Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chapter By Chapter Synopsis: Fifty Shades of Grey: Chapters 22-23

Wow, according to Kindle, we're 75% done! I know it's been as painful for you as it has been for me. Well, more for me because I have to read the source material. You get to read my stupid jokes and pretend to laugh at them while looking at pictures of Bingley.
How's about a different ginger for a change?

At this point for me, it's been a while since I've read anything for pleasure or reviewed a movie or a book I like. I feel like anyone coming in here would think that I don't like books or fanfiction or anything good in the world. I do, I love stuff. And I don't dislike unsympathetic or evil characters, either. I love them. I love a well-rounded villain, or even just someone who loves being evil for evil's sake. I love well-written, developed characters that an author clearly cares about and is willing to sacrifice just about anything, including a character's dignity, to make them real.

And Bromance. I freakin love Bromance. Especially between the unabashedly evil guy and the guy who maybe has some redeeming qualities.
I mean, seriously, my first thought when I saw that Richard Armitage was in the BBC show Robin Hood was, "I hope he's playing the evil sheriff of Nottingham." He's not, the silver fox there is, but Armitage plays Guy of Gisborne, and he does it very well. I love the sheriff because the actor nearly makes himself laugh half the time with how deliciously evil he is, and I love Guy because he's a horrible person, but he's got character development. You see every now and then a glimmer of humanity in Guy, a glimmer of the person he could be without the sheriff corrupting him. But then sometimes you realize that he'd probably be the same person without the sheriff. It's a cool show. They are cool characters. They are not set up as bastions of society or placed on pedestals for people to worship at. And yet I love them in stark contrast to how much I detest Christian and Ana and their mostly absentee friends.

Christian is set up to be some sort of paragon of manliness that draws all women (not men, just women) like a magnet to him. He is who a man should be in this author's mind. Ana, by contrast, is a wilting flower. She is supposed to be submissive to Christian. Subordinate. She is supposed to be his plaything, his Real Doll in real life. He has her to dress up and screw, to beat and punish for his own crimes, and what makes him different than Guy of Gisborne is that we aren't supposed to think he's a bad guy. So while we love Guy, we hate Christian because he lacks self-awareness as a character and his author is blind to his faults. Since no one can see these flaws, there is no chance for development. Every supposed "weakness" of Christian's is a hidden strength, every flaw a perfection that's not being looked at the right way. In the words of Gertrude Stein, girl, there is no "there" there.

She wasn't into burning books, but I think she would have made an exception.
Okay, enough with the prosthelytizing. If you're reading this, you're probably already on my side. Let's move on.
Chapter Twenty Two

Ana got upgraded to first class by Christian and is hanging out in the "first class lounge" that I've heard exists but have never actually found, even when I was flying first class. Supposedly, she's been massaged and manicured and given two glasses of champagne. She tells Christian about this and he wants to know who gave her the massage.

This is what I'm talking about.
Thank you, sir, can I have another?

She of course teases him that it was a guy who massaged her. It's not like she was naked, geez. There is such a thing as a platonic touch in this world! Of course Christian's response is menacing and frightening in such a way that would be cute and funny in a normal guy, but in him, you really do believe he'd tie her up and duct tape her into the cargo hold in order to keep a man from touching Ana.

So, when Ana's on a layover in Atlanta (I thought she was going to Georgia, yeah? So why layover in Atlanta and not Memphis or Minneapolis?), she shoots off this great e-mail about how he can't say that kind of stuff about tying up and stuffing into cargo holds because with him it's not joking and how she really likes him and wants to be with him, but she's sure he'll leave her and hurt her, and she's not submissive, but she just would really like to make stuff work. And what's his definition of "more?"

It's the first actual flow of information that either of them has ever made, and considering the fact that it hasn't taken place in the first 75% of the book, this is very telling about their relationship.
Eventually, Ana lands in Savannah and goes to her mom, and begins to cry. This just...isn't how relationships are supposed to make you feel. Maybe after you've been together for a while and you start getting on each other's nerves, but come on. If someone makes you feel this way, you leave them out of your life.

