Book review: Fifty Shades of Grey

Published: August 26, 2012
The book is classified as erotic fiction, where I am sure the word ‘erotic’ is used in the loosest sense of the word. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

The book is classified as erotic fiction, where I am sure the word ‘erotic’ is used in the loosest sense of the word. PHOTO: PUBLICITY

Which series has sold over 40 million copies worldwide and overtaken Harry Potter as well as The Da Vinci Code to become the fastest selling paperback in countries like the United Kingdom? Fifty Shades of Grey, of course.

The book is classified as erotic fiction, where I am sure the word ‘erotic’ is used in the loosest sense of the word. If erotic passages are meant to induce an almost impossible combination of disbelief, cringing and inadvertent hilarity then, by all means, Fifty Shades of Grey is the most erotic novel ever written. Frankly, until now, I did not think it was possible to wince, laugh, and grind my teeth at same time.

There is also no doubt that the book is fictional because it requires a suspension of disbelief that I believe the human mind isn’t dull enough to manage. I am not sure who the 40 million people who purchased this book are, but either the US is experimenting with fresher ways to torture those being held for terrorism or Fifty Shades of Grey is really popular with the stoner crowd.

The book is told from the perspective of a 22-year-old college student Anastasia “Ana” Steele who, while doing a favour for her friend Katherine Kavanagh, meets 27-year-old businessman Christian Grey and they develop a mutual attraction. After a longwinded courtship, they eventually become involved in a more physical relationship. Initially, their physical interactions are limited to regular sexual play. Ana, who has little sexual experience, not even solo, finds Christian irresistible, and through him reaches a sexual awakening. But things get out of control when they turn to BDSM.

To his credit, Christian is very receptive to Ana’s physical needs and is both attentive and successful at sexually pleasing Ana. Unfortunately, as a male reader, that’s the only positive or realistic thing I can say about this character.

Other than that, what Fifty Shades of Grey has taught me is that I would have to be incredibly handsome, in peak physical condition, a billionaire, a philanthropist, able to fluently speak foreign languages, be trained at flying aircrafts, be the world’s best lover and, on top of all that, be impressively endowed, to attract Ana. Yes, I’d essentially have to be Batman.

But while the depiction of Christian Grey as some sort of superhuman can be perfectly acceptable as a woman’s fantasy, his characterisation makes him quite unlikable. Not only is Christian emotionally distant, rude and gloomy, he is manipulative and borderline psychotic in stalking Ana. And for a man in charge of a huge company, he seems to spend little time actually working.

On the other hand, Ana is even less likable as a highly neurotic and insecure woman, who has never been romantically interested in another person until she found someone like Christian who only appeals to her on a superficial level.

Fifty Shades of Grey is poorly written, and that too to a surprising degree. Twice, I stopped reading to check if I had been duped in my purchase or whether I was reading an authentic eBook. This isn’t surprising given that this first novel in the trilogy by British author EL James began as erotic fan fiction for the Twilight saga.

Aside from the poor characterisation, the author did not do her research properly and used plenty of British colloquialisms that sound odd being spoken by the book’s American characters. Worse still are the words and phrases that repeat themselves with such frequency, including 58 counts of the term ‘inner goddess’, that I wonder if the author set shortcuts for common phrases on her keyboard.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, August 26th, 2012.


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Reader Comments (37)

  • just_someone
    Aug 26, 2012 - 12:22PM

    how do you know batman is well endowed? :)


  • Batman
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:07PM

    Cause I am the goddamn Batman!


  • Amused
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:26PM

    Err, this movie is intended EXCLUSIVELY for females. How come someone named Noman is reviewing it?


  • Guestgirl
    Aug 26, 2012 - 1:51PM

    Because this is a book and not a movie, well not yet


  • sanam
    Aug 26, 2012 - 2:31PM

    The fact that this is a second article published in the express tribune about the Fifty shades trilogy depicts that people are still into this book no matter how much the reviews would portray otherwise.I for one picked it because it was the new york times bestsellar for a whooping 16 weeks in a row, however i didnt really get what the hype was all about.The cover art was impressive though!


