Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 23)

It’s been months. I would apologize for the delay, but I know I needed a break from reading this book and I’m betting some of you also needed a break from hearing about it.

We are near the end, friends, and I’ll try and get us there by 2014.

Chapter 1

Previous chapter

Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapter Twenty-Three

Ana looks around nervously for Christian, but doesn’t spot him. Her mom notices she seems nervous, and asks her what’s up. Ana explains that Christian is in the bar with them. She looks around again and finally spots him. He’s headed through the crowd towards Ana, and he doesn’t look happy.

When he reaches Ana, she says hi and he leans down and kisses her on the cheek. It’s really hard to read this as anything other than him manipulating her, or trying to look good in front of Ana’s mom. Probably the latter, actually, as he goes on to act charming while introducing himself, which has the effect of rendering Ana’s mother speechless.

Because, you know, even though she’s a middle-aged woman who has been married several times, her daughter’s partner can make her speechless with a look.

(Ana’s mom, by the way, is named Carla. Not only is this the first time we’ve gotten her name despite getting her stepdad’s name back in chapter 2, it’s now obvious that Ana’s parents’ names are a variant on Bella’s parents’ names. Bella’s parents were Charlie and Renée. Ana’s parents are Carla and Ray. Real subtle there, author.

Also, her last name is Adams. Christian somehow magically knows this despite not being told.)

Ana asks Christian what he’s doing there. He says he came to see her, and explains that he’s staying at the hotel Ana is currently in, which at least means he probably didn’t stalk her there. (If you recall, Ana and her mother are in a hotel bar. I may have neglected to mention that it is a very swanky hotel, of the sort Christian would stay in.)

Then… oh, fuck this book:

“You’re staying here?” I sound like a sophomore on amphetamines, too high-pitched even for my own ears.

“Well, yesterday you said you wished I was here.” He pauses trying to gauge my reaction. “We aim to please, Miss Steele.” His voice is quiet with no trace of humor.

I had to go back and check to see when Ana said she wished Christian were with her in Georgia, because I didn’t remember her making such a comment. Turns out she said it when they were sexting. She wanted him there in that particular moment, not because she desired his companionship but because she was horny and wanted to have sex with him.

Even setting that bit of context for her comment aside, Ana is on this trip specifically to have some space away from Christian. And he knows that.

On top of that — say he honestly assumed from a comment she made that she had changed her mind and wanted him to come see her. Even if he wanted to surprise her, shouldn’t he at the very least check to make sure that wasn’t a throwaway comment, and that she meant it seriously?

Either Christian is a hell of a lot more socially clueless than I thought (hey, remember back in chapter 1 when this guy was going on and on about how good he is at judging people?), or he’s just here because he wants to be, not because Ana wants him to be.

Ana’s mom asks Christian to join them for drinks. He does. Ana, who’s still kind of pissed at him, points out that it’s quite a coincidence that they bumped into each other at this hotel. He explains that he had just finished dinner, entered the bar, and happened to spot Ana. He had planned on visiting her tomorrow. The way he says it, though, makes me think he’s lying and actually tracked her phone or something.

They have some dumb sexual tension and then Ana’s mom leaves to use the bathroom again. Christian asks Ana why she’s mad about him eating dinner with Mrs. Robinson, since apparently the two of them are “just friends” now. Ana tells Christian that she sees Mrs. Robinson as a child molester. Christian is taken aback and says it wasn’t like that, and then Ana goes on to make what is actually a really good point:

“She took advantage of a vulnerable fifteen-year-old boy. If you had been a fifteen-year-old girl and Mrs. Robinson was a Mr. Robinson, tempting you into a BDSM lifestyle, that would have been okay? If it was Mia, say?”

Christian, again, says it wasn’t like that; at least, didn’t feel like that for him. He saw her as a force for good, rather. Ana’s bewildered by this comment, but Christian says he’s not comfortable talking about it in public. He then offers to leave if she doesn’t want him there (and by leave, he means go back to Washington; he has a plane on standby). She asks him to stay.

Ana then tries to explain that she gets jealous of his hanging out with Mrs. Robinson. Though it’s stupid/wrongheaded of her to feel that way, at least she once again points out that he’s a hypocrite, since he gets jealous of her spending time with José (whom she hasn’t even had a past sexual relationship with). Christian’s response to this is basically “Yeah, but I’m used to doing what I want all the time.”

More info on Mrs. R. Turns out she’s one of Christian’s business partners now, and that her relationship with him was cut short when her husband found out.

