Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 6)
It’s been just over a month since I last did a chapter of this story. I really did need that break.
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Six
They get into Christian’s car, which we’re helpfully informed is a black Audi SUV. (There’s actually a lot of product placement in this book. Perhaps I should start doing Alerts for it.) Ana is still a little dazed over the kiss. Actually, more than a little dazed:
As time ticks on, I assign it mythical, Arthurian legend, Lost City of Atlantis status. It never happened, it never existed. Perhaps I imagined it all. No. I touch my lips, swollen from his kiss. It definitely happened. I am a changed woman. I want this man, desperately, and he wanted me.
Wow, um… congratulations?
Christian seems less affected by what just occurred. Ana marvels at how perfectly composed he seems. I for one am glad that he’s perfectly composed, because he’s about to drive a car.
Christian puts on some music (the Flower Duet by Delibes, from the opera Lakmé, he informs Ana later). Ana seems like she’s getting kinda turned on by the music as well. Okay, sure. They start having a conversation about music. Christian claims to like “everything from Thomas Tallis to the Kings of Leon”, depending on his mood. Ana agrees with him.
As they’re in the middle of listening to a Kings of Leon song, Christian gets a call from one of his employees. He answers it over the Bluetooth system in his car, so Ana can hear both sides of the conversation. Basically, the caller just tells Christian “I have the information you require”, and Christian tells him to email it to him and hangs up. I think Ana’s reaction to this might be worth closer analysis, so here it is:
I’m so glad that I never seriously entertained the thought of working for him. I shudder at the very idea. He’s just too controlling and cold with his employees.
See, here’s the thing. Christian almost certainly treats his submissives the same way. What with all the various not-so-subtle hints that the main thing he wants out of relationships (and life in general) is control, and with all his talk of not being a “hearts-and-flowers kind of man”, and the contract he keeps mentioning, I think it’s pretty clear what sort of sexual relationships he’s comfortable having. And, you know, if Ana wanted a relationship where she and Christian got together occasionally for some kinky business and didn’t really have any interaction (at least not romantic interaction) outside of that, that would be fine. But she seems to have zero interest in being treated that way. His businesslike manner is off-putting for her, not a turn-on.
If I had a little more faith in the author’s skill, I’d say that she’s just setting up the main conflict here — that these two people are attracted to each other, but one wants a serious, committed relationship and the other just wants a casual D/s relationship. In fact, I am reasonably sure that that’s what she’s doing, but I’m worried about how this is going to be handled. If we have one character — in this case Christian — who’s used to getting what he wants, and another character — in this case Ana — who is a passive, sexually clueless doormat, it is a recipe for a whole lot of dubious-consent type scenes, like the elevator scene in the last chapter. And I don’t trust this author to handle that kind of stuff the way it should be handled, because the way it’s been handled so far is “no, it’s totally okay and sexy because Ana likes it”.
Back to the chapter. Christian gets another call from a female employee, and then yet another call from his brother Elliot. Elliot opens the conversation by asking Christian if he got laid. That Elliot, keepin’ it classy! Christian tells him that speakerphone is on and Ana’s in the car. He then asks if Elliot wants to be picked up, since they’re almost to Ana’s place. Elliot says sure and Christian hangs up.
There’s a brief conversation about how Ana prefers to be called Ana and not Anastasia (Christian has been calling her the latter). I’m only mentioning this conversation because once again Christian completely ignores what Ana wants. Book, this is not good. I really don’t think these two should be having sex if one of them is going to constantly disregard the desires of the other.
Christian tells Ana that what happened in the elevator won’t happen again, at least “not unless it’s premeditated”. I’m not even sure what he’s getting at here. Is he admitting that it was wrong of him to do that without her consent? Even if that’s the case, his admission that what he did wasn’t okay is undermined by the book treating the entire thing as OMG SO SEXY, and also by him not apologizing for his behavior. To further prove my point that the book is handling this wrong, Ana mutters that she liked what happened in the elevator. Christian audibly gasps. This is not the first time in the book that he’s audibly gasped, and it’s getting kind of silly.
They go inside and find Kate and Elliot sitting at the dining-room table. Kate looks like she’s in a very good mood, so I take it that she and Elliot had quite a bit of fun the night before.
