I'll open this decon with a bit more of an in-depth recap than previous chapters because I know there's recently been a bit of an explosion of new readers here thanks to Will's Schrodinger's Closet and Ender's Game posts (all of which are excellent and you should go read with your face orbs).
So for those of you stopping in for the first time, here's what's up in the book so far!
In book one, Christian Grey, the pinnacle of manly beauty and sexy prowess, powerful CEO, super duper sexy sexing BDSM enthusiast, and owner of a TRAGIC PAST (TM), meets our narrator, the totally bland, innocent, and younger-enough-to-be-creepy Anastasia Rose Steele. Yes, that is her real name. After a book's worth of "will they/won't they" Ana decides that yes, she will be his sub! Then at the end of book 1 they break up because Ana just can't do it! At the start of book two they get back together, but this time they're just dating, none of the sub/dom stuff that we spent a whole book hearing about in painful detail.
Book 2 has inflicted upon us more controlling rage and a crazed ex trying to maybe kill Ana? Oh, and Grey's ex of significance, an older woman often called Mrs. Robinson, has started trying to befriend Ana in the most hilarious and awkward ways possible.
Last chapter I finally figured out that Grey isn't a warlock (the only way to explain how any woman would want to be in a relationship with him) but is probably a necromancer. There were some "soul stirring orgasms" and, although this is supposed to be a sex- and BDSM-positive book, Grey declared that BDSM isn't for people in committed relationships. Grey also fucks around with Ana's career (having bought the company she works for) to "protect" her, and after 5 weeks of dating they have decided to move in together! The chapter finished up with Mrs. Robinson turning up despite both Ana and Grey telling her that Ana wanted nothing to do with her! Let's see what EL James has in store for us this week, shall we?
And here she is . . . Why is she so damned attractive? She’s dressed entirely in black: tight jeans, a shirt that emphasizes her perfect figure, and a halo of bright, glossy hair.
I'm really unsure of why Ana keeps obsessing over how blond Elena is; almost every female character in this book is blond. Grey's sister, Ana, Leila (Grey's gun-toting ex-sub) and the black woman Ana works with are the only non-blonds in the book, counting every waitress, receptionist, and secretary that we've met. I also burst out laughing here. Grey is always wearing gray, from head to toe, and last chapter we saw Ana doing the same. This is one of the many ways the author beats us over the head with the moral and emotional ambiguity around him. Now we see Elena dressing entirely in black. I can only assume this is meant to reassure us that despite Grey claiming she's an old and dear friend, Ana is right and she is totes evil. I don't know WHY this bothers me so much. I should be used to EL James' ham-fisted writing, but on average, people tend to avoid wearing all one color. It's boring and rarely a good look. Sort of something you mostly do at funerals--oh my god, you guys, Elena is totally just coming from a funeral, a sexy funeral!
Elena is surprised to see Ana there, as Grey only used to have his subs around on weekends. She tells Ana point blank she didn't think Ana'd be around and apologizes, she gets that Ana wants nothing to do with her. It's all super awkward, but it does a pretty decent job of underlining that yes, Elena has been in Grey's life for a long time and yes, she is comfortable with him and his home. Elena explains (in front of Ana, at Grey's insistence) that she's being blackmailed. Ana is, reasonably, filled with glee because clearly she deserves it. It is at about this point that Ana realizes she really shouldn't be there and skitters away--only to eavesdrop on their conversation once she's gone. No, really.
So what does Ana hear? Naturally Elena asking Grey about how things are going, scolding him for being too hard on himself, telling him he deserves to be happy. You know, the normal day-to-day conversations you have with friends. There are a few things I want to highlight, though.
“Does she know how negative you are about yourself? About all your issues.”
“She knows me better than anyone.”
“Ouch! That hurts.”
I am actually kind of on side with Elena here. She's been the only one to put up with Grey's BS for many years now. Suddenly he's dating some new girl (for all of five weeks) and he's saying she's the stars and the moon and really gets him more than anyone else ever. If I were in Elena's position, yeah, that would sting. However Elena's dialog is given no tags, so I assume this is meant to be taunting him (because that's the only not horrific way to say it) but I could be very wrong. As this next bit might suggest I am.
“What is her problem?”
“You . . . What we were. What we did. She doesn’t understand.”
“Make her understand.”
