Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 9)

There’s even more sex in this chapter, and it might be even more dull than the sex there was in the last chapter.

Chapter 1

Previous chapter

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Nine

Ana wakes up:

It’s a beautiful May morning, Seattle at my feet. Wow, what a view. Beside me, Christian Grey is fast asleep. Wow, what a view.

Author, please quit trying to be clever.

The story’s first paragraph is just Ana staring at Christian and reminding us that, yes, Christian Grey is a very good-looking man. No, really, I grasped that concept back in chapter one. We don’t really need to go over it this many times.

Ana gets out of bed and tries to find the bathroom. She ends up in Christian’s walk-in closet first before finally finding the bathroom, which she claims is bigger than her bedroom. Having no idea how large her bedroom is, and having known some people to have alarmingly small bedrooms, this doesn’t tell me too much.

There’s a few paragraphs of Ana staring in the mirror and thinking about Christian. Or, rather, her subconscious is thinking about Christian. Ana herself just seems to be staring in the mirror. Her subconscious thinks she’s crazy for sleeping with Christian, since he doesn’t love her and wants to make her his “kinky sex slave”.

This feels like a cheap attempt at lampshading to me. It’s like the author’s saying, “Hey, I know some of you think Ana should be feeling this way, so I’m going to acknowledge that in-story, but I’m not actually going to fix the issue.” It also reads as though Ana’s distancing herself from her own reactions as some sort of coping mechanism, which, if anything, makes the situation seem even worse.

Ana checks her phone. She has three new texts from Kate, who’s evidently worried about Ana despite having known that Ana was going to be out all night. Does no one trust Ana to be a responsible adult and deal with her own shit?

I can kind of see why they don’t trust her on that, actually, but that’s beside the point.

Ana calls Kate and leaves a message apologizing for not getting in touch earlier, and promising that she’s alive and has not “succumbed to Bluebeard”. Now, in case any of you need to brush up on your fairy tales, Bluebeard was a fellow who murdered his wives in succession and locked them up in a room in his castle. The story follows his current wife, who’s given a key to the room with the bodies of the previous wives and told not to open it. I guess this works okay as a metaphor because it’s about the perils of curiosity, but, on the other hand, Bluebeard wasn’t a sympathetic or redeemable villain. I seem to recall him getting stabbed at the end of the story. This isn’t a flattering comparison to make; it makes Grey look like even more of a creepy douche, and god knows he doesn’t need to be any creepier or douchier.

Ana finds some hair ties in her bag and is happy that she can put her hair in pigtails:

Yes! The more girly I look, perhaps the safer I’ll be from Bluebeard.

That’s not a good way to be thinking about your love interest, Ana. If you catch yourself referring to him as “Bluebeard”, that’s a warning sign. Also, I don’t think “looking girly” is going to protect you. It hasn’t worked so far, at least.

Not to mention that the whole idea of trying to protect yourself by dressing differently is stupid, sexist, victim-blaming, backwards thinking.

Ana starts cooking breakfast while listening to music on her iPod. Where is the staff, come to think of it? Christian’s rich as fuck; shouldn’t he have someone on hand to cook his meals?

While she’s cooking and dancing about to her music, Ana suddenly turns to see Christian sitting at the breakfast bar. The sight of him gets her all flustered and turned on. Okay, whatever. She asks if he’s hungry, and the way he replies in the affirmative makes her think he’s not talking about food.

Looks like we’re going to have another sex scene. Great. I’m already bored.

The Bluebeard comparison gets brought up again:

He gently pulls my pigtail.
“I love these,” he whispers. “They won’t protect you.” Hmm Bluebeard…

Okay, this just makes Christian look like a dick. Even if he’s only teasing, he’s acknowledging that Ana feels a need to present a certain way to protect herself, and the proper response to realizing that your partner doesn’t feel safe around you is to try and reassure them that you aren’t going to hurt them.

Christian makes coffee for himself and tea for Ana while he finishes breakfast. Seriously, he is richer than god, so where’s the staff at?

Ana seems surprised that Christian has got English Breakfast tea on hand for her, even though English Breakfast is a very average sort of tea and if you’re a casual tea drinker it stands to reason that you might have a box of it in your kitchen. If her tastes extended to fancier teas, or to a specific brand of loose tea or something, then it would be surprising. But English Breakfast? Nah.

