Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Shades of Grey MenHave you heard about this little known book of erotic fiction called Fifty Shades of Grey? Like the majority of the women in the free world - and who knows, maybe even women in North Korea (this book is really everywhere) -  the ladies of our book club recently read Fifty Shades of Grey, and it was definitely a departure from our normal fare. We really hate being left out of anything dominating pop culture, so we had little choice but to jump on the FSOG train.

Even though it's probably not necessary, here's a synopsis of the book from GoodReads with a few HCG edits thrown in to demystify this vague description:

When literature regular college student Anastasia Steele is drafted to interview the successful young entrepreneur super hot but kind of creepy billionaire Christian Grey for her campus magazine, she finds him attractive, enigmatic and intimidating. Grey then stalks Ana by showing up at her job and convincing her (as if it really took much convincing - the guy has his own helicopter) to go out with him.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey's singular erotic tastes (this guy is into some really crazy stuff), Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success – his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving adoptive family – Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control (understatement). When the couple embarks on a passionate, physical and daring affair (Ana really could die doing certain stuff), Ana learns more about her own dark desires (it turns out she's into it), as well as the Christian Grey hidden away from public scrutiny (the guy has good lawyers who require women who sleep with him sign non-disclosure agreements).

This book isn't the easiest to review, so let's clear up a few things right out of the gate:

  1. I chose this book as my April book club selection after initially selecting Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, a World War II novel that seemed very promising but not exactly thrilling (based entirely on the by book jacket and Amazon reviews). When I ran this selection by MR, she responded, "Isn't the author the woman who wrote Seabiscuit?" Point taken, MR. I'm all about a safe book club choice, but the Seabiscuit lady? Really? I'm better than that (no offense Mrs. Seabiscuit). I had officially selected Seabiscuit Dies in WWII or whatever this book was about and even e-mailed around some lame ass summary to our book club but it just didn't feel right. I soon disclosed my desire to pick something more salacious to some of the book club members who eagerly convinced me to switch to Grey. I do not regret this decision.
  2. A variety of people read HCG, including many members of my family, so I will tread carefully in this review. If you've read Fifty Shades of Grey, you know what I mean. If you haven't read this book, hopefully you're sharp enough to figure out what I mean. I'll cut to the chase: much of the book is NSFW in a serious NSFW kind of way (even if you have your own office). If you have to Google "NSFW", don't worry - I had to Google it once too.
  3. We know there is much talk about women reading this book on their e-readers to avoid appearing with it in public. Whether that shame comes from the topic of the novel or the quality of the writing is debatable. HCG is not a fan of e-readers, so I enjoyed this book in hard copy (pun intended) with relatively minor shame. Then again, I read this book during a weekend trip to Vegas.

The author, E L James, admitted that she was "inspired" by Twilight, and the similarities between the books are obvious. Ana is constantly blinded by Grey's dazzling beauty in the same way Bella became paralyzed around Edward Cullen. The immediately preceding line is exactly why this book is questionable. When you find yourself comparing sections of  a book to Twilight, you may start to wonder what you're doing with your time.

That said, the steamy subject matter was a pleasant distraction. Instead of vampires, there is sex - so much of it that you eventually become somewhat numb to the descriptions. To all the Fifty Shades haters (and there are a lot): HCG acknowledges that the writing in this book is far from sophisticated, but the writing clearly isn't the main reason to pony up to this rodeo. In defense of people who enjoyed this book (myself included), there's nothing wrong with wanting to cut loose! Take a break from reality, enjoy a little S&M action!

Our book club members were irked by a few things about this book. The author is British, and her editors clearly missed some phrases or references that were pretty British and atypical to what a normal 23-year-old Seattle woman would say. Book club member HAF was especially disturbed when Ana used Christian Grey's toothbrush solely for the purpose of brushing her teeth. Take note: there are far more troubling parts of this book than the toothbrush scene. But HAF was 38 weeks pregnant when she read Fifty Shades of Grey, so we'll cut her a break for not being able to focus on the more appealing sections.

In sum, Fifty Shades of Grey is definitely entertaining and a quick, easy read. If you think you're better than it, then don't read it. If you want to spice things up a little, I say give it a shot. Believe me, it doesn't take much time to plow through this book.

Big congrats to HAF and her husband who welcomed their second son, Thomas, on May 12. Welcome to the book club family baby Thomas! I hope you eventually appreciate being referenced on the Internet in a blog post about your mom and her friends reading an erotic novel.