“It’s in the past, Elena, and why would I want to taint her with our fucked-up relationship? She’s good and sweet and innocent, and by some miracle she loves me.”
Again, I'm still kind of sympathetic to Elena here. I have a lot of dude friends, and have always had more dude friends than girl friends. I also fall somewhere on the scale of "conventionally attractive" and so (especially when I was younger) when my guy friends got girlfriends, they'd often vanish. I figured out early that this wasn't really about me as a person but the idea of a pretty girl who had known her boyfriend longer and was maybe closer to him. Once I wrapped my head around that, I realized that if I made an effort to actually get to know these girls they'd probably return the favor. More often than not, that worked out wonderfully for me and there are some cases where I've stayed friends with the girls long after the break up with my friends.
Ana is 21, which is still very much in the age bracket of this being a problem. Grey is closer to 30, but this is his first relationship so no surprises that he's acting like an overeager 14 year old about it. I think it is a safe assumption that Elena has other friends besides Grey (we know she first met him because she was friends with his mother) so I'm not surprised that Elena tries to befriend Ana; she's probably been through the paces. What I am surprised by is her first interaction with Ana involving saying "If you hurt him I will find you" BEFORE she gets into the "we should do lunch!" part. I get that she is supposed to be protective of Grey, but she is bad at it. If Grey is in his late twenties and Elena is older by enough that it was rape she would have to be at least 10 years older, if not more, so that'd put her in her late thirties/early forties. So you are telling me that Elena is going to think the right response to a girl almost half her age, who she's never met, getting a bit spooked by Grey being Grey is to threaten her? And then be surprised why she doesn't get it? I'm authentically uncertain what I'm supposed to take away from this book about Elena. Is she supposed to be "Grey's dearest friend" who is just too protective and who he seems to treat like shit, or am I supposed to see her as an evil meddlesome seductress? Because there's evidence to support both of these things.
One of the other things I want to draw attention to in that exchange (there's a lot to unpack here) is the "make her understand". Elena is supposed to be nearing 40, by my estimation (and according to the 50 Shades wiki). You are giving me a 40 year old woman who is acting like she's 19, and I don't understand why, EL James.
Lastly before we can move onto a new expert is Grey's continuing fertilization of Ana's innocence. When we first met her she had never been kissed or dated. Grey is her first everything; she hadn't even masturbated (and still hasn't, by his orders). I'm still not sure why. The target audience for this book is women who are Elena's age or older, so I can understand them being uncomfortable with someone their own daughter's age being self-possessed and sexually experienced and confident. The flip side is: I can't imagine reading an erotic novel and drawing any parallel between my own daughter and the woman being hammered away on and finishing the book. I don't think Ana is supposed to be a reader insert character, she's too young and too inexperienced for women who are wives and Mother's to picture themselves as her. Or I would assume so. I am not yet either of those things so if someone wants to correct me on this one, by all means. Perhaps the goal is to sell "the good old days" but not like they happened at all, but for many people their twenties was when they started to figure their shit out and branch out and experience freedom. There's some very real confusion there, but many people look back at the adventures and debauchery fondly (I know my parents do). EL James is stripping a lot of that away by making Ana so innocent, so it seems unlikely to me that she's supposed to be a reader insert.
Elena asks Grey about his relationship/if he misses his play room/etc when we get this:
“Elena, we have a business relationship which has profited us both immensely. Let’s keep it that way. What was between us is part of the past. Anastasia is my future, and I won’t jeopardize it in any way, so cut the fucking crap.”
“I don’t want to lose you, Christian.”
“I’m not yours to lose, Elena,” he snaps again.
“That’s not what I meant.”
“What did you mean?” He’s brusque, angry.
“Look, I don’t want to argue with you. Your friendship means a lot to me. I’ll back off from Anastasia. But I’m here if you need me. I always will be.”
And this is basically why I sympathize with Elena. She loves Grey, even if it isn't romantic (although I am a firm believer that you can love someone in more than one way at once, so I do think it is in part romantic) and values his friendship immensely, and has for many years. If one of my best friends was suddenly vanishing after 20 years, I'd voice concern over losing them, too. However because Ana is our narrator, this isn't about friendship, this is about Elena being in love with Grey and trying to take more than what is her's to take. I think this exchange is meant more to be about how much Grey loves Ana and that their love is twu and nothing will ever come between them.
