Fifty Shades of Grey (James)

Fifty Shades of Grey (Book One of the Fifty Shades Trilogy)
E L James, 2011
Knopf Doubleday
528 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780345803481

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating.

The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever. (From the publisher.)

See our Reading Guides for the next two books in the Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades Darker, the second book; and Fifty Shades Freed, the third.

See the 2015 film version with Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan.
Listen to our Movies Meet Book Club Podcast as Hollister and O'Toole discuss the movie and book

Author Bio
E L James is a former TV executive, wife and mother of two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey. (From the publisher.)

Book Reviews
This is a book that will spark converstion like no other—on many levels, for many reasons and it's not just about the sex. It's a fresh witty look about courtship and compromise, written in a delightful style. It's about how the past shapes our present and how one person challenges another in a relationship. The characters are endearing and unpreidictable making it a fun enchanting read.
Princeton Review (online)

Odds are also that each woman [reading Fifty Shades of Grey] is in a state of arousal, amusement, or, at the very least, amazement at the ingenuity and imagination with which the pseudonymous James...has made steamy female-centric erotica out of what began as Twilight fan fiction. If Bella Swan had more gumption and sexual curiosity, she might be Anastasia Steele
Lisa Schwarzbaum - Entertainment Weekly

So is it worth picking up a copy? Yes, if you come prepared to wade through pages of treacly cliche. James’s subject matter may be hard-hitting, but her writing is as hackneyed as the hoariest Mills & Boon. Words like “Adonis” circle round almost every mention of Gray, who can’t stop “flashing his grey eyes” at the smitten Steele; and she, for her part, talks repeatedly and irritatingly of her “inner goddess."... In fact it's the definition of a page-turner: even if anyone unfamiliar with the world of BDSM [bondage, discipline, sado-masochism]  is likely to turn the pages more out of horrified fascination than engagement with the characters.
Telegraph (UK)

Discussion Questions
Use our LitLovers Book Club Resources; they can help with discussions for any book:

How to Discuss a Book (helpful discussion tips)
Generic Discussion Questions—Fiction and Nonfiction
Read-Think-Talk (a guided reading chart)

Also consider these LitLovers talking points to help get a discussion started for Fifty Shades of Grey:

1. How would you describe this book: as erotica, porn, soft porn, romantic fiction, comedy...or something else?

2. How do you feel about the portrayal of sex, particularly Christian's prediliction for sado-masochism: do you find it overly graphic, refreshingly frank, disturbing, amusing, offensive, arousing?

3. Does this book place women in a degrading light, as some have claimed?

4. Are you surprised that a woman would/could write about submissive-dominant relationships so openly? Does her feminine perspective bring a different view on sexuality than a male writer's might?

5. What about the characters, Anastasia and Christian? Are they fully developed as three-dimensional characters, complete with emotional and psychological complexity—or are they flat and one-dimensional? Are you able to see beyond the sexual encounters to become sympathetically engaged with the two? Do you come to think of them as real people?

6. Why are Ana and Christian drawn to one another in the first place?

7. As more of his character and background are revealed, does your attitude toward Christian change?

8. Is Ana the submissive partner in the relationship, sexual or otherwise? Would you say she's an equal partner...or is she dominated by the older, more powerful Christian?

9. What about Ana's mother? What role does she play in all this? What role should she have played? What about some of the other secondary characters—do you have a favorite?

10. What is the metaphorical significance of the see-saw? How might it suggest the book's resolution?

11. What does the title refer to?

12. Many have described the book as a page turner—did you have trouble putting it down? What do you think explains the run-away success of Fifty Shades, first published as an ebook? What is the audience (aside from you!), and who should, or should not, read the book?

13. What do you think of the author's writing—E L James's frequent use of Adonis to describe Christian, the way Christian continually flashes his gray eyes, or Ana's numerous references to her inner goddess? Does the style engage you, amuse you, put you off, help delineate character...?

14. Do you plan on reading the other two installments of the Fifty Shades Trilogy? Have you read other books similar to Fifty Shades of Grey?

15. Who would you like to see play the lead roles in the film version?

(Questions by LitLovers. Please feel free to use them, online or off, with attribution. Thanks.)

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