Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 3)
Alright, ya bunch of sugarlumps, here’s some more Fifty Shades for ya. But first: you’ve probably been wondering what I’ve been up to, right? Right? Of course you have!
Last Monday, I had a college application due and had to scramble to get things finished. This week, I also had a lot of homework due, and homework is important right now because I’m trying to get into colleges and I want to keep my GPA up, and in order to keep my GPA up I have to get straight As. I’d been absent a few times due to illness, so I had some make-up work to do, too. On top of all that, I had Christmas presents to make people and my entire house to clean and the world to save and… yeah.
I also watched Wreck-It Ralph. If anyone wants to find me any really lousy WIR fanfiction (super ultra mega bonus points if it’s OC x Turbo), that would be a good thing to add to my “upcoming MSTs” list. Oh yeah: I watched The Lorax, too. (I loved both those movies much more than I was expecting to.)
Enough blathering, let’s get to it!
Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Three
Ana calls Kate and tells her that she bumped into Christian at Clayton’s. Kate, who is very excited by the news for reasons I’m unsure of, says that that seems like a huge coincidence and speculates that Christian was there to see Ana. If one of the author’s characters is calling attention to the weirdness of Christian’s presence, either it’s lampshading or he really was there to see Ana. I hope it’s the former.
When Ana tells Kate she’s got his cell number so they can call him up and organize a photo shoot, Kate gasps and says that Christian definitely likes Ana. Well, yes, he does, but giving Ana his cell number for business reasons is not indicative of that. Ana spaces out because she’s gleefully thinking something along the lines of “omg he likes me”, and I’m honestly relieved that for once she’s not denying the obvious.
Kate wonders aloud who they’ll get to do the photo shoot, since the regular photographer is out of town for the weekend. Ana suggests José. We all saw it coming, but still: raise your hand if you’re less than thrilled at the prospect of another manly-man, I-like-Ana-more-than-you glaring contest!
Ana wants Kate to be the one to call Christian about the shoot, but Kate shoots (geddit) that idea down because Ana’s the one who knows the guy. Yeah, but Kate’s the one who wants the photos, so at the very least she should tell Ana what to arrange for the shoot, right?
As Ana’s leaving a message for José, Paul enters and asks Ana how she knows Christian. She explains about the interview. Paul asks her if she wants to “grab a drink or something this evening”. Ana explains that:
Whenever he’s home he asks me on a date, and I always say no. It’s a ritual. I’ve never considered it a good idea to date the boss’s brother, and besides, Paul is cute in a wholesome all-American boy-next-door kind of way, but he’s no literary hero, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Newsflash, Ana: You are never going to date a literary hero. It would probably be a bad idea anyway. PS: Christian Grey? Not a literary hero. Not heroic, and not from anything that can be considered “literature”. Just wanted to make that clear.
Ana evades the date question by saying she thought he had a family dinner that night. He says that’s tomorrow, and she tells him, and I quote:
“Maybe some other time, Paul. I need to study tonight. I have my finals next week.”
Ana, honey, this is why he keeps asking. If you don’t want to go out for drinks with him, ever, then tell him that! If you tell him “maybe some other time” every time he asks, you’re inviting him to keep asking you. (Though if this has happened enough times, he’s either being daft or not respecting her lack of feelings towards him.)
Paul’s response is to smile and tell her “Ana, one of these days, you’ll say yes”. Which… is vaguely disrespectful, because if she doesn’t want to date him then she doesn’t want to fucking date him, and he clearly knows she’s just making excuses. But, again, it’s partly her fault for not just giving him a flat “no”.
Ana gets home and José calls her back, complaining that he takes pictures of places, not people. Kate grabs the phone and tells José that if he wants the student newspaper to cover the opening of his show, he’ll do the shoot. That’s great except by the time José’s show opens Kate will have graduated so she won’t be in control of the paper anymore. José caves and agrees to do the shoot the following day. Kate hands the phone back to Ana and tells her to call Christian and figure out the time and place.
When Christian picks up, he sounds cold until he realizes it’s Ana, at which point he changes to sounding seductive. Ana, realizing she’s blushing, hastily leaves the room so Kate won’t see. (Of course, Kate notices anyway and teases her over it later.) To cut to the chase and skip the UST, Christian says they can have the shoot at nine-thirty the next morning at the hotel he’s staying in. Ana relays this to Kate, who gives the hotel’s manager a call to set up the shoot.
Ana dreams of Christian again that night:
Dreaming of smoky gray eyes, coveralls, long legs, long fingers, and dark, dark unexplored places.
Maybe it’s time to do a little exploring, Ana. Anyways, the next morning Kate, Ana, José, and José’s friend Travis (described as José’s “gopher” — uh, I think you mean “gofer”) head over to the hotel, taking two cars because they can’t fit themselves plus all the equipment in one. Kate’s phone call the night before landed her a room to use free of charge for the shoot provided the hotel gets a credit in the article. This room is upgraded to a suite when she mentions that the photographs will be of Christian Grey. (It’s just a regular-sized suite, though, because Christian is already in the largest suite in the building.)