I'm gonna be honest here. I think that's bullshit. I was a weird kid: at 15 I realized that while I enjoyed dating and having a boyfriend it was super important that I have a friends and life outside of that boyfriend because odds were one day he would no longer be my boyfriend and then what? This has been something I've carried with me my entire life. I'm getting married in the fall and I still think it's important to have friends that are mine and not ours. It helps keep me centered and grounded and offers a sometimes much needed change of pace. Besides, there's only about half overlap in tastes for movies/music*, and I need people who are not him to go to the movies with in these instances. Since I have always made an active effort to maintain my not romantic relationships during the times when I have a romantic one, if my friends start to voice concerns that "hey, something seems off with you and your SO, and I'm concerned"** I'm going to give that some very serious thought, not assume that they are trying to destroy my relationship because... seriously, why do people think someone would be out to destroy their relationship? I can see parents or close friends stepping in when there are things like abuse happening, but that's about it. Then again, I live in a world where I am surrounded primarily by reasonable and well-meaning people, and I suspect this statement reflects that.
So Elena leaves after agreeing to have one of Grey's guys look into who's blackmailing her, and Ana has to scuttle to his room to avoid being caught eavesdropping. To her credit, she will admit that she did so, and this is more of a panicked move than a premeditated one.
I gaze up at him, trying to frame my question. “Will you tell me all about her? I am trying to understand why you think she helped you.” I pause, thinking carefully about my next sentence. “I loathe her, Christian. I think she did you untold damage. You have no friends. Did she keep them away from you?”
He sighs and runs his hand through his hair.
“Why the fuck do you want to know about her? We had a very long-standing affair, she beat the shit out of me often, and I fucked her in all sorts of ways you can’t even imagine, end of story.”
I pale. Shit, he’s angry—with me. I blink at him. “Why are you so angry?”
“Because all of that shit is OVER!” he shouts, glowering at me. He sighs in exasperation and shakes his head.
I blanch. Shit. I look down at my hands, knotted in my lap. I just want to understand.
Ana has been pretty awful about Elena so far, so I want to try to give Grey some credit about being tired of going over it. At the same time, he is being such a cantankerous ass about it, any credit I can try to scrounge up is just lost. Ana is trying to understand, and all of the concerns she voices are valid, but Grey's responses are just... cruel, frankly. "We did the BDSM thing and had crazy wild sex" and he will go on to say he used to think he loved her but with Ana he realizes what love really is and so no, he never loved Elena! Remember what I said earlier about believing that there are many ways to love a person, and you tend to love them in more than one way at once? Grey will also insist that it wasn't rape because he consented and could have broken up with her at any time when they had their thing going on, and discusses how she's helped him come to terms with his feelings for Ana.
What do I make of this? Maybe she is on my side and just worried that I’ll hurt him. The thought is painful. I would never want to hurt him. She’s right—he’s been hurt enough.
Perhaps she’s not so bad. I shake my head. I don’t want to accept his relationship with her. I disapprove. Yes, that’s what this is. She’s an unsavory character who preyed on a vulnerable adolescent, robbing him of his teenage years, no matter what he says.
Super torn on this, to be frank. I agree with Ana in that what Mrs. Robinson did was wrong, but if Grey, the victim, doesn't think so, is it still okay to insist it is? Doesn't he get to be the authority on that one? It's the flip side of someone telling a woman she wasn't really assaulted because he didn't jump out of the bushes at her. Things then segue into Ana not being perfectly compliant with being monitored all the time.
“Do you want to fight about that, too?” he snaps.
“I wasn’t aware we were fighting. I thought we were communicating,” I mumble petulantly.
He closes his eyes briefly as he struggles to contain his temper. I swallow and watch anxiously. Jeez, this could go either way.
His response is to storm off to go work. I've commented before that any time Ana tries to talk about something that's upsetting her Grey's response is anger. Last chapter, when she literally begged him to be allowed to go to work without a security guard, she had to wait until a super relaxed calm point to do so. Grey acts like Ana has him whipped but restricts her from doing things like leaving her office or going home alone. He bought her a new car that she isn't allowed to drive because it might be dangerous. Everything he does he does in the name of her safety, but it is still taking away agency and choice and it is still terrifying. After Grey storms off, Ana is left to her own devices.
