Fifty Shades of Grey: Final thoughts + Excerpts

Published March 25, 2012 by Clara Bright

I promised I would finish this book. I promised for real, you guys. I kept my promise and stomped my way through it last night, and one pseudo-word sums up my reaction: Nnneeeeh.

I tried to enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey, I really did. Its success is impressive and inspiring and clearly it works for a lot of people, but it didn’t work for me. My eyes kept glazing over during the long swaths of dialog-only lines. This technique usually reads as ‘snappy’ in my mind, but in Fifty Shades it seemed to drag on and on, pummeling my attention span with its endlessness. I’ll share with you just a piece of such a screed:

All submissives in training, when I was training. There are places in and around Se- attle that one can go and practice. Learn to do what I do,” he says.
What?
“Oh.” I blink at him.
“Yep, I’ve paid for sex, Anastasia.”
“That’s nothing to be proud of,” I mutter haughtily. “And you’re right… I am deeply shocked. And cross that I can’t shock you.”
“You wore my underwear.” “Did that shock you?”
“Yes.” My inner goddess pole-vaults over the fifteen-foot bar. “You didn’t wear your panties to meet my parents.”
“Did that shock you?” “Yes.”
Jeez, the bar’s moved to sixteen feet.
“It seems I can only shock you in the underwear department.”
“You told me you were a virgin. That’s the biggest shock I’ve ever had.” “Yes, your face was a picture, a Kodak moment.” I giggle.
“You let me work you over with a riding crop.” “Did that shock you?”
“Yep.” I grin.
“Well, I may let you do it again.”
“Oh, I do hope so, Miss Steele. This weekend?” “Okay,” I agree, shyly.
“Okay?”
“Yes. I’ll go to the Red Room of Pain again.” “You say my name.”
“That shocks you?”
“The fact that I like it shocks me.” “Christian.”
He grins.
“I want to do something tomorrow.” His eyes glow with excitement. “What?”
“A surprise. For you.” His voice is low and soft.

And it just goes and goes; it’s like a fricking script. What I wouldn’t give for a director to block the scene out so we could do more than imagine two mooks chattering at each other, totally stationary, for fifteen minutes. I might be into just watching them talk, motionless, if I cared for the characters. But I don’t. They may have personalities to differentiate them from Edward and Bella, but they aren’t personalities that I particularly like.

I get that Ana is supposed to be a strong, emotionally stable contrast under a crust of virginal cuteness to contrast Christian’s brooding angsty self, but the more I read the more I felt this was an attribute the book was telling me over and over that she possessed. From her actions, I never got the impression that she was particularly strong. She trends toward whiny at times, even. Keep in mind that this would have been fine if the narration and other characters didn’t try to tell us otherwise.

I thought Christian was boring. Not no-personality-boring, just… not an interesting character. He had character, but not character I cared about or found particularly novel. Dom types with dark pasts and lots of money and chilly, polite external personalities aren’t that new to me.

In many ways both characters are failed by the structure of the work. It’s 380 pages long, which is a long time to spend treading over the same limited set of character traits and intricacies Ana and Christian possess. If the book were half as long it would hardly be a problem; it would be a simple but reasonably long story about fairly simple characters. Simple characters are perfectly fine, just need to know when and how to use them.

Another problem exacerbated by the book’s length was the continuous stream of overused phrases. Christian’s habit of ‘cocking his head to one side,’ went from noticeable to infuriating within a few chapters. Just when I thought I’d seen the last one, I’d turn a page and see it again.

I’ve seen a lot of praise for the email exchanges between the characters, and I have to agree that they may be the most interesting, character-building parts of the book. Why? Because you get to see Christian Grey use smileys in his emails!

From: Christian Grey
Subject: Impatient
Date: May 23 2011 17:55
To: Anastasia Steele

Miss Steele
Stop emailing me – and do your assignment. I’d like to award another A.
The first one was so well deserved. ;)
Christian Grey
CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc.

I’m sorry, but that’s adorable/hilarious. I could complain about how they’re exchanging emails instead of texts, but I won’t. It threw me for a loop, but it’s a minor thing compared to the bland sex and annoying characters. Fifty Shades didn’t do it for me, but I’ve seen it do plenty for others. In the end, I can only present my very personal opinions.

5 comments on “Fifty Shades of Grey: Final thoughts + Excerpts

  • Clara, I have to thank you for having read this and thereby saving me from so doing. You have confirmed everything I had gathered from the excerpts I have already seen and all I can say is thank you for taking one for the team. But, as you say, it has worked for a lot of other people. I hope some of them progress to your work, now!

    • Second.

      That dialogue is awful. Not necessarily what the words ARE–real conversation is probably that inane most of the time–but the constant emotional directives. “I said shyly.” “I grinned.” It’s classic telling not showing, and I thought I couldn’t tell the difference if it ran me over in a truck!

      I applaud the gal’s success with the books and am glad so many people are reading and talking and hopefully having honest discussion of sexuality because of it…but nothing I’ve read about it or from it makes me want to read it myself. I’ll just watch Secretary for the 100th time :)

  • ….i liked the books….they made for easy reading after long days at work.. (i’m an accountant)…..so these books were perfect….

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