Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 22)

I’m about fifty thousand shades of done with this story.

Chapter 1

Previous chapter

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Twenty-Two

Ana is relaxing in the first-class lounge. She’s just gotten a manicure and massage, and had two glasses of champagne. I have never flown first-class, so I can’t comment on how (in)accurate this is, though I suspect it is very inaccurate. I can, however, comment on the fact that Ana is able to open her laptop and be instantly connected to the internet. Granted, airports typically have wi-fi, but you generally have to pay for access. Maybe not if you have a first-class ticket, but she should still have to join a new network upon opening her computer, rather than simply shooting off another email to Christian as per usual. What with Ana’s over-narrating everything, and her incompetence with technology, you’d think this would get a mention.

Then again, this is the airport that let her go straight to the gate without going through security, so who knows?

Ana points out to Christian, in her email, that it’s alarming that he knew what flight she was on. Odd that you picked that to be alarmed about, Ana, when all he would have had to do was check which flight was leaving for Georgia that evening. There are lots of alarming things about Christian, but this ranks low on that scale.

Christian asks who was massaging Ana’s back. Once she’s boarded the plane (but before they’ve taken off), she replies and says that “a very pleasant young man” massaged her back. She’s clearly trying to make him jealous. The pleasant young man in question, by the way, is blond. What is it with this book and blonds?

By the way, he’s referred to as being “blonde”, with an E, so I have to point out that “blonde” with an E is the feminine form, and “blond” with no E is the masculine. This is something an editor should have caught, if E.L. James had an editor.

Ana’s subconscious proceeds to guilt-trip her over winding up Christian, but… c’mon, all she said was that an employee in the first-class lounge gave her a massage. That’s not the sort of information that would make a normal person jealous.

Ana nearly freaks out when she realizes that the seat next to hers is empty; she half-expects Christian to board and sit down next to her. But he doesn’t. The plane starts down the runway, and, before they’ve taken off, she checks her BlackBerry to see if Christian emailed back. He did.

Christian’s email… well, you might as well see for yourself:

I know what you’re trying to do – and trust me – you’ve succeeded. Next time you’ll be in the cargo hold, bound and gagged in a crate. Believe me when I say that attending to you in that state will give me so much more pleasure than merely upgrading your ticket. I look forward to your return.

Can I just point out that a couple sentences ago, Ana was feeling disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to see Christian for four days? Can I ask why?

Ana’s not sure if he’s joking or actually angry, but suspects the latter. She types a reply to him under the blanket the flight attendant gave her (by the way, even though Ana treats her complimentary blanket and pillow like first-class luxuries, every airline I’ve flown on will give you blankets and pillows if you fly coach):

You see – I have no idea if you’re joking – and if you’re not – then I think I’ll stay in Georgia. Crates are a hard limit for me.

She then apologizes for winding him up and asks for forgiveness. Come on, Ana, that was almost a good email until you made it out to be your fault that your partner is psychotic.

Christian writes back and tells her to stop emailing as it is unsafe to use electronic devices while a plane is taking off or landing. He also implies that he would like to spank her with both hands. Why are we supposed to like him?

Ana falls asleep soon after the plane takes off — nothing puts a girl to sleep like being threatened with being tied up and stuffed in a plane’s cargo hold — and wakes up four hours later, as the plane is starting its descent. Her connecting flight to Savannah leaves an hour later, so she waits in another first-class lounge. She describes these lounges as being very luxurious, but… really, I can’t imagine them having anything nicer than free wi-fi and slightly cushier chairs. It’s still just a fucking airport.

During this layover, she types another email to Christian. It’s long, but this is what it says, in essence:

  • Ana doesn’t like Christian spending money on her, and she knows he knows that.
  • However, she likes first class and wishes to thank him for upgrading her ticket.
  • Jean-Paul, the guy who gave her the back massage, was “very gay”, and she omitted that detail to wind him up because she was annoyed with him spending money on her.
  • Ah, this part is good. Ana tells Christian he overreacted, as usual, and that he can’t say stuff like that to her; whether or not it was a joke, it’s frightening.
  • She continues to write good stuff. Seriously, this is probably the best thing Ana has done in several chapters, if not the whole book. She explains how she’s feeling in detail — that, although she’s infatuated with Christian and is seriously considering having a D/s relationship with him despite being so new to the BDSM scene, sometimes he really scares her, too. She wants their relationship to work, but is scared of the direction it might be headed in. She’s scared of being hurt by him, both physically and emotionally.
  • She tells him she thinks he’s right about her not having a submissive bone in her body. She still wants to try it, if it’s the only way to be with him, but she doesn’t think she’ll make a good sub, and doesn’t relish the idea of “end[ing] up black and blue”.
  • In conclusion, Ana tells Christian she’s happy he agreed to try “more” with her, but she needs a little distance to figure out what “more” means to her.