We just don’t know each other that well. Do I really want to move in with him? I don’t even know if I should make him a cup of tea or coffee while he’s working. Should I disturb him at all? I have no idea of his likes and dislikes.
According to Grey, Ana knows him better than anyone else in the world and he has asked her to move in with him after five weeks of dating. Ana feels they keep fighting because they're still getting to know each other and that this is normal for new relationships. It's been a while since I've done the "new relationship" thing, but in my direct and indirect experience, if you're fighting this much this early you fucking bail. The first bit is all about getting to know each other and fun and adventures! You're in the honeymoon phase, not the "I am afraid to ask to go to work alone" phase! THAT SHOULD NOT BE A PHASE YOU GO THROUGH!
So Ana will putter around a bit, call her Dad, and go read before Grey finds her dozing in the library and puts her to bed. She wakes up in the middle of the night to find Grey playing piano in his bubble of isolation (again).
“Why do we fight?” he whispers, as his teeth graze my earlobe.
Holy cow. My heart skips a beat, then starts pounding, coursing heat throughout my body.
“Because we’re getting to know each other, and you’re stubborn and cantankerous and moody and difficult,” I murmur breathlessly, shifting my head to give him better access to my throat. He runs his nose down my neck, and I feel his smile.
“I’m all those things, Miss Steele. It’s a wonder you put up with me.” He nips my earlobe and I moan. “Is it always like this?” he sighs.
“I have no idea.”
Grey has two moves, intimidate and seduce. If we look at a more typical abuse pattern, it's the charming husband and the horrible abuser (or the early stages there of). We saw the abuser earlier, now he's being charming (or in his case sexy because the man doesn't have enough personality to be charming). I've commented before on Grey derailing Ana with his black-magic sex powers when she tries to ask questions, and it is one of the few consistent behaviors he exhibits.
In his usual form, he starts to get handsy and because black-magic sex powers Ana is right into it. So they start fooling around on the piano.
“Oh no, baby, not yet,” he teases, but I feel myself quicken as does he, and he stops.
“No,” I whimper.
“This is my revenge, Ana,” he growls softly. “Argue with me, and I am going to take it out on your body somehow.” He trails kisses along my belly, his hands traveling up my thighs, stroking, kneading, tantalizing.
Okay, I talk about sex being different for everyone no two vaginas are the same often, but seriously, how the hell can he have that level of knowledge to actually keep her on the cusp and not just accidentally shoving her over to a shitty orgasm consistently? INTERNET HELP. Also, he even fucking admits to using sex to punish her. I mean, there are worse punishments, but he clearly and repeatedly says "If you fight with me there will be consequences." ANA YOU ARE COVERED IN SLIPPERY STAIN USE THIS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE TO THROW YOURSELF OFF THE PIANO AND SKID OUT THE DOOR!
Lifting my feet off the keys, he pushes me; and suddenly, I’m sliding effortlessly up the piano, gliding on satin, and he’s following me up there, briefly kneeling between my legs to roll on a condom. He hovers over me and I’m panting, gazing up at him with raging need, and I realize he’s naked. When did he take off his clothes?
OH MY GOD YOU GUYS HE WAS PLAYING HIS EMO PIANO IN HIS CIRCLE OF LONELY LIGHT NAKED!
Also where the hell did that condom come from? Does Grey have Summon: Condom? He's naked and nowhere near a drawer; this is raising a lot of questions. Did he store one in Ana's cooter for later? Is that one of his black powers? Is the piano in fact made of condoms?
So they bone (off page, tragically, because I rather enjoy these purple sex scenes) and the next morning they wake up and Grey makes an off hand comment about not having nightmares when Ana is around. This leads her (innocently enough) asking what those nightmares are about which leads into talk of his TRAGIC PAST (TM). So, to save you all the groaning, Grey talks about how the dreams are flashbacks (though doesn't tell us what they are, we did see one at the start of this book) and Ana, frantic to not set him off so early, asks him for happy childhood memories. He comments on the crackwhore (the charming nickname he has for his birth mother) baking him a birthday cake, his baby sister, and his piano teacher before they start fooling around.
No really, that is the progression of events. I know I like to get my bone on right after talking about my childhood!
Skip ahead a few pages, Ana has gone to work, mentioned Kate's brother Ethan will be back in town today and she should go by her apartment to help him settle in, gotten a few e-mails via Blackberry with Grey about spankings and given him the heads up on "hey leaving the office now just FYI" because he must be kept aware of all her movements and now we're onto her boss leering at her some more.