(I’m sorry, I know tea isn’t that exciting or relevant. I’m just… sort of a tea fanatic, I suppose.)

They sit down to eat breakfast. Ana winces when she sits, which prompts Christian to ask her how sore she is from the night before. She snaps that she has nothing to compare this to. Uh, except you’ve felt pain before, right?

Christian tells her he was wondering if they should continue Ana’s “basic training”. He suggests that they do oral, since Ana’s sore. Ana is so incredibly turned on by the very idea of more “training” with Christian that her narration once again devolves into endless talk of how horny she is.

Ana tells Christian that she’d like to stay for the day, but that she has work the following day. He offers to get her to work by nine the next morning, but she says she has to get home by this evening — presumably to spend time with Kate, or just to be away from Christian so she can think things over, though an explanation isn’t given. Christian seems none too happy with the idea of letting her leave earlier, but doesn’t argue with her about it. So I guess it could be worse, even though he’s still a prick.

Though the talk of sex has killed Ana’s appetite for food, Christian insists she eat anyway. The book is getting progressively less subtle about Christian’s issues with wasted food, and it was about as subtle as a brick to the head to begin with, so I think it’s pretty obvious that this is another clue to what happened in Christian’s childhood. (In this case, looks like he probably went hungry often.)

Once Ana finishes her food, Christian starts doing the dishes. Where the hell is the staff? Ana’s phone rings; it’s Kate, and she’s pissed off that Ana didn’t text the night before. Ana explains that she was “overtaken” by the events of last night. Kate asks Ana if she’s okay, and when Ana says yes Kate asks her if she had sex with Christian. Now, these two are supposedly BFFs, and I wouldn’t consider this a pushy question at all from a BFF, but Ana seems to think such questions are intrusive, so Kate’s asking comes off as overly pushy and I kind of wish she’d just take a hint and drop the subject. But no; instead, Kate continues to ask questions as Ana repeats “Kate, please!” over and over in an attempt to get her to stop.

Finally, Ana hangs up. It’s revealed that part of the reason she didn’t want to talk to Kate about having sex with Christian is that she worries she isn’t allowed to, because of the NDA. Ana, this is why you should have read the NDA. I’m guessing it only covers Christian’s kinky behavior and doesn’t say she can’t talk about vanilla sex she had with him, but I don’t know because I didn’t get to read the NDA because Ana chose not to read it.

Ana asks Christian what the NDA covers. He asks why she wants to know. She tells him:

“Well, I have a few questions, you know, about sex.” I stare down at my fingers. “And I’d like to ask Kate.”

I can’t imagine that the NDA covers general questions about sex, which is what I assume Ana’d like to ask Kate about. She is, after all, pretty sexually clueless. If the questions have to do with BDSM, that might be a tip-off, and the NDA might contain something that prevents Ana from saying anything that might be a tip-off like that, but, again, I have no idea if there’s anything like that in there because Ana never read the damn thing.

Christian tells Ana she can ask him the questions she has instead. Ana doesn’t want to do that, though:

“Christian, with all due respect.” My voice fades. I can’t ask you. I’ll get your biased, kinky-as-hell, distorted world-view regarding sex. I want an impartial opinion.

Well, what the hell kind of questions are you planning on asking, Ana? If it’s general sex questions, you could do some research, but I’m sure Christian would be able to help fill you in as well. Just because he’s into BDSM specifically doesn’t mean he doesn’t have basic, objective knowledge about how sex works.

On the other hand, if the questions pertain to BDSM as Christian practices it, then Ana ought to ask him about it. Sure, doing some general reading would be good too, but if she’s wondering about the kind of stuff Christian likes to do, then she should ask Christian about that stuff.

Also, “biased, kinky-as-hell, distorted world-view regarding sex”? Sweet Jesus, Ana, back down a little.

Ana continues:

“It’s just about mechanics. I won’t mention the Red Room of Pain.”
He raises his eyebrows.
“Red Room of Pain? It’s mostly about pleasure, Anastasia. Believe me,” he says. “Besides,” his tone is harsher. “Your room-mate is making the beast with two backs with my brother. I’d really rather you didn’t.”