Kate gives Christian some suspicious looks and is a little hostile when she says hello. Good girl, Kate… except that if you were so against Christian taking Ana home then you should have done it yourself, or at least intervened and made sure that Ana ended up back at your apartment instead of Christian’s hotel room, or MAYBE YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST CALLED A FUCKING AMBULANCE BECAUSE SHE PASSED OUT FROM DRINKING TOO MUCH.
Ana takes an immediate liking to Elliot for reasons that aren’t terribly clear. I mean, he seems like a friendly, easygoing dude, but he’s a very minimally described friendly easygoing dude, so I’m just guessing from the tiny bit of description that we get. (It’s also confirmed that he and Christian are not biological relatives.)
Before leaving, Elliot kisses Kate, and Ana watches jealously and wonders why Christian can’t kiss her like that.
I believe this deserves a little analysis.
We’ve barely seen anything of Elliot and Kate’s relationship, but I’m going to assume that the two of them were having more or less vanilla sex the night before, that everything was entirely consensual (or as consensual as it can be when both parties are somewhat intoxicated), and that they’re going to wind up having a fairly standard happy relationship with romance and flowers and cuddling and whatever else.
This is the kind of relationship that Ana wants. She doesn’t want a guy like Christian Grey, not really. She’s intimidated by him, and his intimidating side doesn’t seem to turn her on; she finds him physically attractive, but doesn’t seem to like his personality much. However, since she’s never been attracted to anyone before, she’s thinking that Christian is the guy for her simply because he gets her panties wet or whatever, which means that she’ll probably go along with whatever he wants even though the kind of relationship she really wants is a standard romantic vanilla relationship.
Yeah, I don’t like where this is headed.
And then… oh, for fuck’s sake. Elliot and Kate do one of those things where the guy sweeps the girl off her feet while kissing her and dips her “so her hair touches the ground” according to Ana/the author. That isn’t the “for fuck’s sake”, part. The “for fuck’s sake” part is that Elliot says “Laters, baby” to Kate after kissing her, and then this happens:
Kate just melts. I’ve never seen her melt before – the words comely and compliant come to mind. Compliant Kate, boy, Elliot must be good.
Now, I want to read this in a positive fashion and just take away from this that Kate’s in a good mood because she had a good night with a nice guy who’s clearly into her, but that’s not how I’m reading this. I’m reading this as “Kate got fucked into submission/compliance”, which is… really bothersome, especially since Kate is the more “dominant” of our two main female characters. I get that some people are domineering in real life and submissive in the bedroom, but this seems as if the author’s implying that all women are naturally submissive types and they just need a man to take charge and bend ‘em over.
Good lord I hate this fucking book so much.
Christian touches Ana’s face a bit (which doesn’t sound terribly great, but oh boy does Ana love it) and then tells her “Laters, baby” too before he and Elliot leave. As soon as they’re gone, Kate immediately asks Ana if she had sex with Christian.
And now I have to go on another rant.
Just a few paragraphs ago, Kate greeted Christian coldly, clearly suspicious that he might have been mistreating Ana. She’s previously expressed distrust of Christian and claimed that a guy like him wouldn’t be good for Ana (and, like I’ve said before, even though she’s right she has no real way of knowing this except for magical powers of intuition). Now she’s excitedly asking if Ana slept with him?
It’s bad because it makes Kate look like she has no real regard for her friend’s wellbeing. It’s bad because the priority here is that Ana is okay, because she fucking passed out the night before. Kate should be making sure her friend is alright, not asking if her friend got any.
But you know what? I can’t even bring myself to pin this on a fictional character like I usually do, because Kate’s entire limited characterization is rapidly falling apart. It’s becoming clear that the author really does not give a shit about the character motivations of anyone but Ana and Grey.
tl;dr This is just lousy writing.
Ana tells Kate that no, she didn’t have sex with Christian. She’s clearly unhappy about this, and expresses jealousy that Kate obviously got to have sex the night before. Now, I feel like this is an important moment for Ana, because her characterization previously has indicated that she’s never been interested in sex before, and only interested in relationships as an abstract concept. The book has made a pretty big deal of her suddenly feeling attraction to Christian and coping with feelings that are new to her, but now she’s actually feeling jealous of a friend for being able to attract men. Is this going to affect her and Kate’s friendship at all? Is she going to be constantly jealous of Kate and Elliot’s relationship because she can’t have that kind of thing with Christian? I don’t have any faith in the author’s skill, so I don’t know if the stuff about her being jealous of Kate is setting up to be anything or not.