I must say that, as much as I like that Ana is finally being honest with him, this isn’t going to change jack shit. It’s pretty telling that she can only be open with him when she’s not in his presence.

Whatever. Ana boards her flight to Savannah, falls asleep again, blah blah.

She meets up with her mom and Bob (her mom’s current husband) after exiting the plane, and immediately breaks down crying. I guess she’s just feeling overwhelmed or emotional or something, and she’s also pretty tired, so, sure, I’ll buy it.

Bob carries Ana’s bag and seems surprised by its weight. Ana mentally explains that it’s the computer weighing the bag down. Um, bullshit. I have a MacBook Pro and it weighs about three and a half pounds. According to the Apple website, the previous model weighed about a pound more. So Ana’s bag is very heavy because she has a computer weighing less than five pounds in it. Okay.

Oh, yeah — wasn’t Bob too injured to come to Ana’s graduation just a few days ago? And now he’s back on his feet without even the aid of a cane or crutches.

Ana complains a lot about the humidity in Savannah. This is the first time we’ve had much description at all of the climate, and it makes me wonder if maybe the author has only ever been to the East Coast. (That and how she assumes it would be typical for a house in the Pacific Northwest to be decorated in a New England style. I don’t know that it isn’t typical, but it seems like a weird assumption. New England and the Pacific Northwest are very far apart, not to mention culturally distinct, but a non-American author might not be as attuned to that sort of thing.)

Once they get home, Ana and her mom head to the beach. (Ana’s mom suggests that Ana get some sleep, but Ana doesn’t want to.) Ana’s mom asks Ana about Christian, because of course two women have nothing better to talk about then men. There’s no way this book would pass the Bechdel test.

Ana describes Christian as “beyond handsome”, “too wealthy”, and “very complicated and mercurial”. She also says he’s had a “grim upbringing”, which is not true as his folks seem like lovely people. The grim stuff in his life happened when he was a very small boy. Sure, that shit can really affect a person, but it’s important to stress that most of his upbringing appears to have been pleasant.

Ana’s mom proceeds to spout a lot of bullshit about how “men aren’t really complicated” and are “very simple, literal creatures”. She advises Ana to take Christian at his word rather than overanalyzing what he says. Well, earlier he said he wanted to tie you up and stick you in the cargo hold, Ana, so how about you take him at his word there and run away screaming?

Ana does not do that, because, of course, that would make sense. Instead, she reflects on the times Christian has said he doesn’t want to lose her.

According to Ana’s mother, “most men are moody”; Ana’s dead father, for instance. We get a little background on him here: he was a Marine, and died in a combat training accident.

They head back to the house and eat lunch. Ana starts to unpack her things, and decides to check to see if Christian emailed her back. It is, after all, eleven in the morning Pacific time.

Christian has written her a very long email. I’m going to run it, with commentary, because it’s awful:

I am annoyed that as soon as you put some distance between us, you communicate openly and honestly with me. Why can’t you do that when we’re together?

Because she’s scared of you, dipshit! Because you’ve proven yourself to be the kind of person who would beat and rape their partner for disagreeing with them, or contradicting them — hell, even rolling their eyes! Because you are a fucking piece of shit, Christian Grey!

Yes, I’m rich. Get used to it. Why shouldn’t I spend money on you? 

Because she doesn’t like it. She just told you she does not like it.

We’ve told your father I’m your boyfriend, for heaven’s sake. Isn’t that what boyfriends do? 

No, that’s what sugar daddies do. Boyfriends actually endeavor to give a shit about their partner’s happiness and wellbeing.

As your Dom, I would expect you to accept whatever I spend on you with no argument. Incidentally, tell your mother too.

Yes, tell everyone so that they too can be invested in our relationship and urge you to stick with me! Tell your mother, who has been waiting years for you to finally get a boyfriend and will no doubt serve as pressure for you to stay with me, because she is a badly written secondary character in a shitty novel!

I don’t know how to answer your comment about feeling like a whore. I know that’s not what you’ve written, but it’s what you imply. I don’t know what I can say or do to eradicate these feelings. 

Then don’t. Accept that that’s how she feels and move on.

Besides, it’s not that she feels like a whore, it’s that she feels you treat her like one. You give her presents, she gives you sex. It’s not hard to see why she feels the way she feels about it.