Ana spares a thought for Christian and hopes he isn't lamenting over his piano this morning. Seriously, if you personally are the indicator for what sort of mood someone is in, then that person has issues.

Play Freebird!

Well, what do you know? Ana knows enough about geography to figure out that she's left the Pacific side of the USA and is now on the Atlantic side. We're making progress!

Ana's mom wants to know about the guy who sent her across the continent, and Ana divulges a little. She says that Christian's mood swings give her whiplash. What mood swings? His mood is one and one only: foul. Just because he lightens up every now and then does not take away from the fact that he is in a constant sate of anger, jealousy, spite, and misery. That is a really horrible cocktail. But then again, he's fifty shades, and that's as many as five tens, and that's terrible.
It's not like you didn't know I was going to have to make this joke at some point.
Ana's mom points out how uncomplicated men are and I'm like, "Ha! Toldja so!" Then again, Ana's mom has been married four times. I'd hardly call her an expert.

Back at the ranch, Ana goes to her room and finds an e-mail from Christian. He's upset that Ana is never as open with him in person as she was in this e-mail. Well, jeez. Maybe if they stopped having sex for five minutes and kept their clothes on the entire time, Ana could open up. He reminds her that subs have all the power in the relationship, and that in the boathouse, she said no so he couldn't touch her. On my first read through, I thought this was a continuity issue since she said no at dinner when he put his hand up her skirt, but now I realize that she told him he couldn't spank her. He goes on quite a bit and really pours his heart out. If they were having his conversation in person, I'd like it. But all they do in person is screw and talk about nonsense that comes out in double entendres. Christian says that she needs to trust him, and then hits on the fact that he can't trust her to say when he goes too far...

Fine words, but let's look more closely. Ana can't trust Christian because as such they have no relationship. They're basically, pardon my crudeness, fuck buddies. How can she trust him? And she does tell him when he goes too far. He just doesn't listen.

Instances of Christian going too far and not listening to Ana: There was the books, him spanking her and then leaving directly afterwards, then the car which I think counts as three issues: He bought the car, he decided Ana couldn't drive the Beetle, and he sold it out from underneath Jose's Jr. and Sr. without giving them a chance to buy it back. Oh! Number four: He also totally made Charlie (or whatever Ana's dad's name is) feel bad for buying the Beetle in the first place because it's a "death trap" and what dad wants to hear something like that? Okay, and then after the car, he freaked out when Ana had drinks with her friend Jose, he freaked out about Ana wanting to visit her own bloody mother, he upgraded her ticket to first class (that might have been nice...) and it's not like you don't know he's going to show up in Savannah.

After Ana naps, they exchange a little more and it's back to the really superficial banter about his twitching palms, her eye rolling, and her backside. Again, this is what I'm talking about. There's no point in making a big deal about this relationship when there is nothing there. It's like making bread without eggs.

We get a small three paragraph reprieve with Ana talking about her mom and step father du jour, but then we go back to the cutesy, stupid e-mails which end when Christian says he's having an old friend for dinner. I don't think he means in a Hannibal Lechter sort of way, but he did get the Serial Killer Special at the beginning of the book.

"Oh, no, the duct tape was for home improvement!"

Ana thinks he's with Mrs. Robinson and Ana wishes she could punch the lady. Good luck, Ana. She does finally figure out that she has no idea who he is and Googles him. I guess Jose's picture of him has made in onto the search engine, and Ana wants to know how. Are we sure she's 22 and not 12? As Ana goes to sleep, she wishes Christian was with her. Oh jeez.

The next day (yes, still the same chapter), Ana and her mom go shopping and then out for drinks. Well, great, go out for drinks again, Ana! Ana's mom goes for a bathroom break, and Ana begins exchanging e-mails with Christian again on her phone. At the end of the exchange, it's clear he's in the bar, watching her.

At least she's on birth control now.

Chapter Twenty Three

Ana's all, "My boyfriend's back and I'm gonna be in trouble."

Instead of being like, "That's crazy insane dancing on a toaster!" Ana's mom's all, "Hey-la, hey-la your boyfriend's back."

And even Ana's mom is now lusting after Christian. Are there no bounds to this man's perfections? I mean, aside from his abhorrent personality.