Kate asks if Ana likes Christian enough to have sex with him, and she says yes. Kate seems surprised, in a good way, that Ana has finally found someone she’s into. Again, this conflicts with her previous characterization. Author, maybe you shouldn’t be an author.
They giggle good-naturedly for a bit, which is maybe the first time in the story that they’ve actually been friendly to one another so I thought it was worth a mention.
Kate asks Ana about her new clothes, and Ana gives her “all the unexciting details” about the previous night. By which I assume she means everything but the kiss in the elevator, because of course that kiss was totally sexy and not assault oh no.
And yep, I’m right, because Kate’s next question to Ana is if Christian’s kissed her yet. Ana says they’ve kissed once, which Kate scoffs at. Ana explains that Christian is “very reserved” and “odd”. Kate resolves to make Ana “simply irresistible” for her date with Christian that evening. Ana is not thrilled with the prospect of being made simply irresistible, but of course she doesn’t say that because she’s a doormat.
Then this happens:
Under Kate’s tireless and frankly intrusive instruction, my legs and underarms are shaved to perfection, my eyebrows plucked, and I am buffed all over. It has been a most unpleasant experience. But she assures me that this is what men expect these days.
I’m almost willing to dismiss Ana’s complaining as good-natured complaining. Almost, but not quite, because a) she doesn’t seem to want to get shaved, plucked, and buffed, not even for the end result, b) good-natured complaining is not a part of Ana’s personality, at least not thus far, and c) the line about this being “what men expect”. For christ’s sake, honey, if you don’t want to do this then don’t do it! If Christian has such a problem with it, then maybe you two just aren’t a good match. And as for it being what men expect… first off, don’t generalize like that, and second, why does this all have to be about what Grey wants? Assuming that this even is what he wants?
God this book is such rubbish.
After getting shaved and plucked etc., Ana goes to work at Clayton’s. She takes some time to think while restocking. Topics she thinks about include:
- Kate’s not trusting Christian. It is weird that this is being brought up considering that Kate just practically forced Ana into getting groomed so that she can have sex with Christian later.
- José. Apparently, he’s called Ana’s cell phone seven times and left three messages. He’s also called home twice; Kate’s answered on both occasions and been vague about Ana’s whereabouts, but Ana suspects that José knows Kate is covering for her. Ana is still too angry with José to talk to him, so she’s decided to let him stew for now. This is a little odd — I mean, she definitely has a right to be angry, but she hasn’t expressed anger at him until now.
- The paperwork Christian mentioned. Ana isn’t sure if he was joking or not.
Christian picks Ana up after she finishes her shift. They greet each other very politely and formally. There’s little conversation on the way to the heliport, but they do hold hands (Taylor is driving).
The heliport is so minimally described that I don’t even know what exactly to be picturing. Apparently it’s a three-story building in a “built-up area of the city”. The helicopter is on top of the building. It’s got Grey’s company logo on the side, and Ana thinks that this must be a misuse of company property.
An old man tells Grey that the helicopter is ready to go, and Christian thanks him, calls him by name (Joe), and smiles warmly at him. Ana is awed that this fellow is “deserving” of the polite treatment from Christian Grey. Normally I would take the “deserving” bit as mild sarcasm, but with this book? I don’t even know.
The book continues on with no indication of who this Joe fellow is. I’m making a note to remember him for later, because the way he was introduced makes him seem significant.
Christian fastens Ana into her harness. Foreshadowing, I’m sure, but it’s kind of stupid. I’ve never been in a helicopter, but I assume that the harness is supposed to be kind of like a seat belt; that is, there’s some give to it, otherwise you might get hurt by it. However, apparently Ana is strapped in so tightly that she’s effectively immobilized.
After strapping Ana in, Christian says “You’re secure, no escaping” to her and then kisses her. It’s creepy, because there’s no sense that he’s goofing around and they don’t know each other well enough for that to come off as goofy couple stuff anyway. It’s also creepy because he assaulted her in an elevator in the previous chapter.
There’s a surprising amount of description of Christian flying the helicopter, and of him talking to various air traffic control towers. It’s pretty dull and I feel as if the author is just rubbing her minimal amount of research as to how helicopters work in our faces lest we try to criticize her.
Ana asks Christian if he always impresses his dates this way, and he tells her that, actually, this is the first time he’s taken a date on a helicopter ride with him. We get it, Ana is super special omg.