Ana’s mother returns then and Christian excuses himself. (He pays for their drinks, by the way.) As soon as he’s gone, Ana’s anger towards him returns in full force, but, in typical Ana fashion, she doesn’t use the moment to confide in her mother or go after Christian and tell him he’s a dickhead; instead, she sits there doing absolutely nothing.

According to Ana’s mom, Christian is “a catch” and Ana should go talk to him, because there’s clearly something going on between the two of them. She also says “Phew — the UST in here, it’s unbearable”, which raises the question of does anybody’s mother talk like that.

Ana tells her mom that she doesn’t want to go talk to Christian, since she came here to visit her mother, not to talk to some rich jackass. (Okay, she didn’t say that last part, but I like to think it’s implied.) Ana’s mom says that “it’s obvious [Christian and Ana] are crazy about each other”, and that Ana should talk to him after he’s flown all this way to see her. She keeps emphasizing that Ana and Christian need to talk it out, and she’s probably right, but she also seems to think Christian is in love with Ana. “Why does she think that?” you ask. Well, according to Ana’s mom, Christian is in love with Ana because:

“I don’t care how rich you are, you don’t drop everything and get in your private plane to cross a whole continent just for afternoon tea…”

No, you don’t. You do it as a show of power. You do it to send the message that you have the means and the money to pursue anything and anybody you’d like. If Ana had wanted Christian to come and see her, it might have been romantic. Because he flew across the county to surprise her when he knew she was on a trip to be away from him, it’s not romantic at all. This is stalker behavior.

Ana finally gives in and agrees to go up to Christian’s room to have a talk with him. And, let’s face it, they’re probably going to have sex too because this story is so so bad.

I should also mention that she’s had like four drinks and isn’t drunk somehow, despite it being previously established that she can’t hold her alcohol.

When she gets to Christian’s hotel room, he beckons her in and she waits while he finishes his phone conversation with some business partner. From his side of the conversation, it sounds like he’s considering doing something business-related in Georgia, though it’s unclear what exactly.

Christian gets off the phone and Ana asks him, again, if he was in love with Mrs. Robinson. He says he wasn’t, and then teases her for being jealous — not in a mean way, but it makes him look like a mighty big asshole considering how jealous he gets whenever Ana hangs out with one of her male buddies.

Predictably, they decide to forgo the rest of the conversation about their relationship in favor of having sex. Christian says that Ana being mad at him turns him on, which strikes me as being in the same vein as him being turned on earlier because she said no to him. It’s almost as bad, too.

Somehow Christian is able to tell that Ana is on her period. Okay.

He leads her into the bathroom, where a tub is already filled with soap and water. There are lit candles. Turns out he started filling the tub while he was on the phone.

Hold up a fucking second here. He just assumed Ana was going to have sex with him because she came up to his room? Even when it was far more likely (and, as it turned out, actually the case) that she would come up with the intention of talking to him, not fucking him?

That’s creepy. By jumping to the conclusion that every encounter he has with Ana will lead to sex, he’s implying that Ana doesn’t have a choice in the matter. Which, as we’ve already seen, is basically the case anyway.

Christian undresses Ana and takes her hands in his so that he can run her hands across her own body. So basically he’s teaching her how to masturbate, I guess. They’re standing in front of the mirror, and Ana closes her eyes rather than have to look at her naked reflection. That in itself wouldn’t be too bad, but it’s all too obvious that Ana feels her body and sexuality are things to be ashamed of, and we’ve had way too much of that attitude in this book already.

After a little while of this, Christian lets Ana’s hands go and tells her to continue on her own. She tries for all of two seconds before giving up and saying she’d rather he do this for her. Again, on its own there’s nothing wrong with this. Some people don’t like masturbating, whatever. It’s just that Ana’s been so thoroughly established as having no sexuality independent of Christian already, so this is just more of the same problematic bullshit.

Then he pulls out her tampon and fucks her from behind. It’s as tame as it is dull, and it’s plenty dull. Y’know, for a guy who’s supposedly only into BDSM, Christian sure has a lot of vanilla sex.

Afterwards, they cuddle a bit — or, rather, Christian puts his arms around Ana and she just sits there passively — and when Christian moves to stand up Ana suddenly realizes that the scars on his chest are not from chicken pox, but from cigarette burns. Took you long enough, Ana. For a supposedly bright college graduate, this girl really is dumb as a post.

Ana asks Christian if Mrs. Robinson did that to him. She didn’t. Come on, Ana, this was obviously the work of Christian’s birth mother, how thick can you possibly be?

Christian is obviously kind of pissed that she’s questioning  him about this, but he actually volunteers some information on his own this time. Apparently he had a tough time as a kid, and went down a “destructive path” that he feels Mrs. Robinson rescued him from.