Kate gets the place set up — that is, she bosses everyone else around until they get the place set up — and half an hour later Christian Grey shows up. He is dressed in a white shirt and gray flannel pants, and Ana’s mouth goes dry looking at him. Ana, you might want to have that checked out.
Christian shakes hands with Ana, who can barely contain her ladyboner, and then with Kate, who is rather less affected. Ana chalks this up to Kate growing up rich and confident. I chalk it up to Kate having some damn self-control and actually knowing how to behave around other humans.
They take about five minutes’ worth of pictures. To the author’s credit, there is no José-vs.-Christian staredown as I was expecting. At the end of the shoot, Christian shakes hands with Ana and José, then asks Ana to walk with him. She obliges, feeling startled. Christian asks her if she’d like to go out with him for coffee. Ana has an internal freak-out and says she has to drive everybody home (which is true). Christian calls to his driver, a buzz-cut man in his thirties named Taylor (I don’t know if that’s his first or last name), and tells him to drive Ana’s friends and the equipment home. He then asks Ana again if she can join him for coffee. I get that this is supposed to be cute or something, but really it’s just control-freaky and I would be much more comfortable with it if he’d just offered to have Taylor drive the people and stuff home instead.
Ana says Taylor doesn’t have to drive them home, she’ll just switch cars with Kate (all the people and equipment, other than Kate, were in Ana’s car). Christian gives her a big grin, and Ana heads back into the room to tell Kate. Kate launches right into her “Ana, he likes you” spiel before Ana can even get a word out, then delivers the story’s best line so far: “But I don’t trust him.”
Katherine Kavanagh: best character in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Ana interrupts Kate and explains about swapping cars so she can go on a coffee date. This renders Kate speechless temporarily, but then she goes right back to being the best character:
“Ana, there’s something about him.” Her tone is full of warning. “He’s gorgeous, I agree, but I think he’s dangerous. Especially to someone like you.”
By “someone like you”, she means someone as sexually inexperienced/oblivious as Ana. And she’s damn right, too. Of course, Ana doesn’t listen and insists it’s just coffee and that she won’t be long. Kate grudgingly hands over the keys and tells Ana that if she’s late, she’ll send out search-and-rescue. Best. Character.
They head out for coffee. Christian asks Ana how long she’s known Kate (since freshman year) as they wait for the elevator, and when the elevator arrives a young couple are inside making out. (Foreshadowing!) The couple quickly separates as Ana and Christian enter. Christian holds hands with Ana while in the elevator, which to Ana is extremely exciting.
Ana and Christian walk the four blocks to the Portland Coffee House, still holding hands. When they get inside, Christian offers to order the drinks while Ana finds them a table. Ana orders English Breakfast tea (oh you British author you) because she doesn’t like coffee. Christian returns with the stuff (Ana’s tea, his coffee, plus a blueberry muffin for himself). Ana puts the teabag in the pot and fishes it out again seconds later. What? I don’t know how long you’re supposed to brew English Breakfast tea (I’m an Earl Grey fan myself) but I’m betting it’s longer than five seconds. Otherwise, you’re just drinking hot water, and that’s disgusting. Christian gives her a quizzical look, and she explains:
“I like my tea black and weak,” I mutter as an explanation.
First of all, this is just begging for a follow-up comment of “just like my men”. Second of all, that’s not weak tea, that’s strong water. You’re supposed to brew black tea for three minutes. Gosh.
Christian asks, out of the blue, if José is Ana’s boyfriend. If that were true, wouldn’t that make this date + all the handholding and flirting and UST a little weird? Ana explains that no, he’s just a very close friend of hers. Christian is satisfied with this answer and starts in on his muffin before asking if Paul is Ana’s boyfriend. Sheesh, Christian, a little jealous, are we? Ana explains again that no, he’s just a friend, thinks to herself that this is getting silly, and asks Christian why he’s curious. He replies that she seems nervous around men. She flushes and confesses that she finds him intimidating.
The response I would generally expect: “Aw, don’t be intimidated, there’s no reason to be!”
The response Christian gives Ana: “You should find me intimidating.”
I swear that is what he says. Word for word.
To his credit, he does compliment her on her honesty and asks her not to look down so much, he’d like to see her face sometimes. In what is almost certainly a nod to Edward’s inability to read Bella’s mind in Twilight, Christian tells Ana that he find her “mysterious”, and “very self-contained”. Ana is surprised by this and asks him if he always makes such personal observations. He asks if he’s offended her, she says he hasn’t (which is true) but that he’s very high-handed. His response:
“I’m used to getting my own way, Anastasia,” he murmurs. “In all things.”