  • Sidewinder
    Aug 26, 2012 - 9:29PM

    The Character Christian Grey possesses all the characteristics of an ideal lover,i mean what women seek in a lover.rarely it happens that all such qualities are merged in a human.i can only say
    Ek shahanshah ne bana ke haseen Taj Mahal, hum garibon ki mohabbat ka hai udaya mazakâ€


  • suzie
    Aug 26, 2012 - 10:51PM

    well i have to say i got the book yesterday and i havent put it down yet i love it….. i have almost finished it and i will be going out to buy the other 2 in the trilogy just because its soo brilliant…. there is so much in the book that most women can relate to as well as desires n fantasys that women have……. i give it 10 out of 10…….


  • bored
    Aug 27, 2012 - 8:10AM

    Although I can see what the hype is all about, from women who can only fantasize such things. Yet, I find that the book was only written well. Granted I am only on chapter 6 of the book, I find that Ana’s “fantasies” are a little ridiculous. And nowadays, no woman in their right mind would fall for a man like this. Yes most women seek wealth and power, but why would you want a man who is in his own self conflicting. First he is rude, and then he is passionate, and then back to rude.
    Being a female college student myself, I do not find this appealing to me. I will finish the book to see how this ends and because I can’t just start something without finishing it, but I don’t see myself reading any of the other books, and I am definitely glad that I did not purchase this.


  • Dinky Mind
    Aug 27, 2012 - 9:53AM

    What else do you expect out of this book anyway?
    Its targeted towards women specifically. And if men are reviewing it, the results are completely skewed!
    Girls, you may continue reading ;) We can relate a lot to it.


  • Guestgirl
    Aug 27, 2012 - 6:35PM

    Its definitely not a piece you may call well written, but the story is catchy and probably thats all we need when reading for pleasure. Ana steele (though lead) is the most poorly structured character who is anything but experienced yet she turns out to be most strong in every odd situation and executing her plans to a fair perfection as well as expertly controlling christian gray the maniac.


  • deedee
    Aug 27, 2012 - 9:26PM

    I agree even I couldn’t put the book down once i started reading it. I don’t care what people say..the book is brilliant! i have now re-read the trilogy three times! fantastic EL James! Well Done! I hope there is a fourth one!


  • Sarah
    Aug 27, 2012 - 11:01PM

    I just picked The Fifty Shades Trilogy from today. I was in two minds about buying the books as all the reviews are 50-50. One thing that made me really want to read this book is because its from a new writer. I don’t know whether the books are gonna be good or bad but I definitely feel we should give the writer some credit as she actually was brave enough to get her book printed. Many writers keep on writing on their blog and their work is brilliant but they are scared of how their book will fare in the market so they never publish. The reviewer definitely has an upper hand in commenting than me as he has read the book but all i would like to say is that Men will never understand what kind of a Man a Woman needs so to comment on that is pretty baseless.


  • gaurav
    Aug 28, 2012 - 12:55PM

    I am an avid reader………picked up this book because on a recent visit to the US i saw every second person reading it. I have to warn all my fellow reader friends that by far this has been the worst book i have ever read. Pure unadulterated trash!! I am surprised and a tad dismayed at what turns people on!! The book has little or no storyline! the characters in the book are extremely irritating specially Ana, she probably has an IQ of a dodo! Am surprised how the book is selling!! i guess miracles never cease to happen!!!


  • gaurav
    Aug 28, 2012 - 12:58PM

    you have to read this to beleive it!!! It is really pathetic!


  • not a fan
    Aug 28, 2012 - 1:21PM

    I have absolutely no idea why so many women like this book! I am a girl and I honestly thought it was TERRIBLE. But then again, most people I have seen that like the book say “I hate reading but this was a fantastic book!!1!” …. yeah, that’s why. Or maybe the criteria has changed now, “be so bad, they can’t ignore you.”Recommend

  • Rhob
    Aug 28, 2012 - 2:02PM

    I’m a men. and i really do love the book. It was so good! ;)


  • Noman Ansari
    Aug 28, 2012 - 6:06PM

    He is a men.


  • Xessive
    Aug 28, 2012 - 7:58PM

    Amen to that :P


  • Noman Ansari
    Aug 29, 2012 - 11:48AM

    hahahahaha that’s hilarious.


  • Liezl
    Aug 29, 2012 - 3:07PM

    This book is just fantastic!!! Love reading it, could not put it down one minute! Congrats to the writer, may the be plenty more!!!