I’d like you to have the best of everything. I work exceptionally hard, so I can spend my money as I see fit. I could buy you your heart’s desire, Anastasia, and I want to. 

So it’s about you, then. It’s not about her. Stop pretending this is for her benefit; she clearly does not want this. You’re justifying your desire to spend money on her by pretending that you want to do it for her sake.

Her heart’s desire, from what I can tell, is to be in a committed, romantic, vanilla relationship. With you. You can’t buy her that, and it looks to me like you’re trying to solve everything by throwing cash at it. In a better book, this might be a good character detail, if a bit clichéd; in this, I can’t even tell if it was written in intentionally.

Call it redistribution of wealth if you will. Or simply know that I would not, could not ever think of you in the way you described, and I’m angry that’s how you perceive yourself. 

Angry at her, most likely, even though it’s not her fault she feels that way.

For such a bright, witty, beautiful young woman you have some real self-esteem issues, and I have a half a mind to make an appointment for you with Dr. Flynn.

She’s not bright or witty, for starters. Yes, she has poor self-esteem, but I doubt your therapist would help, since he apparently hasn’t done shit for you. (If he has, I’d hate to see pre-therapy Christian…)

I apologize for frightening you. I find the thought of instilling fear in you abhorrent.

NO YOU DON’T. You told her on your very first date with her that she should find you intimidating. You spank her when she displeases you and you rape her when she says she doesn’t want to be spanked. If you’re not trying to frighten her, Christian, I don’t know what the hell you’ve been doing for 22 chapters.

Do you really think I’d let you travel in the hold? I offered you my private jet for heaven’s sake.

You offered her use of the jet when you weren’t mad at her. It’s a different situation.

Yes it was a joke, a poor one obviously. However, the fact is – the thought of you bound and gagged turns me on (this is not a joke – it’s true). I can lose the crate – crates do nothing for me. I know you have issues with gagging, we’ve talked about that and if/ when I do gag you, we’ll discuss it.

Note that he says he can lose the crate not because she’s adverse to the idea, but because he doesn’t have a thing for crates. If he did, you can bet she’d be in one already.

Why is he bringing up gagging right now, as if this is a new scene they’re planning? That’s completely inappropriate when the context is that he threatened her with this scenario and she replied that she found it frightening.

What I think you fail to realize is that in Dom/sub relationships it is the sub that has all the power. That’s you. I’ll repeat this – you are the one with all the power. Not I.

What I think the author fails to realize is that Christian does not respect Ana’s wishes, ever, and therefore all of this is irrelevant.

In the boathouse you said no. I can’t touch you if you say no – that’s why we have an agreement – what you will and won’t do.

She said no in the boathouse. To being spanked. And your response was to rape her.

Is E.L. James even reading what she’s writing?

If we try things and you don’t like them, we can revise the agreement. It’s up to you – not me. And if you don’t want to be bound and gagged in a crate, then it won’t happen.

Again, this is all pretty talk, but none of it lines up with Grey’s actions. He clearly doesn’t care about Ana’s needs, only his own.

I’ll skip the next couple paragraphs because it’s basically Grey rhapsodizing about how great he thinks Ana is. It reads like he’s buttering her up. He rarely says this stuff to her when they’re together, and I have no reason to believe it.

Three months is an arbitrary amount of time. We could make it six months, a year? How long do you want it to be? What would make you comfortable? Tell me.

This is a shining example of how Ana and Christian are on completely different pages. Ana wants a long-term relationship eventually culminating in marriage (and, possibly, kids). Christian wants a short-term relationship, and he’s only interested in the sex. Extending the length of the term to six months or a year isn’t going to make it any easier for Ana when the term is up. If anything, it’ll be worse.

Then he basically tells her that she is a sub no matter what she actually says or feels, because she submitted to him in the playroom. Never mind that she doesn’t like submitting and clearly was most into the sex when he let her take some initiative.

He also tells her he likes when she challenges him outside the playroom. Yeah, likes it because it’s an excuse for him to beat her, more like.

Christian concludes by saying he’ll “try and give [her] the space [she] need[s]” to figure this out, and will stay away from her while she’s in Georgia. Not hard to do, as he’s on the other side of the country.

Ana is thrilled with this email, completely ignoring all the red flags in it. Basically, she falls for it hook, line, and sinker.

She falls asleep then. Her mother wakes her up that evening so they can go out to dinner. I just have to draw your attention to these two sentences:

I have brought Kate’s gray halter-neck dress that I wore for my graduation. It’s the only dressy item I have.

