Tag: Fifty Shades of Grey

#BestsellerCode100: A Reader’s Review of Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James is next up on our Bestsellers List reading challenge.  Considering that our last novel was categorized as Christian/Domestic Fiction and this one is Erotic Romance, we’re obviously covering a wide variety of genres with this reading challenge.

If you haven’t read Roberta’s Writer’s Review yet, please do.  It seems that we are yet again in agreement about this novel, but I will try to come up with something “novel” to say.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey* by E. L. James

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Warning:  This is an Erotic Romance, for mature audiences only.

Mass Appeal

 I remember feeling quite skeptical of the hoopla around Fifty Shades of Grey when it was first released.  It seemed like everyone was reading it, which to me was as good a reason as any NOT to read it.  If anything, this reading challenge has reinforced my belief that being on a bestseller list doesn’t necessarily mean a book is worth my time to read, and Fifty Shades of Grey is the perfect example of just such a book.  So why did it become a bestseller?

The authors of The Bestseller Code spend the major portion of Chapter 3 examining Fifty Shades of Grey to decipher exactly why it was a bestseller.  And even more than that, to understand why their computer algorithm placed it so high on its 100 Bestseller book list when so many other books in the erotica romance genre did not make the list.  As Roberta stated in her review:

When they examined the novel in more depth in Chapter 3, Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers discovered that this novel is more about relationships than purely about sex.

I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed this novel more if James had downplayed the sex scenes a bit – I found myself skimming through them to get to the meat of the relationship stories. But then Christian wouldn’t have had quite the “bad boy” attraction and Ana wouldn’t have had all those conflicting emotions about Christian, so perhaps they really are an integral part of the novel.

Emotional Experience

The authors of The Bestseller Code also discovered that reader reviews left on the Goodreads website showed a definite trend of referencing the body.  They (the reader reviews) mentioned “shedding tears and overheating,” feeling “the bodily sensations of anticipation and nervousness,” and “ignoring the call to eat and sleep.”  The appeal of Fifty Shades of Grey was physical and emotional stimulation, rather than mental stimulation. This wasn’t a novel to dissect and analyze from a lofty, literary vantage point. This was a “let’s sneak a chocolate bar” guilty pleasure book!

A quote in Chapter 3 by Janice Radway, an American literary and cultural studies scholar, relates the emotional experience she occasionally has when reading:

There are moments for me now when books become something other than mere objects, when they transport me elsewhere, to a trancelike state I find difficult to describe.  On these occasions reading … manages to override my rational, trained approach to books as crafted objects.  When this occurs, the book, the text, and even my reading self dissolve in a peculiar act of transubstantiation whereby “I” become something other than what I have been and inhabit thoughts other than those I have been able to conceive before.  This tactile, sensuous, profoundly emotional experience of being captured by a book is what those reading memories summoned for me – and experience that for all its ethereality clearly is extraordinarily physical as well.

This must be what occurred with all those enthusiastic readers of Fifty Shades of Grey who so eagerly devoured this novel and the other two books in the Fifty Shades trilogy. It didn’t happen for me – maybe I didn’t feel the need to “inhabit thoughts other than those I have been able to conceive before” in quite the way Christian’s BSDM desires inhabited Ana’s thoughts.

I’d be curious to see the age demographics of the enthusiastic readers compared to those who disliked the novel. I would likely have been a more eager reader of Fifty Shades of Grey in my younger years, say my twenties to forties; a time when reading romance novels and daydreaming of some rich handsome irresistible man swooping down and “rescuing” me from my mundane life was appealing.  Fortunately, those days are long gone, which means I won’t be picking up the remainder of the Fifty Shades trilogy to read any time soon.

 

Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  3. (We aren’t doing a book beginning this time)

You can also join us on social media:

__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 56. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) – Discussion begins July 9, 2018
Bildungsroman

#BestsellerCode100: A Writer’s Review of Fifty Shades of Grey

Let’s take a look at the next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listFifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James, from a writer’s perspective.

This post does contain spoilers.

Warning:  This is an Erotic Romance, for mature audiences only.

Fifty Shades of Grey* by E. L. James

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  When Anastasia Steele fills in for her friend and interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she is both intimidated by and attracted to his looks and spirit. Starting an affair with him, she discovers some dark secrets that she isn’t sure how to handle.

This novel is the first of a trilogy. The other novels in the trilogy are Fifty Shades Darker and Fifty Shades Freed.

Romance Genre and Tropes

What is expected in a romance novel? GoodReads has extensive, useful descriptions of the different types of genre fiction. For example, romance novels have a love story as the central focus, and readers expect an ending with an upbeat, satisfying resolution. In the subgenre erotic romance, the basic romance is augmented with graphic descriptions of sex.