I have a feeling “Red Room of Pain” is this book’s clever new nickname for Christian’s playroom (note: nickname not actually clever). Though I’m glad Christian pointed out that BDSM is supposed to be pleasurable, this is also the first time he’s bothered to point that out, so, uh… too little, too late, Christian Grey.

Oh, and “the beast with two backs”? Who the fuck says that? And who says Kate would say anything to Elliot, anyway? Just because she’s fucking him doesn’t mean she has to gossip about Christian’s sex life with him.

Ana asks Christian if his family knows about his kinks. He says they don’t, then walks over to her, tilts her chin up, and asks her what she’d like to know. She says she can’t think of anything specific at the moment. He asks her how last night was for her, she says it was good, he agrees, blah blah this is dull can they just go fuck in a bathtub already like I know they’re going to.

Oh, wait. Christian says that last night with Ana was the first time he’s had vanilla sex. This is kind of interesting, as I guess it means his first introduction to sex must have been through someone who was into BDSM as well. On the other hand, it also means the sex he had with Ana was OMFG SO SPESHUL AND UNIQUE, and I wish the book would stop slapping us over the head with how twoo wuv Ana and Christian’s relationship supposedly is.

They head off to take a bath together, which Christian had previously suggested they do.

There’s some description of the bathroom, which mostly serves to illustrate how fucking bad at description the author is. Seriously, she’s terrible at it. Description isn’t my forte either, but I know when someone’s fucking it up, and good god is E.L. James fucking it up.

Anyway, long description short, Christian has a large bathtub and it is nice.

Christian takes off his shirt, which causes Ana to bite her lip, which then leads to this:

“I know that lip is delicious, I can attest to that, but will you stop biting it?” he says through clenched teeth. “You chewing it makes me want to fuck you, and you’re sore, okay?”

Christian, dear, there’s this neat thing called self-control and it might come in handy sometime, because then you could not blame Ana for her unconscious body language.

Seriously, this really rubs me the wrong way. It’s the whole victim-blaming mindset; “oh, it was her fault because of how she was dressed” or “because of the way she was acting” or “because she was biting her lip”. No. Fuck that. It’s your goddamn fault you can’t control yourself. Don’t pin this one on Ana, Christian Grey.

They strip naked. Ana is initially embarrassed, which Christian, to his credit, tries to make her feel better about by telling her that she’s very beautiful and doesn’t need to feel self-conscious about her naked body. (Though, on the other hand, we’re continuing in the theme of “Ana looks wonderful at all times but does not realize she is attractive”.)

So then they bathe each other. Actually, Christian bathes Ana. It’s boring. It’s supposed to be sexy, but it is actually boring. This author’s definition of “sexy” seems to mostly involve repeatedly reminding the reader that Ana is turned on.

Christian eventually starts manually stimulating Ana using a soapy washcloth, which sounds like it wouldn’t feel too great but okay whatever. He stops just as she’s about to climax and tells her to turn around (he’s sitting behind her). Then, uh, this happens:

“I want you to become well acquainted, on first name terms if you will, with my favorite and most cherished part of my body. I’m very attached to this.”
It’s so big and growing. His erection is above the water line, the water lapping at his hips.

Jesus christ how did this even get published this is so bad.

Either there is very little water in the tub, or Christian is very well-hung for his erection to be reaching above the waterline. I mean, jesus, this is just ridiculous.

Also, I would hope that everyone’s favorite part of their body would be something a little more vital, like maybe their brain, but seeing as Christian is such a dick I suppose this is appropriate.

Christian shows Ana how to give him a handjob, which Ana spontaneously turns into a blowjob because… I don’t know, but it honestly reads like she’s figuring out the whole concept of a blowjob for the first time, like she’s seriously never heard of oral sex before.

Yet somehow she is absolutely perfect at it. Swallows and everything, too.

Also, apparently she makes him come with her teeth. I… okay, I guess? There are probably ways one could make that work, provided your partner is into it, but this all seems a little advanced for Ana’s first time giving oral. Realistically speaking, I think this would probably end up going horribly wrong.