But it is not yours. You just said it’s Kate’s. How hard is it to buy yourself some dressy clothes? I mean, even if you normally dress casually, you’re inevitably going to find yourself in a context where that isn’t appropriate. It’s happened countless times to Ana in this story already, and she hasn’t thought of investing in a nice dress or two?

She doesn’t have time to write Christian a decent reply, but she tells him she’s going out to dinner and will respond in proper to his email when she can. They have boring chit-chat, which eventually turns into boring sexting.

Seriously, here’s the entire thing:

Christian: Can I zip up your dress?
Ana: I would rather you unzipped it.
Christian: SO WOULD I.
Ana: Slowly…
Christian: Wish I was there.
Ana: SO DO I

That’s it, word-for-word. Dull, right? Apparently this really turns Ana on, though, because her mother comments on how she looks flushed.

They go to dinner. It’s not described, and we cut to Ana back at home taking a shower. Afterwards, she emails Christian back, and they chat for a little while. Finally, Christian tells her he has to go, he’s having dinner with an old friend. Ana comes to the conclusion that the old friend he is referring to is Mrs. Robinson, and she is once again consumed by jealousy.

I really just wish Ana (and the book, for that matter) would sort out her feelings towards Mrs. Robinson. Sometimes she’s angry with Mrs. Robinson for being a child molester. Sometimes she’s angry with Mrs. Robinson simply for having been with Christian. Either way, her anger seems slightly misplaced. Christian is the one who’s being horrible to her, not Mrs. Robinson, even if what Mrs. R did contributed to Christian’s issues.

Ana wonders if maybe Christian and Mrs. Robinson have children together, and that’s why he keeps seeing her. That’s pretty disturbing. Ana thinks so, too, and she pulls out her computer to Google image Christian’s name. I guess she’s trying to find Mrs. R, but seeing as she doesn’t know the lady’s real name or what she looks like, trying to find her seems rather pointless.

All the pictures of Christian show him either with business associates or alone, until page 3, where Ana finds a picture of herself with Christian at her graduation ceremony. This is, apparently, the only picture of Christian with a woman she can find. None of his business associates are female?

Ana sends Christian an email asking him if the friend he’s with is Mrs. Robinson, then goes to bed.

The next evening, Ana and her mother are at a hotel bar. Does Ana do anything but try and get drunk? Really, it’s kind of absurd. Ana’s mother is blathering on about how men prefer action to words or some other stereotypical bullshit. Ana is upset because Christian hasn’t emailed her all day. Her mother leaves for the bathroom, and Ana checks her phone. Christian’s finally emailed, confirming that he had dinner with Mrs. R the night before.

This makes Ana really really mad, and she sends Christian this email:

She’s not just an old friend.
Has she found another adolescent boy to sink her teeth into? 

Did you get too old for her?
Is that the reason your relationship finished?

Ana’s mom comes back and asks Ana if she’s okay, as she looks pale. Ana says she’s fine and changes the subject by suggesting they have another drink. Christian emails Ana back, asking her how many drinks she plans on having. She suddenly realizes he must be in the bar with her.

This… this is a romance novel? Because that’s a fucking horror movie trope.

Britishing Alert: “Rucksack” again. Also, Ana lies on a “sun bed” at the beach; according to my dictionary, that’s Brit for “lounge chair”, and according to Wikipedia, that’s Brit for “tanning bed”. Either way, not an American term. And Ana’s mother visits “the powder room”.

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

  • [Ana sends Christian an email telling him about her back massage] My subconscious stares at me with an ugly twist to her mouth – do you really want to wind him up? What he’s done is sweet, you know! He cares about you and wants you to travel in style.

Thoughts So Far:

It’s a pity the author doesn’t realize that her story is one step away from being a horror novel. Then again, that’s what makes it so terrifying.

Next chapter

3 Responses to “Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 22)”

  1. Yay! You mentioned the Bechdel test! :D

    I am still in disbelief at how little has happened despite our being only four chapters from the end (IIRC). I’ve read stories – and written some of my own – that deliberately had no plot and yet all of them managed to have far more occur in far fewer words. It really speaks to the story’s fanfic origins (and as a dedicated fanfic reader/writer of several years, I can’t begin to describe the awful taste that statement leaves in my mouth). On the upside – hurray! It’s almost over!

    Also, I know people will bring it up, so I just want to add how unsurprised I am that the film roles went to relative unknowns. Ryan Gosling, since you turned down Christian, I think we can excuse Only God Forgives.. There is still hope for your career. (There’s probably a bad pun in there somewhere, but I’m way too tired to make it.)

  2. C’mon man! Four chapters to go! You can do it.

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