainment books too, be they romance novels, erotica, mysteries...
Erotica and accomplished writing are not mutually exclusive.

Which brings me to the question, WHY these books? Erotica with a strong D/s subject matter has been around for ages and these books have not exactly been sold under the table. Any bigger bookstore has a section dedicated to this. Out in the open. Many of these books are much better written than 50 Shades. Better writing, better characters, better plots...

So again, what makes these books so compelling?

Don't get me wrong, I am quite happy about the fact that this book has made D/s relationships (for lack of a better word) more mainstream.

I thoroughly agree with Harper that any book that can start THE CONVERSATION deserves credit. If it makes more people interested in a relationship like this, I'm all for it. As Belle says, these things are now discussed out in the open.

Harper, I think you misunderstand though if you think we snicker and judge. After all we are on a website that definitively supports a different view of love and many people have been shocked by the site.

My snickering is reserved, as I said, for the bad style of the book. If anyone can recommend some other books about this subject, I'd appreciate it.

Joe32, I have a question for you. How did these books change your life?

I am asking this question, because as opposed to other people here on this site, and elsewhere, I always knew from the beginning (before I even had a name for it) that I wanted this kind of relationship, so 50 Shades was not an eye opener for me. I just consider Taken In Hand absolutely natural.

Thanks for answering in advance.

Jessica Rabbit

bad writing

Jessica,

That's it exactly. just because a book isn't 'great literature' that doesn't have to mean it is badly written. there seems to be an assumption that if it isn't 'lterature' any old rubbish will do. but a book can just be for fun, and yet be a pleasure to read.

Louise

Same Subject, Different Name

I liked the book until about the middle. It was like an endless tease with no payoff. IMO, this book is just another take of the endless love affair women have with the "bad boy" types. They love them, but want to "fix" them. Anastasia could never love Christian for who he was. She had to "fix" him. I hate that Christian is presented as "broken" or "damaged," just as Lee was in "Secretary." I guess it is the writers' way of resolving their guilty feeling for writing about the subject. If they present characters as being damaged, then they feel the reader can forgive them the brazen subject. Both Edward and Christian came from dominating relationships, but they were not the doms. At least Edward steps up. I detest the wishy-washy and dominating Anastasia.

Adjel

Adjel, your comment hits the nail on the head.

First, bad boys are just that. Boys, not men. Women will never have a relationship with them. It doesn't work.
When I say to another woman that I like dominant, take-charge men, I cannot count the times how often I've heard: "So, you like bad boys and/or sexist chauvinists??"
I stopped explaining what I want a long time ago.

"I guess it is the writers' way of resolving their guilty feeling for writing about the subject. If they present characters as being damaged, then they feel the reader can forgive them the brazen subject."

YES. I liked the film "Secretary" a lot, but it really bothered me that the protagonists were portrayed as damaged. As if there has to be a deep-seated psychological reason for wanting to be dominated. As if people like that are looneys who have to be fixed.

That reminds me of the old feminist conviction (forgot who said it) that women who want to be ravished/dominated/spanked were either abused as children or are afraid of sexuality. Rubbish.

I have no problem with my desires, I just can't seem to find a man to fulfill them.

Jessica Rabbit

"Boys, not men."

Well said, JR. Let us all hope and pray that the detestable so-called pick-up artists, little boys in grown men's bodies, never learn any of the language of Taken In Hand and in so doing misuse it, or even worse, fool their less than discerning victims that they in any way know anything about a beautiful, even sacred, committed relationship style, much less are in any way worthy of the noble class of woman who is mature, sorted, self-aware and loving enough to seek such a treasured relationship with a worthy man.

Let us at all costs encourage The Conversation all across these beautiful Isles and indeed throughout a loneliness- and divorce-ravaged world greatly in need of it, while preserving it from counterfeits, labels, mainstream corruption or anything else prejudicial to a fuller and better understanding of that deeply connected, committed relationship that we all seek through Taken In Hand.

It's just too beautiful.

To Jessica Rabbit

Hi Jessica,

I understand your comment of 3rd May: "I have no problem with my desires, I just can't seem to find a man to fulfil them".

I applaud your keeping your standards high and holding out for the right one, for it will be a worthwhile wait that neverthless could end with the simple act of responding to a like mind on here some day could well initiate an eventually deep connection resulting in a Taken In Hand marriage?

Jessica, I personally would drive the length of the country in my trusty old 4x4 just for the privilege of spending a few pleasant hours in deep conversation in the appropriate setting with a Taken In Hand inclined woman who, perhaps like me, was fed up with hoping and waiting yet another day/month/year, and was happy just to meet a like mind, no commitments expected or implied.

I guess I am just kinda old fashioned that way, as in so many other ways.

Hardy A