Christian opens his eyes post-orgasm and glares at Ana for… some reason. It’s not actually explained why he’s glaring at her. I think the author thinks “glare” and “stare” are interchangeable words or something.

Christian tells Ana she gets “an A in oral skills”, and that he “owe[s her] an orgasm”. They get out of the bath and put towels on, which seems a little pointless because they’re going to take those off in a minute anyway. (Seriously, they’re just wearing the towels. Not drying themselves off or anything: just wearing them.)

They kiss, and when they pull away Christian asks Ana to say yes to his arrangement and become his sub. Then they kiss again and go off to Christian’s bedroom. Ana never says yes. Uh, so what was the point of all that, exactly?

Christian tells Ana she looks “so young” with her pigtails. Uh, she is pretty young. She’s not quite twenty-two. How much younger does she need to look? This is getting a bit creepy.

And then Christian gets out a necktie and ties Ana’s wrists together with it.

Christian, no. Ana didn’t say yes to this. You two never even discussed bondage. In fact, you barely discussed your sexual preferences at all with her, other than showing her some of the equipment you use (and telling her nothing about how you use it) and explaining that you like to take a dominant role in sexual relationships.

He doesn’t even ask her right beforehand if it’s okay for him to bind her wrists. He just asks her to trust him. Would it have been so hard for him to say, “Hey, I’d like to tie your wrists together, does that sound like fun?” and maybe explain why he’d like to do that to her?

Ana has zero reaction to having her wrists abruptly tied together, because she literally has the personality of a doormat.

Christian lays her down on the bed and tells her not to move her hands. Again, shouldn’t he have told her what he had planned in advance? This isn’t hardcore kink or anything, but considering how inexperienced Ana is and how new these two are to each other, he ought to have been clear with her beforehand about what he wanted to do so that he could make sure she was at least okay with trying it. Even if Ana was more experienced, and even if they’d been sexual partners for longer, he ought to have been clear with her beforehand because it’s just a good thing to do. That way you can make sure that your partner is actually enthusiastic, and isn’t just going along with it for your sake or because they don’t know how to get out of the situation they’re in.

And that’s another thing. They haven’t discussed safewords yet. If Ana gets really truly uncomfortable with this, they have no system in place. I doubt Ana even knows what a safeword is.

Christian spends a lot of time kissing Ana in various places. It’s boring. Next.

He spends a really long time playing with her feet (again with the feet!) before moving to her crotch. Ana is mortified because, quote, “He’s going to kiss me there!” Honey, it has a name. Also, no shit.

Christian just kind of teases her for a while, and I swear it’s so boring it took me a while to realize he was supposed to be teasing her.

Then this happens:

“I like this.” He gently tugs at my pubic hair. “Perhaps we’ll keep this.”

That’s not your goddamn decision, Christian Grey.

So then finally he actually goes down on her and she comes after about of a third of a page.

Immediately after that, however, Christian puts on a condom and penetrates her. Uh, what the fuck? Hadn’t they previously said they weren’t going to have penetrative sex right now due to Ana being sore? Shouldn’t he at least fucking ask her first? Jesus.

They have penetrative sex for another third of a page before they both come again and collapse on the bed.

Christian brings up the D/s agreement thing again:

“See how good we are together,” he murmurs. “If you give yourself to me, it will be so much better. Trust me, Anastasia, I can take you places you don’t even know exist.” His words echo my thoughts.

It could just be that the author’s writing is bad and she doesn’t understand the concept of “show, don’t tell” in general, but the fact that we’re being told Ana would like to agree to be Christian’s sub rather than shown that she’d like to be makes me uncomfortable.

Before Ana can reply to Christian, they hear voices outside the bedroom door. It’s Taylor (what, is he Christian Grey’s only staff?) and Christian’s mother. Christian’s as-yet-unnamed mother wants to be let in to see Christian, and Taylor is attempting to explain to Christian’s mother that she can’t go in because Christian isn’t alone. Once Taylor finally gets this across, Christian’s mom seems disbelieving. Have her visits never coincided with Grey’s time with his subs in the past?

Christian says to Ana, “Shit! It’s my mother.” End chapter.

