Fifty Shades Trilogy by E.L. James

The Fifty Shades Trilogy is - to borrow a phrase from the books - "Fifty Shades of Fuckedupness!" I'm almost ashamed to admit that I loved every minute...almost ;) The truth is that once I started, I couldn't stop! In fact, this series has spawned a new label for my blog - Guilty Pleasure. You know those books that are nowhere near literary genius, but you love them anyway? The ones that you want to tell everyone to read, but feel slightly embarrassed about admitting to not only reading them, but loving them? These books fall into that category for me. I couldn't stop reading and when I got to the end, I wanted to go back to the beginning and start all over again! If you are looking for a literary masterpiece, don't pick these books up - you will be greatly disappointed. E.L. James' writing often leaves something to be desired in terms of style, but for me it didn't make the story any less addicting. Hence the 5 star rating. I don't think that she set out to be a "writer" when she sat down to write these books. I've seen a few interviews with the author and I appreciate that she herself admits that she did not set out to write a literary masterpiece. She just had a story to tell.

Fifty Shades is billed as Twilight fan fiction and anyone who is a Twilight fan will certainly see the parallels. The story takes place in Washington. Ana is clumsy, has self image issues, is a big fan of classic literature, and prior to meeting Christian has little to no experience with men. Sound familiar? There is even the male best friend - Jose - who harbors less than platonic feelings for our heroine. I'm just glad that doesn't go anywhere - I would not have been happy about having to suffer through a New Moon style love triangle (sorry to my Team Jacob fans). Christian is a much darker form of Edward. He's a god physically, he plays the piano, is completely self-deprecating, is an obsessive control freak, and in the end utterly changed by love. Those expecting the chaste love of Twilight should be warned - whereas Stephenie Meyers faded to black when the passion heated up, E.L. James leaves absolutely nothing (and I mean NOTHING) to the imagination. At times I found myself totally blushing and got that feeling you get when you know you're doing something wrong, but just can't stop, and you're praying that on one catches you...

I loved the characters. Ana is far less whiny than Bella (not that I don't still love her) and I can see she and I getting along way better than I would with Bella. Ana, while equally obsessed with Christian, still has a desire to be her own person and exerts her free will, much the chagrin of Christian. Christian was by far my favorite character and is a rather complex one, in my opinion. For me it was less about his physical beauty (although I enjoyed that as well) and more about his issues. I truly felt for this character - he is completely "Fifty Shades," but it is not hard to understand why as you learn about his childhood experiences. He is very much a product of his environment - it was heartbreaking to read. Despite all of his flaws (and there are many), he did have some redeeming qualities. He could be generous, selfless, and good. He just couldn't see that in himself or accept anything but the negative. My female desire to swoop in and "fix" him was definitely in hyperdrive reading these books.

It's funny when I read how some people are mystified by these books' success. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to get it. Anyone with any insight into the female psyche can figure it out. There are so many elements of the female fantasy to be found in this book. First, you have the incredibly hot, rich as hell, powerful male who wants nothing more than to give you everything your heart desires and take care of your every need. Who wouldn't want that? Females have been pegged as the caregivers from the dawn of time. We are genetically programmed to put the needs and wants of others before our own, often at our own expense, and what's more, society expects us to be happy about it. When we fail to live up to this standard, we either beat ourselves up and feel incredibly guilty about it, or society places all sorts of pressure on us to. Is it any wonder that we are drawn to the fantasy of having someone else take care of us for a change?

Then there is the whole bad boy thing. Christian is a broken, deeply wounded human being and there is nothing we girls love more than a fix-me-up project. It's Beauty and the Beast, Dirty Dancing, etc. all over again. We want to believe that love, our love, is transformative. That it can take a man who is screwed up and fix him, make him not only be a better man, but want to be better. It's second nature to us. Fifty Shades combines the two - Christian takes care of Ana, and she transforms him with love. Sigh...

The series has been deeply criticized for being nothing more than salacious porn - and it TOTALLY is - but I find it interesting that any book or movie that deals with female sexuality quickly gets dismissed as frivolous and ridiculous. Not that I ever really expected these books to be taken seriously, but I do think it speaks to society's opinion concern sexuality and desire for women. Let's face it...not all female desires are chaste and pure, but that is what is expected of us. Anything else gets dismissed or a raised eyebrow. These books are beyond salacious and I love them!

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