Christian’s obvious love of flying is commented upon by Ana. He explains that he likes it because of the control and concentration required. I feel like this is supposed to be more evidence of control-freakery, but it actually seems like a perfectly good reason to enjoy a hobby.
The whole way there, Ana is worrying about what Christian might want to do with her in terms of sex things. I mean, it’s a legitimate point of anxiety for someone as clueless as Ana, but why can’t she ask him what he has planned? It’s not as though she has no say in the matter.
They reach Seattle and Christian lands the helicopter on top of a large skyscraper. As he unbuckles Ana, he tells her:
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. You know that don’t you?” His tone is so earnest, desperate even, his gray eyes impassioned. He takes me by surprise.
Well, on the one hand thank you for pointing that out, and on the other hand you’re still trying to manipulate Ana into sex you think she isn’t going to like so this ain’t cutting it.
They get into an elevator, which takes them down to an all-white foyer with a dark wood table in the middle and paintings all over the walls. I think this negates the all-white aspect of the room a little, but what do I know? From there, Christian leads Ana into his living room. It’s double-height, with one wall entirely glass. The room contains a sofa big enough for ten, a fireplace, a kitchen area, a dining table (which sits sixteen), and a grand piano.
Ana is a little overwhelmed by how fancy this place is. In fact, she’s more than a little overwhelmed; she’s internally freaking out.
I want to make this absolutely clear: Ana is legitimately nervous about the entire situation. She doesn’t know what might happen between her and Christian. She feels overwhelmed by his wealth, power and influence. She feels like she is in way over her head. Now, I can completely understand why she might feel that way, and it would be possible for her to feel overwhelmed in a good way, but it doesn’t seem like she’s enjoying this part of the situation at all. She’s there because she’s horny and hopes she’s going to get to sleep with Christian, but literally everything else about the situation is scaring her.
Christian pours himself and Ana a glass of wine each. I’m hoping they stop at one glass, because getting drunk before having kinky sex is a bad idea (if you’re going to be incorporating potentially dangerous activities into your sexytimes, then it’s a good idea to have all your wits about you lest you hurt your partner and yourself). It also reads badly because Christian hasn’t even told her what he plans on doing in terms of sex things yet, so it comes off like he’s trying to get Ana a little drunk so she’ll go along with his desires more readily. I don’t know if that’s the case at all, but I trust neither Christian nor the author and am not terribly willing to give either of them the benefit of the doubt.
They also don’t have anything to eat, which means they’ll get drunk faster. Great.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles gets brought up again. Christian tells Ana that he can “hold [her] to some impossibly high ideal like Angel Clare or debase [her] completely like Alec D’Urberville”. Now, I’ve never read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, but I did just look up the plot on Wikipedia. Angel Clare is the man that Tess loves. Alec D’Urberville… well, Wikipedia didn’t use the word “rape”, they said “callously seduces”, but that sounds kind of like rape to me.
No points for guessing which of these two options Ana says she finds more attractive.
Christian gasps (again with the gasping!) and tells her that she doesn’t know what she’s saying. He’s probably right. However, he goes along with it and pulls out the paperwork he was talking about — a NDA, which he says his lawyer insists on — for her to sign. He explains that if they’re going to go for the debasement option, she needs to agree to the NDA.
Ana asks what the NDA means. Christian tells her it means she can’t tell anyone anything about their relationship. This freaks Ana out, but she’s also very curious, so she says she’ll sign. He hands her the pen and she signs it without reading it.
Okay, so on the one hand the NDA is probably just a bunch of dumb legal jargon best summed up as “do not blab to anyone about our relationship because I am a big fancy important businessman and I don’t want the media knowing about what goes on in my bedroom”. A NDA also doesn’t prevent Ana from getting help if he does hurt her in some way — rapes her, seriously injures her, anything that would be illegal. But does Ana know that? I don’t know if she does, because she is clueless as fuck. There could also be something weird in the NDA that she wouldn’t normally agree to, something other than “don’t tell anyone about us”.
Also, this thing isn’t described as being long. It isn’t like this is a stack of paper and reading through it would just be a big fat pain in the ass.
Christian tries to get Ana to read it, to his credit, but backs down when she says that she wouldn’t talk about their relationship to anyone anyway, not even Kate.
After signing, Ana asks Christian if he’s going to make love to her that night. He replies with:
“…Firstly, I don’t make love. I fuck… hard. Secondly, there’s a lot more paperwork to do, and thirdly, you don’t yet know what you’re in for. You could still run for the hills. Come, I want to show you my playroom.”
