“Putting Controversy to Bed” – Fifty Shades of Grey: Book Review

Insights: The day I went to Chapters to buy this book I used a gift card. I got from attending a catholic school conference. So it was free anyway. I asked one of the employees if there was a chance someone like me could enjoy this book at all. The lady told me “Oh yes, all the women I know who have read this book want their husbands to read it.” Good enough for me, I thought, and proceeded to the register.

You should wonder about books like these that are deemed controversial when they hit the mainstream. The fact is something can only become a hit and gain wide spread attention if it has very broadly appealing subject matter. It has been suggested that many women over 35 have looked to this book for guidance on how to spice up their relationships.  I figured going into this book that the sexual elements of this story being blown way out of proportion considering how conservative America is with raciness. My personal reasons for reading this were the sexual politics. The author strongly suggested from a female point of view that to be submissive, required strength, and that intrigued me.

Plot: A college graduate named Anastasia Steele becomes infatuated with billionaire industrialist Christian Grey. Shortly upon meeting him it is revealed he wants her too, but on his terms. He has a somewhat unique taste for BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism Masochism). A bizarre, unique and twisted relationship begins to unfold.


Controversy: IN MY OPINION there wasn’t nearly as much sex as I thought there would be. Especially considering its “Erotic Fiction. You have 514 pages (the longest book I’ve ever read), dedicated to around 9 sex scenes 3 of which are S&M related. Even then those scenes last a couple pages at most. The first sex scene doesn’t occur ’till close to page 100. And that like many of the sex scenes are after a build up of tension (Hey just like in real life ;)) and they all exist for their own reasons. The reason most people think of it as worse than it is, is because the style of the book is a first person narrative, Populated by the central character, Ana’s thoughts. Honestly who doesn’t think about sex that often?

Of course it is important to note that this being erotic fiction, every action taken by the main characters are sexually motivated, as sex is what drives the entire story. Both in terms of sexuality and the shifting power dynamic.

Character: What I liked most about this book was how the author delivered on the promise of Anastasia Steele being a strong female character. When you break down the minimalist story, all of the female characters in this book hold power over their male counterparts and are responsible for making most of the big decisions. Ana is a witty and quiet character who gains more confidence as the book goes on.

The Sex: The depiction of S&M in the book is approached somewhat embarrassingly. The character himself is ashamed of who he is, and what he fetishes, which is somewhat contradicting to the message that the book has been sending. I was bothered that there never seems to be a full commitment to the subject matter. The few scenes of what is supposed to explore Christian’s darker tastes aren’t ever fully explored (probably saved for other installments). As for the Domineering and submission aspect, I was disappointed there wasn’t more to it. Christian is about as safe in his conduct as can be (physically and legally) which I guess is how S&M is supposed to be done. Personally I know nothing about that kind of thing. And those who read this book will find the same. There is no new world we’re introduced to that we haven’t seen before. I’m probably somewhat desensitized to what is considered shocking nowadays but aren’t we all?

Comparisons: This book sprung out of a short story “Master of the Universe” that was originally a piece of twilight fan fiction. Having seen the ‘Twilight’ movies I can comfortably say that apart from the central love story there are no visible parallel’s between the two.

I would go as far to say that Christian Grey has more in common with Bruce Wayne than he does Edward Cullen. He is an arrogant billionaire/ playboy/ philanthropist who is alienated from his family and hides his true self from others, aside from his butler who is skilled at everything. His character is painted in broad strokes as to comfortably fit into as many women’s fantasies as possible. Described as an amazingly rich and handsome with a tortured soul.

Prose: It should be known beforehand that E.L. James has never written a book before. As a former TV executive it shows that this story is something that would better lend itself to a more visual medium, so the movie should be better. The writing is good enough and it’s not as plain and dry descriptions as a Dan Brown novel. The only minor nuisance in the writing was found in the advertising of various products, but I guess the consumer conscience attempts to ground the reality.

Recommendation: Beyond the bored housewives for which this book was intended, I would recommend this book to people who rarely read novels and want something to discuss as it is a fairly easy read and holds your attention just enough throughout. The problem is getting to the end and realizing there are two more books to go through. Females will definitely enjoy this book more than guys.

Bottom Line: There are better books out there, none that I know of that tackle the same subject matter so it’s worth a little discussion. As a man I found the thoughts of the main female character (Ana) frustrating. Acting as narrator she occasionally baffles herself throughout the novel with ridiculous questions that seem obvious to everyone but her but that struck me more less stupid and more of a girl thing. I guess as a guy it pays to understand Christian Grey’s thoughts. Or it just may turn out to be dramatic irony.

Rating:   B

Scale +2

-3 -2 -1 0 +1 +2 +3


  • The movie rights were optioned for 5 million to Universal’s Focus Features.
  • A man is incapable of achieving multiple orgasms during intercourse (a detail missing in the book). A woman however is not.
  • No one finishes reading a script and says, “Get me Scott Speedman!”
  • I prefer… Magneto

Who Should Play the incomparable Mr. Christian Grey and Ms. Anastasia Steele?

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