“Would he object to you coming out for a quick drink tonight? To celebrate all your hard work?”
“I have a friend coming in from out of town tonight, and we’re all going out for dinner.” And I’ll be busy every night, Jack.
“I see.” He sighs, exasperated. “Maybe when I’m back from New York, huh?” He raises his eyebrows in expectation, and his gaze darkens suggestively.
Oh no. I smile, noncommittal, stifling a shudder.
“Would you like some coffee or tea?” I ask.
“Coffee, please.” His voice is low and husky as if he’s asking for something else. Fuck. He’s not going to back off. I can see that now. Oh . . . What to do?
This is all so, so creepy. This is the third or fourth time he has asked her out for a drink. The hint: take it. So Ethan gives her a call and is all "SOON I SHALL BE UPON YOU CAN I HAVE KEYS TO OUR NEW APARTMENT PLEASE?" and when he turns up to see Ana at work this is his first response.
“You look . . . wow—different. Worldly, more sophisticated. What’s happened? You changed your hair? Clothes? I don’t know, Steele, but you look hot!”
I blush furiously. “Oh, Ethan. I’m just in my work clothes,” I scold as Claire looks on with an arched eyebrow and a wry smile.
Every single dude wants in Ana's pants, even her BFFF's brother. We have also been told that he's just kinda like this though, so... not sure. He at least seemed authentically enthusiastic about the idea of going out to dinner with Grey and Ana later.
“Yeah. Laters.” He leans over and kisses my cheek.
“Yeah, kind of grows on you.”
“It does. Laters.” I smile at him as he collects his large shoulder bag from beside the green couch and exits the building.
When I turn, Jack is watching me from the far side of the foyer, his expression unreadable. I smile brightly at him and head back to my desk, feeling his eyes on me the whole time. This is beginning to get on my nerves. What to do? I have no idea. I’ll have to wait until Kate is back. She’s bound to come up with a plan.
I like that Ana is remembering Kate exists, and that she is enthusiastic about her return. I like that her thought is "Kate will understand how to better cope with lechers and help give me strategies" as opposed to running to Grey who will DESTROY Jack. By the same token, this is an interesting thought. When I had the owner's brother in law pinching my ass at an old job, I was afraid to step forward because what if he got fired and this caused a huge rift and he has kids! I was worried about my abuser's well-being. I don't think this is uncommon, women are often made to feel responsible for the abuse they get, and it's on us to fix things and take care of everyone. It's bullshit, and I wonder if EL James has considered that when she wrote this.
So Grey picks Ana up from work and they're all cute and bubbly and SO TOTALLY IN LOVE. Which means something horrible is about to happen.
“Hi, Ethan, it’s me. Let me in.”
The door buzzes, and I head upstairs to the apartment. It occurs to me that I have not been here since Saturday morning. That seems so long ago. Ethan has kindly left the front door open. I step into the apartment, and I don’t know why, but I freeze instinctively as soon as I step inside. I take a moment to realize it’s because the pale, wan figure standing by the kitchen island, holding a small revolver is Leila, and she’s gazing impassively at me.
Told ya. Think she shot Ethan? We haven't seen him enough for me as a reader to give much of a crap about his character, but I can see how Ana and Grey will be affected. And that, naturally, is the end of the chapter because these books were initially fan fiction and will end on cliffhangers as often as possible!
Tune in next Thursday to find out what happens next! And Sunday for--I'm not sure what's running this Sunday yet. TUNE IN SUNDAY FOR A SURPRISE OF SOME SORT! As always, comments make this hurt less, and if you don't want to check the blog to see when we update you can also follow me on Twitter @SnappyErika!
Till next week my dear readers!
*HE DOESN'T WANT TO SEE ARETHA FRANKLIN WITH ME THIS SUMMER WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIM?!
**One of these conversations happened right after I got engaged because there was a rapid turn-around on "Erika is scared of the concept of marriage" to "So I'm engaged now". The friend in question was one who I don't see often but am close to, making sure I wasn't doing it because I felt I was supposed to or anything. It led to the most stereotypical drunk "YOU'RE MY BEST FRIEND I LOVE YOU" conversations I have ever had and it was magical, warm fuzzy, and hilarious.