Okay, introductions made, Ana gets all snippy and short with Christian, who predictably bristles at this treatment after all the chummy little e-mails they've exchanged. And then Ana starts thinking that he can't be mad at her for having drinks with her mom.

Ana? Christian will be mad at you no matter what. Either you accept this about him and put on your big girl panties and live with it, or you dump him. Since you can't seem to dump him, you need to suck it up. 

Ana's mom invites Christian over for dinner and then absents herself to the Ladies even though she had just been there. Christian decides to take the time to discuss Mrs. Robinson with Ana. He calls her judgemental for thinking of Mrs. Robinson as a child molester.

Yeah, and all the laws we have protecting children are just so arbitrary and mean. Just ask anyone in NAMBLA.

There is no way in hell I'm looking for a picture to follow that up with, so here's some kittens.

Christian says he doesn't want to discuss this all right now, so Ana ends it by saying that Mrs. Robinson is to Ana what Jose is to Christian. Christian finally figures out that Ana's jealous, but Ana modifies his conclusion by saying she still thinks poorly of Mrs. Robinson for what she did to a teenaged boy.

Christian says this stupid thing:

And as for your jealousy, put yourself in my shoes. I haven't had to justify my actions to anyone in the last seven years. Not one person. I do as I wish, Anastasia. I like my autonomy. I didn't go and see Mrs. Robinson to upset you. I went because every now and then we have dinner. mean like how Ana hasn't had to justify herself to anyone for her whole life and likes her autonomy too and you're expecting her to put all of her metaphorical eggs into your basket and let you rule her life while you continue to do any little thing your heart desires? Good job, Christian. Good job.

Just putting this out there: psychopaths aren't capable of putting themselves in anyone else's shoes. They are completely devoid of empathy. Just saying.

"I'm a psychopath. We look just like everyone else."
As they're in the middle of arguing about Mrs. Robinson, Ana's mom comes back and Christian leaves because I don't know why. Maybe to stop the argument? Anyway, Mom's like, "You two are obviously crazy about each other."

Emphasis on the "crazy" part.

She says that they're obviously in love, and Ana says no, but her mom's not convinced, but Ana's hung up on the D/s thing. I don't blame her, the way Christian does it is no way to have a relationship. (Not being a part of the lifestyle, I can't speak for others, but it doesn't seem like something you just do on the weekends, yanno?)

Eventually, Mom talks Ana into going to Christian's room.

Oh great. More sex is in store because they need to "talk" and this is how they "talk."

Christian is on the phone when Ana comes in, but we get a really good description of the room. I guess if you can't have well-rounded characters, you shoot for well-rounded hotel rooms. When Christian gets off the phone, Ana restarts the argument about Mrs. Robinson, and Christian admits that he didn't love her. This relieves Ana so now we're a-go for sex. Or, more appropriately, we're a-go for sex while Ana's on her period.

I really hate this author.

Do I have to commentate on the sex? They do it in front of the sink. Watching themselves in the mirror. Christian helps Ana manually manipulate herself, and then of course she bends over and takes it. Then they get in a bath.

Okay, I totally go for old wives' tales, and two things you aren't supposed to do on your period are have sex and soak in a bath or hot tub. Ana is doing both so far.

They get in the bath and Ana realizes that the scars Christian has on his chest are burns. Like cigarette burns.

My grandparents had a dog that had a cigarette burn on its butt. If I ever find the guy that did that to her...Anyway, that sucks. Ana wants to know if Mrs. Robinson did it, and Christian says no. Let it go, Ana.

Christian says that if he hadn't met Mrs. Robinson, he'd probably have ended up like his birth mother, and that Mrs. Robinson helped him. He says that he doesn't talk about this with anyone except his psychiatrist and sometimes Mrs. Robinson, but he wants Ana to trust him, so he's telling her.

"Let's do some trust exercises I learned at the last CEO retreat..."

Ana, of course, can't let that go. She wants to know more. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I really hate that the author couldn't just have Christian into kink or BDSM, she has to make him psychologically broken in some way and have that be the reason why he turned to BDSM. It makes it seem like no "normal" people would be involved in the lifestyle. So the end of this story has to be that Ana helps Christian learn to have "vanilla" sex because that's what's acceptable.

