It pains me to consider that I have wasted countless hours of my life completing the 50 Shades trilogy. These hours could have been better spent staring blankly into oblivion, or even by watching reruns of Dawson’s Creek. But no, dear readers – I dedicated myself to the brutally painful completion of these novels to prevent you from having to do the same – it is for the best that you are never forced to endure the abysmal writing style and overall unrefinement of EL James. I have to believe that this is the reason that I willingly submitted myself to such a torturous experience; otherwise, it can only mean that reading so much about sadomasochism has begun to influence my book selections, and I am thereby condemned to a life of literary misery.
The final novel of the oh-so-suspenseful Christian Grey trilogy opens as the couple is enjoying their honeymoon. James attempts to employ the fancy literary technique of en medias res by starting Freed in the middle of the action; however, as the “action” in question involves Ana lounging on a beach and daydreaming about her wedding day, the attempt at generating intrigue is a dismal failure. Ramble completed – moving on. After traveling the world and enjoying non-stop sex, the couple returns home, where they quickly fall back into their routine of passionate fighting followed by non-stop sex.
James manages to interrupt the bedroom antics long enough for Christian and Ana to face some legitimate danger. This includes a kidnapping attempt, extortion, arson, blackmail, hospital stays, and an unplanned (and unsurprising) pregnancy. Nevertheless, each of these life-threatening (and/or life altering) events are promptly dealt with and resolved within two-to-three pages so that James can get on with her extensive interludes of unrestrained smut.
Even the smut is nothing more than a repetition of the encounters described so elegantly in the first two novels. Believe me, by now, anyone who has previously read even one of the Grey books is aware that due to Christian’s “ghost of a smile” and “long fingers,” Ana is constantly “Oh my…so aroused!” Although this time around we are treated to some original descriptions such as, “Oh, why are his feet so hot?” at which point I again questioned myself with, “Oh, why am I still reading this shit?”
Of the three books, 50 Shades Freed is undoubtedly the most offensive installment. As stated and restated in my previous reviews, the sex scenes are not the problem. In fact, they are so repetitive and frequently utilized throughout each novel that there is absolutely no shock value left. That’s right – EL James seems to have achieved the exact opposite of what she set out to do – instead of appalling the world with her boldly graphic portrayals of the beast with two backs, her unrestrained overuse of the tactic only results in desensitization. I skipped over the sex in 50 Shades Freed – not because they made me feel embarrassed, and not because of Catholic school guilt – I skipped the sex scenes because I was bored out of my mind. James apparently took the same sleaze that she so liberally dumped all over the original, and then proceeded to regurgitate it back into the sequels.
My primary issues with EL James are her complete lack of writing talent and her uncanny ability to make any and all sex scenes mundane. I do, however, have one other nagging concern.
I do not by any means consider myself a feminist – that being said, I am immensely troubled by the character of Anastasia Steele. By the end of the series, Ana is convinced that she has softened Christian and can retain her own independence through her editing position. I won’t overanalyze this, as these books exist only on a surface level and therefore provide nothing to analyze. Though the progression of these books, Ana transforms from someone with no solid aspirations (career-wise or sexually) into becoming exactly the person that Christian demanded she be. Despite James’ claims, Ana never moves beyond the role of submissive, for she wants nothing more for herself other than to please Christian Grey – the first and only man she has ever dated or slept with, and the same manipulative man she marries at the tender age of twenty-one. She is repugnant as a female character in that James builds her up as an admirable and strong young woman, when in reality she is weak and clingy, and in all likelihood confusing puppy-love with something more enduring.
To sum up my impression of 50 Shades Freed and the trilogy as a whole, the series contains abominable writing, boring sex, and a feeble heroine. There are lots of things I hate about these novels, and unless you yourself are considering a sadomasochistic lifestyle, I would avoid them at all costs. Writing should be good; women should be strong; and you should never, ever, ever, want to skip the sex scenes.