I had very little idea what the book was about until I read a few reviews. They all seem to agree it is turgid writing with very little romance and some shades (!) of S&M thrown in.
I've seen other fun on Facebook, such as "Fifty Shades of Black" and "Fifty Shades of Earl Grey" (photos of tea, of course).
[H]ere’s one tiny sample of the writing style:
“Did you give him our address?”
“No, but stalking is one of his specialties,” I muse matter-of-factly.
Kate’s brow knits further.
That’s right: This is the kind of a book where, instead of saying things, characters muse them, and they are somehow able to muse them matter-of-factly. And these matter-of-fact musings cause other characters’ brows—which of course were already knitted—to knit still further. The book is over five hundred pages long and the whole thing is written like that. If Jane Austen (another bestselling female British author) came back to life and read this book, she would kill herself. ...
So the plot is: They have sex, she wants to smooch, he wants to flog, there’s a bunch of talking about this, they have sex again, she again wants to smooch, he again wants to flog, there’s a bunch more talking about this, and so on for several hundred word-filled pages.
Finally, Anastasia decides to let Christian flog her, to see what it would be like. So he takes a belt and flogs her on the butt. Then, in the dramatic climax to the story, the moment we have been building up to, Anastasia comes to a shocking, life-changing realization, which nobody could have foreseen in a million years: Getting flogged on the butt hurts.
Stephanie Merry (contrasting the movie with the novel):
After all, the erotic romance novel, based on saucy “Twilight” fan-fiction, did great business, despite being a 500-page lesson in how not to use a thesaurus. Millions of readers paid their dues, skimming countless boring scenes with a narrator who says nothing more profound than “holy cow!” and “double crap!” so they could get to the good stuff: bondage-laced sex scenes between the story’s innocent protagonist and her impossibly hot, impossibly rich damaged-goods love interest. ...
Of course, the tedium of doing business is broken up by about 15 minutes of sexcapades. Compared to the book, which features a much-discussed scene involving a tampon, the movie is a model of moderation. Every sexual encounter plays out to the soothing strains of some lovely vocalist (Sia, Beyoncé), and careful framing means we see plenty of skin, but not as much as you might expect for a chronicle of fringy sexual habits. Dornan doesn’t even get totally naked for the camera.
Taylor-Johnson clearly was going for an R rating, and even with what the MPAA deemed “unusual behavior” — including one difficult-to-watch whipping — no scene comes close to earning an NC-17 designation.
In the end, there’s nothing here we haven’t seen before. But there’s also nothing as agonizingly awkward as James’s prose.
Anthony Lane (rivaling Dave Barry for put-downs):
If the figures are correct, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” by E. L. James, has been bought by more than a hundred million people, of whom only twenty million were under the impression that it was a paint catalogue. That leaves a solid eighty million or so who, upon reading sentences such as “He strokes his chin thoughtfully with his long, skilled fingers,” had to lie down for a while and let the creamy waves of ecstasy subside. Now, after an enticing buildup, which took to extreme lengths the art of the peekaboo, the film of the book is here....
“Fifty Shades of Grey” is being released in time for Valentine’s Day. That’s a bold move, since the film is not just unromantic but specifically anti-romantic; take your valentine along, by all means, but, be warned, it’ll be like watching “Rosemary’s Baby” at Christmas. Try holding hands as the hero taunts the rituals of sentiment, such as going out for dinner and a movie: “That’s not really my thing.” What his thing actually is, Lord knows, although, to judge by the importance that he attaches to grooming, regular feeding, and nicely buffed leather goods, my suspicion is that he doesn’t want a girlfriend at all. I know Mr. Grey’s whopping-big secret. He wants a pony.
Honestly? Is that really what the book and movie are like? I must be way out to lunch, but why on earth was the book ever popular?