Fifty Shades of Grey by E L James was originally published on the internet as fan fiction inspired by the Twilight series. Due to an overwhelmingly positive response from her fellow Twilight fans, James was inspired to continue writing. Although her book has been slapped with the derisive "mommy porn" label, James' novel fills in the gaps in the chaste Twilight love story.
Fifty Shades of Grey is now its own entity independent of Twilight, but similarities are still present for those who are interested in reading an adult version of the vampire story. Unfortunately, the male character in the novel is not a vampire. However, Christian Grey is charismatic, worldly and significantly older than Anastasia Steele, the winsome college student who is at the center of this saga. The sexuality is explicit and imaginative; there are no Mormon undertones or concessions to teenage readers in this novel.
Anastasia's first meeting with Christian occurs when she interviews him for a school assignment. Her youth and lack of life experience are evident, especially in comparison to Christian's suave manners and professional success. They embark upon a relationship that is as romantic as it is sexual. This novel is not for the faint of heart. The sex is described in fastidious detail, and the scenarios depicted veer more directly toward bondage as the plot progresses. The silver tie that Christian wears to conduct business plays a significant role in the bondage sex, which is why it is the only image on the novel's front cover.
Despite the shocking subject matter, James' prose is often very reserved. While some readers wish that James would more actively engage her audience, others enjoy the lack of sensationalism. It is refreshing to see kinky sex portrayed as being normal and enjoyable, particularly when one considers this book's target audience. Fifty Shades of Grey is most popular among adult women, a demographic that is often ignored by the media for not appearing to be major consumers of entertainment. They enjoy James' novel for its realistic depiction of a new relationship and the sexual encounters that take place as two people grow comfortable with one another.
Criticism of Fifty Shades of Grey tends to mirror that of the Twilight books, namely that the relationship is based on unhealthy levels of obsession and controlling behavior. Since the novel explores bondage and other risque subject matter, the nature of the relationship has been hotly debated by fans. Some feel that the novel accurately depicts a healthy, albeit unusual, relationship, while others claim that Christian's behavior toward Anastasia is scary and abusive. At times his interest in Anastasia's life drives him to follow and watch her without her knowledge. Without proper context, these actions would be construed as stalking. However, within the confines of an erotic novel, the carefully measured control exhibited during the daytime is an important facet of the power dynamic that is explored in the more explicit parts of the novel.
Although the writing is a bit amateur at times, particularly when illustrating Anastasia's inner musings, Fifty Shades of Grey is an enjoyable novel that balances an interesting plot with attention-grabbing sensuality. James has written two more books documenting the relationship between Christian and Anastasia, and a film adaptation is in pre-production. Fifty Shades of Grey is a pop culture sensation that has changed the way that the media approaches adult women.
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