To all the lonely housewives who read this series (or at least the first book) with their hands down their pants, I must say this: WHAT ON EARTH HAVE YOU BEEN SMOKING? The first of the books was anything but sexy and romantic, and it certainly did nothing to put me in the mood. It’s not news that EL James is a terrible writer (especially since she apparently adores Stephenie Meyers) and she has created two loathsome, pathetic characters I hope soon to forget. Anastasia Steele is a shy, wimpy title character who cowers behind her so-called “inner goddess” (how’s that for a contradiction?) while she pines over the self-absorbed, totally insensitive Christian Grey. Okay, not totally insensitive, but close enough to be annoying in my book.Of course, Ana is Bella and Christian is Edward, ugh enough said about that. What really made me angry was how supposedly self-sufficient and independent Ana was before she met Christian and how stupid and clingy she becomes after laying eyes on him. Like Bella, she completely gives up her own life and desires for a man who does not serve her well emotionally. Christian Grey is toxic and Anastasia knows this, yet like other love-sick puppies she can’t resist his sex appeal. Question: are we supposed to believe that she’s truly all hot and bothered by Christian’s meandering sexual practices when she’s in fact a virgin upon meeting him? Christian Grey is supposed to be her introduction to the world of sex? I wouldn’t want that, and with every page her trepidation is beyond clear.The bigger inquiry is: why do women continue to do things solely to please their partners? Once in a while, it’s nice to indulge a partner but Ana seems to do a lot of things for Christian she would never consider with someone else. The way James presents Ana’s curiosity is a little strange. It’s almost as if she, James, has decided to portray her virgin character as wanting to skip the calm initiation into a respectful sexual relationship all because Christian looks so damn hot in jeans. She’s in her twenties yet she morphs into a terribly hormonal fourteen year old all the time, and that’s maddening to more mature readers. No woman wants to feel used or abused, and clearly Ana does…often. Yet those feelings of use/misuse “fade away” when Christian verbally praises her or pecks her cheek. I cannot relate to Ana in this way.Frankly, the plot sucks and Christian’s wealth makes me want to puke. The only thing remotely interesting to me in the first book is Christian’s strange psychology. I do in fact want to know what happened between him and Mrs. Robinson, but this drama might be all smoke and mirrors just to lead me to the second book. We still don’t know what happened to Christian as a child (if any of us cares) but if there’s a psychological reason he’s so controlling and non-feeling I hope to find out in the next book. If he was abused in some way, I want it all laid out so Ana can make a rational choice, regardless of how Christian feels. We are all products of our upbringing and environment, and maybe that will explain why Christian is so off-putting and distant. Why, for instance, can’t Anastasia simply touch him, while he can plaster her ass with bruises as she cringes with fear? Reminds me of Julia Roberts in the movie Pretty Woman; she never kisses on the mouth because it’s too personal. Perhaps Christian is still such a child at heart, and puts his grown-up pants on just in front of Ana.Another thing: the sex was bland and vanilla in the first book. If one were to skim through and happen upon the contract, they would think EL James was a sick f***. However, nothing too taboo or raunchy here so far, and I have to say the best sex scene is the fellatio scene where Ana (a virgin, remember?) gives a great performance. How is this possible, she’s supposed to be inexperienced, right? (Anyway…) The sex scenes are written pretty well, but when there’s no sex the book lags and drags. That’s why I started this book in mid-May and just finished it yesterday. There was simply nothing to keep me interested other than one or two decent scenes. I didn’t care at all about the characters because they seem so unrealistic…and needy, yes, that’s the word.
Surprisingly, the ending was exactly where I saw the story heading: Ana having to walk away from the situation (Christian, the contract, the “Red Room of Pain”, his emotional distance, etc.) to clear her head. Of course, we know she returns to him at some point, but this is OK for now. She still hasn’t signed his contract, and she has to think long and hard about the role of Sub before she commits. Wouldn’t anyone want to ponder the implications of such an arrangement? Of course, her emotions are bubbling over (what else is new?) and she’s scared her heart will be broken. I give mini kudos to James for allowing Ana to walk away instead of becoming his live-in playmate right off the bat. I can’t imagine anyone of Ana’s “inexperience” and “innocence” yelling for the whips and chains right away. That would make Ana incredibly unbelievable as a character. Ana is a self-respecting college student whose favorite pastime is a quiet, unassuming evening reading. Reading, folks, not watching porn or masturbating!
Now, after all this bashing I will lower the boom. I do own the entire series and will start on the second book as time and mood allows. The perfectionist in me says that I can’t critique a book series in good faith if I have not read it. That’s akin to bashing milk chocolate if you’ve never tasted it, who does that? Maybe I’ll have something nice to say about the remainder of the story, and who knows it might take another six months just to get through the next one. The verdict is still out until I’ve read the entire series, but here’s gossip for thought. My fiancé related to me today that he heard on the radio that EL James is not nearly as sexually liberated in her real life, and that she wrote the entire series after reading about BDSM on the Internet. The word used to describe the author herself is “prude.” Of course, this might be untrue, but still, my inclination after hearing this is to argue that she’s in it for the quick buck and won’t write anything else of literary appeal. I noticed the book had several typos—maybe her editor was too busy getting aroused to do her job properly. LOL After this series, I think I will restart my interrupted reading of “Exit to Eden” by Anne Rampling (Anne Rice). That was nice erotic reading.