Fifty Shades of Grey is considered to be an erotic romance because there are many scenes of graphic sex (although E. L. James calls it “provocative romance”). This particular novel departs from the romance standard because it ends on a downcast note rather than an optimistic one. In the end Ana breaks up with Christian Grey and it looks like they are finished as a couple. Because this is the first in the trilogy, however, we can assume that the two characters are going to meet again in future books, which makes the ending a false or temporary resolution.

Romance novels are known to embrace tropes to the fullest, and Fifty Shades of Grey is no exception. The TV Tropes website has an extensive list of all the tropes found in the trilogy. The main trope is “all girls want bad boys.” Christian Grey is a very bad boy.

Writing in Fifty Shades of Grey

Critics have written scathing reviews of this novel because of the quality of the writing. Many of the mistakes, however, are those of an untrained writer rather than a “bad” writer. For example, in the first paragraph the readers meets Anastasia as she examines herself in a mirror.

I scowl with frustration at myself in the mirror.

Looking in the mirror is a trope writers are taught to avoid. Writer coach K.M. Weiland has 5 reasons not to do this:

 

Setting

Christian Grey lives in Seattle, Washington. At first Anastasia lives in Vancouver, Washington but after she graduates she moves to Seattle to find a job.

Most of the descriptions of the outdoor settings are generic. The details of the insides of the buildings are much more richly drawn, probably reflecting the fact that E. L. James lives far away in a West London suburb.

Why did a British author set her novels in the U.S.? Fifty Shades of Grey is set in Washington state because  was originally written as fanfiction for Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. Twilight is set in Forks, Washington.

 

What Makes A Bestseller?

One of the reasons we started this The Bestseller Code reading challenge (in October 2016) was to learn what bestselling books have in common.

The huge popularity of this novel initially stumped the authors of The Bestseller Code. Their preliminary examination of bestsellers found that they rarely mention sex, yet on the surface this novel is all about sex. However, when they examined the novel in more depth in Chapter 3, Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers discovered that this novel is more about relationships than purely about sex. In fact, in a lot of ways the sex acts as a wedge to keep the two lovers apart because of Christian and Ana’s differences in experience and desires.

More importantly, Archer and Jockers discovered E. L. James wrote with regular swings of emotion. First things are going great and Ana is happy, then an obstacle arises and she is sad, they have sex and she’s happy, they separate and she begins to have doubts. After the awkward first few chapters, the rest of the book is a regularly-paced emotional roller coaster:  high -low-high-low. They suggest that this is pattern is what makes the book a bestseller.

Discussion

When I first started reading this book, the writing felt rough and awkward. The first few chapters were hard to read. But once the two main characters started a relationship, it seemed to take off. Either the writing got better, or I got more invested in the characters and spent less time analyzing the writing. In any case, the rest of the book went by pretty quickly.

Comparing this novel to the last one, I can see that many intangibles go into making a book into a bestseller. In both cases it seems to be a hardcore group of devoted fans — rather than skilled writing or topic — that makes all the difference.

Join us on social media:

 

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 56. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) – Discussion begins July 9, 2018
Bildungsroman

#BestsellerCode100: Number 57. Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James

Time to start the discussion of our next novel from The Bestseller Code 100 listFifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James. See notes below.

This post does not contain spoilers.

 

Fifty Shades of Grey* by E. L. James

 


(*Amazon Affiliate link)

Summary:  When Anastasia Steele fills in for her friend and interviews wealthy young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she is both intimidated by and attracted to his looks and spirit. Starting an affair with him, she discovers some dark secrets that she isn’t sure how to handle.

This novel is the first of a trilogy.

Important Notes

Note 1:  Warning:  This is an Erotic Romance, for mature audiences only.

Note 2:  Jodie Archer and Matthew L. Jockers devote much of chapter three of The Bestseller Code to explaining the phenomenal success of this novel despite that fact it was panned by critics. Their discussion starts on page 73.

Note 3:  This novel was first written as a fan fiction tribute to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books. The original title was Master of the Universe and the author used the pen name Snowqueens Icedragon. You can find a PDF of the original linked to the Master of the Universe title in this article.

Note 4.: In Dave Barry’s book, You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty, he has a hilarious and insightful essay about Fifty Shades of Grey entitled “What Women Want.” (Also available online at Time.)

 

Have you read Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Related posts:

  1. Karen’s review from a reader’s perspective
  2. Roberta’s review from a writer’s perspective
  3. (We aren’t doing a book beginning this time because Roberta discussed the beginning in her review)

You can also join us on social media:

Do you have suggestions for ways to improve this reading challenge? We’d love to hear them.

Have you written about Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James? Feel free to add a link to your review in the comments.
__________________

What are we reading next?

If you ever have questions about what we are reading next or when we’re starting the next discussion, check the 100 Book List tab in the navigation bar at the top of the blog. Links in the list go to the landing page from this blog where the discussion starts. However, this is an open-ended challenge so feel free to jump in with any of the books at any time.

The next book is number 56. American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008) – Discussion begins July 9, 2018
Bildungsroman

© 2018 It's A Mystery Blog

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