Holy Cow! Alert: Not this time, but there’s one “Holy hell!”, three “Holy crap!”s, one “Holy shit!”, and one “Holy fuck!”

And Now, A Word From Ana’s Subconscious Alert:

  • [Ana reflects on feeling sore from the night before, as if she’s never exercised] You don’t do any exercise in your life, my subconscious has woken. She’s staring at me with pursed lips, tapping her foot. So you’ve just slept with him, given him your virginity, a man who doesn’t love you. In fact, he has very odd ideas about you, wants to make you some sort of kinky sex slave. ARE YOU CRAZY? She’s shouting at me.
  • {Ana thinks about Christian’s “lovemaking”] My subconscious scowls at me… fucking – not lovemaking – she screams at me like a harpy.
  • [Ana is annoyed that Christian is amused by her dancing] My subconscious has doubled over in laughter at me.
  • [Ana thinks that it’s such a turn-on knowing Christian is aroused by her body] Ha… not your mind. My subconscious sneers.

Does “Inner Goddess” Mean What I Think It Means? Alert:

  • [Christian groans when Ana goes down on him] My inner goddess is thrilled.
  • [Ana is delighted that she’s able to make Christian feel so good] My inner goddess is doing the merengue with some salsa moves.
  • [Christian gets out of the bath, and Ana stares] My inner goddess has stopped dancing and is staring too, mouth open and drooling slightly.

Boring Dirty Talk Alert:

  • “You smell so good, Anastasia.”
  • “Feel it, baby,” Christian whispers in my ear and very gently grazes my earlobe with his teeth. “Feel it for me.”
  • “Turn around. I need washing, too,” he murmurs.
  • “I’m going to kiss you all over, Miss Steele,” he says softly, and he cups my chin, pushing it up giving him access to my throat.
  • “Hmm. You are so sweet, Miss Steele.”
  • “Do you know how intoxicating you smell, Miss Steele?”
  • “Oh, baby. I love that you’re so wet for me.”

Great Prose Alert:

  • I don’t have to worry about what I’m saying, what he’s saying, what plans he has, especially his plans for me.
  • I could gaze at him all day, but I have needs – bathroom needs.
  • Two sinks, I notice with irony. [I really think the author has no clue what “irony” means.]
  • Amy Studt is singing in my ear about misfits. This song used to mean so much to me, that’s because I’m a misfit. I have never fitted in anywhere and now… I have an indecent proposal to consider from King Misfit himself.
  • “I slept well,” I stutter my explanation. His lips try to mask his smile.
  • “What sort of basic training did you have in mind?” I ask, my voice slightly too high, betraying my wish to sound as natural, disinterested, and calm as I can with my hormones wreaking havoc through my body.
  • She’s so tenacious, and she wants to know – in detail, and I can’t tell her because I’ve signed a – what was it called? NDA. She’ll freak and rightly so.
  • He pours some expensive looking bath oil into the water. It foams as the bath fills and smells of sweet sultry Jasmine.
  • He is just yummy.
  • He halts my scattered thoughts, and I scoot down into the warm, welcoming water. Ooh… it stings. [You just said it was welcoming, idiot. If it stings, it’s not welcoming. Pick one.]
  • His hands glide across to my breasts, and I inhale sharply as his fingers encircle them and start kneading gently, taking no prisoners.
  • He stops and reaches for a washcloth as I pant against him, wanting… needing. My hands rest on his firm, muscular thighs.
  • He closes his eyes again, and his breath hitches in his throat. When he opens them again, his gaze is scorching molten gray.
  • His eyes are open now, blistering with heat [Ouch.]
  • He’s my very own Christian Grey flavor popsicle.
  • I long to reach round and embrace him… touch him… but he has my arms trapped in the towel.
  • My pulse has gone through the roof, my heart beating a frantic tattoo.
  • It’s too erotic. I’m going to combust.
  • He then starts on my right foot, repeating the whole, seductive, mind-blowing process.
  • I’m losing all sense of self, every atom of my being concentrating hard on that small, potent powerhouse at the apex of my thighs.
  • I let go, losing all cogent thought as my orgasm seizes me, wringing my insides again and again.
  • And he wants to take it further, so much further, to a place I can’t, in my innocence, even imagine.