After Ana is finished grilling Christian, he decides to grill her back. Back to quid pro quo, Clarisse. He wants to know how Ana feels about the proposed D/s arrangement, and Ana says honestly that she doesn't think she can do it. Christian doesn't think she can, either. He proposes some kind of compromise, the first that we've seen in this book that we are 75% of the way through, a book about a relationship, whose entire plot is wrapped around a relationship (such as it both cases...). Ana says that what they're doing now is tying her up in knots, and of course Christian has to make a quip about it. She splashes him, and then of course they have sex.

Oh look! A tiny turtle nomming a strawberry!
Okay, so they talk afterwards. Ana sort of says something about how many women Christian's had sex with, thinking the number's only seventeen. Apparently it's more. But we're in the tens! Christian's no slag. These two finally have a normal conversation where Christian isn't ordering Ana around and she's not petulantly placating him. Wow. Maybe there's hope for this book. we're at 85%. Maybe not.


  1. "I guess if you can't have well-rounded characters, you shoot for well-rounded hotel rooms."

    And for this and so many other reasons, you are my platonic trans-Atlantic literary girl-crush.

    You are brilliant at this. I'm going to be very sad when we get to the end of the book.

    1. Thanks, Cass! Having a published, legitimate author say that means the world to me. Really. I haven't read your book yet because I'm trying to keep the Fifty Shades snark "pure" while I go through, but I will get to it soon. Congratulations for making it onto Top Ten lists with authors you admire! That must be mind boggling.

      My readers (all five of them) have talked me into continuing the series. I can't promise that I'll give the other two books the same attention as I'm giving this one, but I'll definitely try.

  2. Luckily, your five readers totes love you.

    And may I just say fabulous reference to the BBC Robin Hood? If the sheriff enjoyed himself any more in his acting role, I'm afraid we'd have to legally imprison him for public indecency. And while Guy of Gisborne is certainly another attractive, baggage-ridden guy to stay away from (much like our good friend Christian), I certainly enjoyed watching his descent into angsty emo bad-assery. Maybe if Christian stabbed Ana through the stomach with a sword, I'd like him more. :) Kelly

    1. I couldn't figure out how a Robin Hood show managed to kill off Maid Marian. I mean, REALLY? Guy was losing my attention (though I enjoyed the longer flowing locks of the second season, they were somewhat offset by the Johnny Depp levels of eyeliner) when he started getting all angsty and emo.

      I think the bottom line is that you can look at someone like that and see how hot he is, and yet want nothing to do with him because of his deplorable personality. With Ana, his personality is, like, eighth in line of what she likes about Christian, his looks being numbers 1-7.

  3. Hi College@30, I'm enjoying your review of this book in which an older female co-worker passed this book along to me to read insistently, although I told her I'm not into reading crap like that (but not a prude but live in the reality that not much shocks me). Out of mere curiosity to see what the hoopla was all about, I guess I had to read/flipped through pages through Chap 20 on my own, and, just found it too painful to continue reading the back and forth nonsense and what the book presented.
    Thankfully, I found your blog! Although this book is fictional, Christian's character does represent much of the men out there I've (and sure many women have) met and unfortunately been involved with who are narcissistic 'control-freaks' to various degrees (not necessarily the S&M,D/S roles). Loved it when you referenced his character: "Seriously, if you personally are the indicator for what sort of mood someone is in, then that person has issues." and "psychopaths aren't capable of putting themselves in anyone else's shoes. They are completely devoid of empathy."
    At the same time, Ana's character represents many woman who crave attention from an attractive man, no matter what sort of abuse, mental or physical, she had to endure to take it. This is her first lover and was amazed that he found her attractive and challenging, so, therefore her willingness to take what she can from/with him, even if her gut from the beginning continuously tells her everything about the relationship is WRONG! Dying to uncover if she straps on some balls and walks away from him and says 'enough is enough'...she deserves to be in a true loving/reciprocated trusting relationships where touching and talking exists.
    On your side 4Sure....