  • Sam Walker
    Aug 30, 2012 - 1:38AM

    Concerning 50 Shades of Grey, I always prefer Swansong by GM Jordan, its based on a true story about a woman entering the fetish scene. Every time I have read it I find myself crying and enjoying it more and more.

    What I love about Jordan’s story is you feel the pleasure and her pain, because its a true story it connects more.

    Its only available on the Kindle but profits go to breast cancer charities in the UK and America which makes it even more special.


  • Larry
    Aug 30, 2012 - 10:11PM


    What made you enjoy it so much if I may as that of you?


  • Larry
    Aug 30, 2012 - 10:13PM

    @deedee: May i ask what it is about it that makes you want to keep reading it over & over?


  • deedee
    Aug 31, 2012 - 12:30AM

    its a beautiful mature love story!! the characters feel very real. If you minus the sex…the book is MUCH better than twilight!


  • Larry
    Aug 31, 2012 - 12:46AM


    Hey thanks for getting back to me I have to ask did the sex stuff in the books bother u, i have ehard a lot of women complain?


  • noneckbruno
    Sep 15, 2012 - 11:53PM

    %0 Shades is okay…Killers,’Cuffs & Kisses …is better !


  • noneckbruno
    Sep 15, 2012 - 11:55PM

    @not a fan:

    Killers,”cuffs & Kisses…is about real lives living in this fashion….


  • Guestgirl
    Sep 16, 2012 - 9:00PM

    Do you have its kindle edition???


  • Larry
    Sep 17, 2012 - 8:33PM

    I have to ask did you enjoy the book?


  • Adnan
    Sep 22, 2012 - 7:33PM

    Better call it FILTHY SHADES OF GREY…


  • Deanna
    Sep 30, 2012 - 1:41AM

    Fifty Shades of Grey is filled with violence or threats of torture toward women. A rich young man spends the whole novel trying to convince a child that allowing herself to be his sex slave will be for her own good. It is disgusting and potentially hardfull to women living with domestic violence. I have heard that sometimes books get on the best seller because the publisher publishes them buys enoughcopies to get it on the best seller list. This must be how it got there. Then they start a buzz about the book all over the place an that is how it gets going. This book is destructive to women’s rights and it lis unrealistic about the possibility of a woman remaining with a guy who tortures her.


  • Barbara Brooksbank
    Oct 2, 2012 - 2:36AM

    This book is just mindless, repetative drivel. I can only imagine that the people who bought the first one in the series(thinking it was a book)are not stupid enough to by numbers two and three.
    Has this woman never heard of a Thesaurus? Would she even know what one is or how to use one?
    The constant repetition of words – hitch/damn/flush/blush/smirk etc sends one into teeth clenching insanity! Who editied this mind numbing banality?


  • Miles
    Oct 6, 2012 - 10:48AM

    I was so excited when my husband arrived from LA where he bought the book, as I’ve asked him to, I’m just curious with what’s the hype all about, especially that my friends have their copies of the trilogy. But as soon as I’ve finished book1 for 24hrs (.slept @6am), I didn’t have the lust to open book 2, in my opinion it’s poorly written, what’s with the redundancy of words; inner goddess,flush, oh crap and so’s too dark and wild for me, I could not fathom what it is with sexual violence that makes it exciting, the silver balls inside the woman’s body and those sexual objects gives me the creeps, it’s so sickening. Maybe I’m too into vanilla lovemaking, poetry and all. The only part I find nice to read is the exchanging of emails, it’s kind of cute:-) Robert Ludlum, Ayn Rand,John Grisham ,Murakami, Stephen King Shakespeare etc. still rules and rocks for me.Money on the drain , that’s what it is, there goes a part of my hubby’s per diem for flying long haul..every penny should count:-)Recommend

  • sexygirl567
    Oct 12, 2012 - 5:39PM

    so should i read this book?


  • Larry
    Oct 12, 2012 - 6:27PM


    Hey Good Morning, well I thought it was a real good read, I guess it just depends on what type of books you like.

    What books r u into, if I may ask?


  • Jess
    Oct 16, 2012 - 3:54PM

    Hi ladies

    I must be honest, I truly enjoy this book, I’m only at chapter 7 now….but loving the it.

    Just wish I had more free time to read.



  • Larry
    Oct 22, 2012 - 7:22PM

    Ya was not the best ah?


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