I’m not sure if I’ve commented upon this before, but Christian says this kind of stuff a lot. It’s as if the author is worried we’ll forget the basic premise of the book if she doesn’t keep reminding us that Christian is a Dominant.
They chat a bit more, and to Ana’s credit she doesn’t act like a complete doormat. Nearly a page and a half passes with no blushing on Ana’s part, which must be some sort of record, and she actually manages to talk to Christian without mumbling or looking down at the floor. For whatever reason — probably just an excuse for exposition dumping — they begin talking about their families. (Or, rather, take turns interrogating each other about their families.) Ana reveals that her dad died when she was a baby (she doesn’t say how), and that she lived with her stepdad for a time when she was in her mid-teens after her mom married Husband #3. Christian tells Ana that his father is a lawyer and his mother a pediatrician. One of his siblings, his brother Elliot, is a construction worker, and the other, his little sister (no name given), is in Paris studying to be a chef. Since he’s adopted, I don’t know if his siblings are biological relatives. Ana gets the sense while Christian’s talking that he doesn’t like talking about his family. The subject changes to travel. Ana’s never left the States, and says she’d like to go to England to see where all her favorite dead British authors lived.
Suddenly, Ana remembers she’s got to go home and study for her exams. She tells Christian, who offers to walk back to the hotel with her. They’re quiet most of the way there (Christian at one point asks Ana if she always wears jeans, to which she replies “Mostly”), until Ana suddenly blurts out, “Do you have a girlfriend?” He smiles at her and says he doesn’t do the girlfriend thing. She tries to figure out what that means, but Ana apparently can’t think and walk at the same time, as she immediately trips crossing the street. Grey pulls her up and against him, she looks up expecting to be kissed, chapter ends.
Holy Cow! Alert: None this chapter, but there’s “Holy crap!” (3x), “Holy hell” (once), and “Holy shit” (once).
And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:
- [Ana thinks Paul is cute, but not a literary hero] Is Grey? My subconscious asks me, her eyebrow figuratively raised. I slap her down.
- [Ana wonders why Christian is asking her out for coffee] Maybe he thinks you haven’t woken up yet, my subconscious whines at me in a sneering mood again.
- [Ana resists the urge to grin when Christian holds her hand] Try to be cool, Ana, my subconscious implores me.
- [Ana thinks that maybe Kate is more Christian’s type] And she’s beautiful, my subconscious reminds me.
Britishing Alert: E.L. James is British. The characters she is writing about are not. This means that occasionally the characters end up saying or thinking things that I feel fairly certain no American young adult would say or think. Such as this:
[After Ana snaps at Kate] She blinks at me with surprise – I very rarely throw my toys out of the pram – and I briefly relent.
“Throw my toys out of the pram”? I’ve never even heard that phrase. “Pram” is not a word people in the US say all that often.
I wonder, how hard would it have been to simply rewrite the story to be in the UK? Now that it’s no longer trying to be Twilight fanfiction, it has no real reason to be taking place in Washington State.
Thoughts So Far:
Compared to the previous two chapters, I don’t actually think this one was that bad. It is important to note, however, that I still thought it was bad.
Ana seems to be behaving a little more like a normal person around Christian, in that she spends less time being a blushing puddle of OMG SEXUAL FEELINGS THAT SHE’S NEVER BEFORE EXPERIENCED and more time actually talking to him like a normal human. Or, should I say, somewhat like a normal human. She also seems a little less blatantly submissive in this chapter; when Christian asks probing questions, she asks them right back. I’m honestly a little impressed with her. Again, however, note that I am setting the bar so low that it is actually six feet under and you have to use a shovel to go below it.
Also, I like Kate. Thank god someone in this story has enough sense to recognize that a guy like Christian is not really the best thing for Ana. Sure, on the other hand the author is just setting up the “omg forbidden love!111!11!1” aspect of this relationship, but at least I’ve got someone to agree with now.
While we’re on the subject of Kate, I’ve been thinking about her character, and I think she was made to be tough and beautiful because the author wanted to counterbalance Ana’s submissive tendencies by having her best friend lean in the opposite direction. (Thus, in theory, avoiding being criticized for making women out to be a bunch of delicate, submissive little flowers.) In fact, Kate is portrayed to be nearly as commanding as Christian, leading to lines like this (context: Kate has just told Ana to do something for her):
Yes, Mistress. She is so domineering. I roll my eyes, but do as I’m told.
Now this is a D/s relationship I can get behind!
Seriously, though, Kate and Ana have more chemistry than Christian and Ana do, and that’s kind of sad because neither pair has a whole lot of chemistry.
To his credit, Christian is being less creepy than I expected him to be. He definitely has his moments of creep, but it’s not so bad in this chapter, which gives me hope. False hope, probably, but still hope!
Next chapter: find out if Ana and Christian kiss! (I’m betting they won’t, because there is no elevator there for them to kiss in, and it’s only chapter four. But still!)