Thoughts So Far:

I’d like to talk about Ana’s “subconscious” and “inner goddess” for a minute here.

Giving a character distinct inner voices can work, but it generally doesn’t make your character look all that sane. Ana’s supposed to be a relatable, everywoman sort of character; naturally, she fails at this in several respects (her nonexistent-until-meeting-Christian-Grey sexuality, her innocence, her lack of any discernible personality other than “doormat”), but giving her two distinct inner personalities really takes the cake in terms of Things That Make Ana Not A Typical Human Being. If she wasn’t supposed to be neurotypical, I’d be okay with it, but she is and I’m not.

Now, on the subject of the inner voices themselves. Ana’s “subconscious” is oddly named, seeing as it quite obviously isn’t subconscious. She seems to alternate between being Ana’s voice of reason and making bitchy comments at Ana for no reason whatsoever. Ana’s “inner goddess” is also oddly named, since she seems like less of an inner goddess and more of an inner horny teenager. Her role in the story has been minimal thus far, but it seems that she’s meant to be Ana’s sex drive, or something like that.

Ana’s inner goddess and subconscious are pretty clearly there to illustrate Ana’s mental battle with herself over whether or not to be with Christian. Her subconscious thinks Ana shouldn’t be with Christian, but her inner goddess thinks she should be. The problem is that this is an uneven battle from the start. Ana’s subconscious occasionally makes legitimate points as to why being with Christian isn’t a good idea, whereas Ana’s inner goddess just likes him because he’s hot.

The other thing that’s bad about giving Ana these inner voices is that it makes Ana herself look even more passive. She already does practically nothing without someone else telling her to, so separating Ana from her thoughts and desires makes her a complete blank slate of a character. Christian should just get a blow-up doll; it’d probably have more personality than Ana herself.

As for the rest of the chapter… well, I said it before, but I need to say it again: this author is terrible at sex scenes. Part of why the sex falls flat is because the author tells but doesn’t show; the story emphasizes again and again that Ana is turned on and that the things happening are sexy, but just telling your readers “This sex we are having is so hot” doesn’t make them think the sex is hot. Then there’s the problem of the characters being unattractive (well, we’re reminded repeatedly of how physically attractive they are, but, again, that’s telling, not showing) and uninteresting, and having no goddamn chemistry. The end result is sex scenes so boring I feel like falling asleep every time I read them.

The Grey = Bluebeard comparison is a rather bad choice on the author’s part. Bluebeard didn’t attract his many wives because he was sexy; he had many wives because he was a nobleman. It wasn’t about love or attraction. In fact, all the young women were scared of him because he was ugly and all his previous wives mysteriously vanished. Bluebeard was capable of being quite charming, though, if I remember correctly; he was very courteous and indulging to his wives, which Grey usually isn’t.

Like I said before, the only bit that works is the part about the perils of curiosity. The rest of it? Not so much. Bluebeard is not a sympathetic or redeemable character. I just looked up the story, and, yeah, it does end with him getting stabbed. (Plus, the story’s main female character, Bluebeard’s current wife, is a hell of a lot cooler than Ana. At the end of the story, she, having inherited all of Bluebeard’s wealth, marries a nice young nobleman and lives happily ever after, too. I bet that won’t happen in Fifty Shades, though, come to think of it, it would be a more than acceptable plot twist.)

Other than that, I’ve just got the usual complaints of “Christian needs to respect Ana’s wishes” and “Ana needs to be less of a doormat”.

Continue reading here.

6 Responses to “Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 9)”

  1. Yeah, another trait of an author Failing Ludicrously At Writing: Making comparisons to another work, but COMPLETELY missing the point of it…

  2. ch1z1ta Says:

    If the author had written “Christan o-mouthed an WE STARTED TO MAK OUT! An you pervs out there Im not riting what happened next!”, it would have vastly improved the story.

  3. The book probably got published by one of those publishers who will publish your book no matter what.
    Take Atlanta Nights as an example.
    It almost went into bookstores until it was revealed as a joke and is on Amazon.

  4. Ugly kid Says:

    Remember everyone, if you compare your lover to a psychotic killer, it’s best you break up.

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