Tuesday, May 29, 2012


So I like the Fifty Shades trilogy, bite me…

I’ve enjoyed reading the Fifty Shades books and it took me almost 200 pages into the second book to freely admit that.
That realisation made me stop and think. Why was/am I so reluctant to ‘confess’ how much I like these books.
Well, the answer is rather simple. I mean, I couldn’t possibly admit to the world that I enjoyed reading those rather descriptive sexual scenes. I mean, for heaven’s sake it’s (in book one at least) BDSM. (I should probably mention here that I didn’t discover what those initials stand for until about a week after I finished reading the first book.) It did feel a bit shameful to admit that not only did that aspect of the books not offend me, I did in fact enjoy reading about it.

Pure curiosity got me reading these books. I wanted to know what all the hype was about. I needed to find out why this trilogy turned into such a bestseller while at the same time I was hard pressed to find a really positive review anywere. And yes, a small part of me was very curious about all the sex that was supposed to feature so predominantly in the stories.
And, now that I’ve finished reading these books, I guess I do understand the hype, the lack of positive reviews and my curiosity has been more than satisfied.
These books are such a hit because a lot of readers enjoy a good love story. This is a fairytale for grown-ups; it is beauty and the beast with a twist; it is happiness ever after despite the odds. Basically it is happy reading.
The lack of positive reviews would be due to the fact that no matter how nice and easy to read these stories are, they are not very well written. There is too much repetition, too much, at times rather irritating, internal dialogue and not enough wordsmithery (yes, I checked and this is a word). And, as I discovered, it is not easy to write a positive review about a book when you can’t praise its literary qualities as well as the story it contains. But, it can be done.
Finally for the sex. It is very descriptive and not at all of the everyday variety. I can easily see why for a lot of people these books would contain too much of it, in too much detail and on a level that is way beyond their comfort-zone. I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed steamy scenes in my books and found these books to be no exception. I do feel however that even though I was never taken out of my personal comfort-zone while reading the trilogy, these books should come with a health warning for people who prefer their intimacy left to their own fantasy. Virtually nothing is left to anybody’s imagination here.

I guess that I have fallen a little bit in love with Christian and Ana. I’m reading these books in the same way I used to read romances when I was a teenager, with a deep need for the happy ending. I’m revelling in the impossible romance working out against the odds. I find myself smiling at innocent beauty conquering her beast with the hidden, golden heart as well as her own hidden desires.

I liked that the third book in the series took us beyond the “yes, I will marry you” which so often ends a story. Many a times have I found myself wondering what happened to characters after those words. Did the fact that they now agreed to marry overcome all the issues they were still struggling with only two pages ago?
The third book in this series actually answers those questions, and for that I was grateful. It managed to end the all too fantastical trilogy on a more or less (probably less, but still) realistic note.

Books don’t always need to have great depth, wonderfully constructed sentences and/or fascinating metaphors to be a good read. Sometimes a book just needs to entertain, make the reader feel better, and/or put a smile on someone’s face in order to be worthwhile. And these books are doing all of that for me.
In fact, now that I’ve finished reading the trilogy I have to admit that I’m going to miss spending time with Ana and Christian. I’ll even admit that I will miss their antics (yes, even the sexual ones) and drama’s. And whenever an author manages to turn her characters into my friends she must have done something right. These books may not be great literary works but, for me, they were wonderful reads. And in the end, that is what I want my books to be; great reads I can lose myself in.
Sometimes giving in to curiosity doesn’t kill the cat but leads to great satisfaction.

For those interested, my reviews for the individual books can be found under the following links:


Literary Feline said...

What a wonderful write up! Thank you for this, Marleen.

I confess I do not read much erotica. And like you, picked up the first book in the series to read out of curiosity more than anything else. I wanted to know why these books were so polarizing. And because I wanted a good laugh. I knew they weren't my cup of tea going in.

I didn't like the two books of this trilogy I read, and a lot of it had to do with the writing, as you mentioned above. The books were readable though--I was hooked enough after the first book to read the second, after all.

Christian really got to me. I have a strong dislike for his character and the way he behaved throughout the books as many others who disliked the books did.

Then I read your review of Beauty's Release, one of a trilogy I wondered if I should try just to get a feel for a similar type of book but better written. The description of the books completely turned me off. It is the slave thing. I just can't get past that. It's one thing if it's consensual, another if it's not.

But I kept reading your review, looked for this one because I was curious if you'd read James's books, and I get it! I mean, I could see the appeal of E.L. James's books to a certain degree before, but Anne Rice's trilogy, not so much.

As I continued to read your review though, I was reminded of a friend of mine who doesn't get why I read fantasy novels. She can't wrap her mind around something so outside of her reality. And that's when it dawned on me, thanks to you, what my problem is. I've been trying to fit these types of books into my reality--my sense of what is right and wrong--forgetting that these are fantasies. I don't know if I'm making any sense.

The sex--or erotica--doesn't bother me so much, really. I was kind of surprised to find that out when I read 50 Shades of Grey. I expected there to be a lot--and the type of sex--going in because of the type of books I was reading, but it didn't make a big impression on me. So for me, it isn't so much about the sex itself that bothers me, but the circumstances surrounding it.

Anyway, I don't know why I am telling you all this. :-) I really appreciate your reviews and feel I am coming away knowing something about myself I hadn't quite known before. Thank you for that.

Marleen said...

Literary Feline,
Thank you so much for your long response to my review. I'm delighted to read that my review helped you work out things about yourself and your reading you didn't previously know.
Reading is such an individual thing and it is often very hard to explain to others why we like or dislike a certain title or genre. And that is great, because it means that lots of authors get a chance to share their creations with a public.
Thank you again for your response. I'm truly honoured.