He also says he would’ve went the way of his mother if not for her. So he would have become a crack whore? What?

Ana presses for more info, but Christian clams up and tells her that he isn’t really used to talking to others like this, except with his therapist and Mrs. R. Ana gets pissed that Christian can talk to Mrs. Robinson and not her.

Apparently Christian has also been talking to Mrs. R about Ana, because, according to him, he’s never met anyone like Ana and needs advice. Ana’s even more annoyed at this, so she snaps at him. Christian, also annoyed, tells her that he has no sexual or romantic interest whatsoever in Mrs. R.

A bit more Mrs. R information, in case it’s important later:

  • Her marriage was “fucked-up” as a result of her relationship with Christian — it’s unclear whether this ended in divorce, whether her husband found out, or if it simply put strain on their relationship
  • Christian’s parents never found out

Christian changes the subject and asks Ana how she feels about him being there. She says she’s glad he’s there, but the way she phrases it makes it sound completely unconvincing.

They talk a little about their arrangement. Ana says she doesn’t think she could spend a whole weekend with Christian, playing the role of his submissive, and he agrees. Then he asks her how bad the spanking was. She thinks it over and says it wasn’t really that bad.

They’re both missing the point, though. “Not that bad” does not translate to “we should do that again”. It translates to “it wasn’t terrible, but I’d rather not”.

Ana decides to let Christian dominate her and spank her because it will be therapeutic for him. You’re not his therapist, Ana. Curing Christian of his myriad of problems is not your job.

Then they fuck in the bathtub, because why not, I guess.

Afterwards they lie in bed together and have cute couple banter. It’s surprisingly decent dialogue, and genuinely cute, or would be if these two didn’t have such a completely dysfunctional relationship.

Ana goes to sleep. End chapter.

Holy Cow! Alert: Two “Holy hell!”s, one “Holy crap!”, five “Holy shit!”s, two “Holy fuck!”s.

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

  • [Ana wonders if it’s really so surprising that she could be dating a man like Christian] Yes, frankly – look at him – my subconscious snaps. [Ana mentally replies to her subconscious with “Oh, shut up! Who invited you to the party?”]
  • [Christian seems annoyed after Ana asks him a question, but Ana resolves not to back down] My subconscious is nervous, anxiously biting her nails – this could go either way.

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

  • [Ana is excited that Christian’s here to see her] My inner goddess leaps up cheering from her chaise longue.
  • [Ana acts more forward than usual with Christian, and he gets visibly wary] My inner goddess gazes at him in quiet, surprised speculation.
  • [Christian admits to having been shocked when Ana wore Christian’s underwear in an earlier chapter] My inner goddess pole-vaults over the fifteen-foot bar.

That’s Too Many Inner Voices For One Sentence Alert:

  • [Christian asks Ana how she feels about their potential relationship as described by the contract] Truth or dare time – my subconscious and inner goddess glance nervously at one another.

Boring Dirty Talk Alert:

  • “Do you have a hair tie?”
  • “I’m going to have you in the bathroom, Anastasia.”
  • “Carry on,” he orders, and stands back watching me.
  • “When did you start your period, Anastasia?”
  • “Don’t touch me,” he pleads, and releasing my wrists, he grabs my hips.

Oh My! Alert: Thrice.

Thoughts So Far:

It’s been so long since I did a Fifty Shades review that I feel almost as though I’m viewing it with fresh eyes; however, my fresh eyes have noted nothing new and are merely very surprised at just how awful this book is. There are literally middle schoolers who can write better than this. I’m not exaggerating.

No new issues have been raised, really; it’s all the same shit from earlier, plus two completely gratuitous sex scenes and a total lack of understanding of how alcohol works (though those are hardly new in Fifty Shades, either). What do I even say to this book anymore? It’s gross and stupid, yes, but we’ve been over that already.

However, I need to point out that we’re only a few chapters from the end and the book isn’t building to any sort of climax. Granted, this series was originally written as one long fanfic, but nonetheless, there’s no sense of “this book is gonna end soon” like there should be.

Next chapter

One Response to “Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey (part 23)”

  1. Here’s an unsolicited tip, James – if the characters have to point out that there is “unbearable” UST, *you’re doing it wrong*. Show, don’t tell, dammit!

    Also, I’ve recently learned that iguanas can smell when a woman is having her period, and male iguanas have been known to attack their female owners during that time (though only in the mating season). So, from that point on I just pictured Christian as a giant green lizard. Made things slightly more interesting (and bearable). (Or maybe I just need to get to bed.)

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