Firstly, I’m laughing this is so poorly written oh my god. Secondly, “making love” vs. “fucking hard” is a bullshit distinction, because we don’t even know what those terms mean to Christian, and they probably don’t mean anything to Ana. He needs to explain to her what he means by fucking hard as opposed to making love. I wish we could just get some damn communication here. Ana probably has little to no clue as to what she wants in the bedroom, but that means she needs to say to him “Look, it’s my first time, I don’t know too much about sex, but can you tell me what you like to do and I’ll tell you if that sounds fun to me?”
Ana somehow thinks that “playroom” means “game room” and asks him if he means he wants to play on his Xbox. He laughs at this, and I probably would too except that I hate this story.
They go back out into the corridor and up a staircase. Christian leads Ana to a locked door, and, as he’s unlocking it, tells her that she can leave anytime or stay the night and go home in the morning. Whatever she decides.
Again, this is a nice gesture, but it would help if I trusted you, Grey.
Ana tells him to just open the damn door. Good on you, honey.
He opens the door. Ana walks in and feels as if she’s traveled back in time “to the sixteenth century and the Spanish Inquisition”.
Holy Cow! Alert: None this time, but there’s one “Holy hell!”, four “Holy shit!”s, and one “Holy fuck!”.
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert: Surprisingly only twice this chapter.
- [Ana wonders what she’s doing in Christian’s apartment] You know very well what you’re doing here – my subconscious sneers at me. Yes, I want to be in Christian Grey’s bed.
- [After Ana tells Christian that she’d prefer debasement to being held to an impossibly high ideal] My subconscious is staring at me in awe.
Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:
- [Ana wonders if she’s ready to lose her virginity] My inner goddess glares at me, tapping her small foot impatiently. She’s been ready for this for years, and she’s ready for anything with Christian Grey, but I still don’t understand what he sees in me… mousey Ana Steele – it makes no sense.
I actually want to talk about this one, both because it seems like further proof that “inner goddess” refers to Ana’s lady bits and because it’s totally weird that Ana has to project her sexual desires onto some entity she views as separate from herself. That isn’t normal, it isn’t healthy, and it makes her seem even more seriously repressed than she already is.
Great Prose Alert:
- The car interior is filled with the sweetest, most magical music of two women singing.
- Christian pulls out on to SW Park Avenue, and he drives with easy, lazy confidence.
- It’s a gentle, slow, sweet, and sure assault on my aural senses.
- I have to convince Kate that this is what I want to do. For some strange reason, she doesn’t trust him, maybe because he’s so stiff and formal.
- The doors close, and it’s there, the weird electrical attraction crackling between us, enslaving me.
Oh My! Alert: Only once this time, thankfully.
Thoughts So Far:
I’m starting to think that this story’s main problem is that the author’s intention doesn’t match up with the way the story actually reads.
For example, we’re supposed to be excited for Ana in this chapter, right? We’re supposed to be looking forward to the sex she’s about to have, right? Well, here’s the problem: as I’ve said before, Ana herself has some major misgivings about the entire situation. She wants to have sex with Christian, but she doesn’t know what sex with Christian is going to entail, she clearly doesn’t feel 100% ready (which is totally understandable, as this is their second date and they haven’t exactly “hit it off”), and she doesn’t feel like she has any control over the situation. Basically, Ana has resolved to passively go along with whatever Christian wants and hope that it works out okay for her.
Christian’s behavior, though understandable to a degree (he’s got a reputation to protect, hence why he needed her to sign the NDA before showing her his playroom) is also off-putting. I give him some credit for at least telling Ana that he doesn’t do romance and has some “singular tastes” — perhaps someone less clueless than Ana would be able to put two and two together — but his trying to pull her into this relationship despite thinking there’s no chance she’ll be into any of this stuff is rather dubious behavior. Besides, has he not picked up on how naïve Ana is? And if he hasn’t, doesn’t that just indicate that they need to get to know one another better before plunging into something like this?
Not to mention, the two of them just have zero chemistry. I assume they have sex in the next chapter, or perhaps the chapter after, and I’m really not looking forward to it in the slightest. What is there to look forward to? These characters have a purely physical attraction to one another, but they’re not well-matched in terms of personality or anything else. Plus, they’re both unlikeable and badly written. Yay!