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I’ve tried all ways to skip bits of this book, and shorten these reviews, but there is so much going on (or not going on as the case may be) and so much that I feel I want to discuss, I can’t. So sorry, folks. There’s going to be at least one part for every chapter remaining the way things are going.
In the last chapter, Ana and Christian had spent the night together but did not have sex. Which is just as well, as the chapter ended with Ana worried about what Kate would think about her having a one night stand. Would Kate get her shotgun and offer Christian a £10,000 payoff to marry Ana and prevent her from falling into disgrace? In Chapter six it’s a close call, but she doesn’t. Pity, because I was really hoping she would.
Chapter Six starts with Ana and Christian travelling back to Ana’s flat in his car. He plays The Flower Duet by Delibes on his MP3 player. Amazingly, Ana, who has thrown in literary and classical references wherever she could, has never heard it. Not even on the British Airways advert. She thinks it’s an indication that Christian is showing his youthful side. What? By listening to an operatic duet from 1883? Surely he’d have proved he was young and with it by listening to Eminem and Rihanna’s duet, I Love The Way You Lie.
Oh, but then we learn he is musically knowledgeable and also he knows young music. He tells her he likes everything from Thomas Tallis to The Kings of Leon. I’m feeling pretty smug at this point because I know who Thomas Tallis is before Christian has to explain it to Ana. Oh yes, E.L. James, you may think you’re impressing me and others with mentions of obscure musicians, but I studied Tallis’s music for a whole three weeks when I did my (8 year long) O.U. degree (I couldn’t tell you what any of it sounded like as I’ve long since forgotten). As I reckon James probably (allegedly) only Googled ‘obscure musicians one can mention to make Christian look erudite’, that’s one up to me, I think! Though it probably says more about me that Christian can name check musical greats, and Ana drops literary and classical allusions, whereas my heroines’ main point of musical reference is usually songs from Oklahoma. If I want them to seem particularly clever, they mention Dickens.
But Ana is certain that music is the key to learning about Christian. Word to the wise, Ana, the key to Christian is Anne Summers ‘Hardcore’ range.
There’s a bit of stuff where Christian is barking orders over the telephone, to show what a big tycoon he is, then Elliot (his brother) rings on the speakerphone (Christian is that posh!) and addresses Ana as ‘Ana’. She’s shocked. Ana? (She actually thinks that. Ana?) Doesn’t he know that he has to call her Miss Steele until she’s been married to his brother for ten years? And then only after their firstborn has been sent to boarding school.
When they finally reach the flat (after listening to the Flower Duet and My Sex is on Fire), Kate seems ‘hostile’ about Ana spending the night out, despite the fact that she’s clearly just had a shagfest with Elliot.
It then becomes clear that Ana continues to behave like a Jane Austen heroine because that’s how people (other than the inappropriately behaved Elliot) treat her. It also becomes clear to me that Elliot is okay. I like him. He acts like a normal person in their twenties acts, and is therefore the only real character in the book.
When Elliot and Christian leave, Ana is irritated when Kate asks if she and Christian had sex. I can’t work out if this is because Kate has overstepped the mark of the four year friendship by wondering if her friend finally had sex, or because the sex didn’t actually happen.
Having learned that Ana didn’t actually have sex, and in another of James’s inconsistencies, Kate changes tune completely and tells Ana that she’ll help pimp her up to ensure that sex does happen when Ana goes to Seattle with Christian. Maybe Kate realises that the only way Ana’s going to get married and stop sticking her nose into Kate’s sex life is to get her in a compromising position with Christian, then turn up with a photographer (Jose?), the shotgun and a preacher.
As Ana is being preened by Kate (after she remembers she works at the hardware store on a Saturday), she gets the impression that Kate doesn’t trust Christian and wonders why. Perhaps it’s because he’s so formal. No Ana. Kate has three reasons. Duct Tape. Tie Wraps. Rope.
But we’re back to inconsistencies again, and James has no idea where Ana is supposed to be. The section starts with her saying the day dragged at Claytons. Then she’s talking about Kate making sure Ana has no body hair (too much information!), then Christian picks her up when her shift ends at Claytons. Are we to believe she went out in her overalls after all that trouble getting preened?
Apparently if Kate knew that Ana was travelling up to Seattle in a helicopter, she would ‘freak’. Why?! Once again I want to remind Ana that Kate is not her mother. Ana doesn’t need her permission or blessing to do anything, yet she’s pathetically reliant on her friend’s approval in everything, even how she travels to Seattle. It’s almost as if Kate is the dom and Ana is the sub. The girls’ relationship does seem to be a mirror of the relationship Ana is getting into with Christian. Maybe she is perfect for Christian!
Ana is also worried about Jose. He keeps trying to contact her. She says she’s going to let him stew. Considering he stepped over the bounds of friendship and got quite insistent about it, why does she think she has to talk to him ever again?
Her inner goddess is apparently tapping her foot, and her inner hormones are ‘flying’ desperate for Ana to lose her virginity. She wonders what she’ll have to sign, but doesn’t seem to consider that she won’t want to sign it. As we heard Christian mention the NDA (non-disclosure agreement) we know, and would, if we could, advise her to tell him to shove it where the sun don’t shine. But we also know that Ana is a moron.
Now we’re back to having to do everything Ana and Christian does. He picks her up. There’s the chauffeur in the car. They drive to the airfield. Her hormones are flying. zzzz
But no, wait, here’s a dramatic puzzle to solve. They stop at a building and Ana is perplexed. She knows that helicopters need room to take off. If only someone could invent some sort of, oh, I don’t know… helicopter stand … helistand … no that doesn’t sound right. I know! A helipad. Yes, I like that name. They could put it on top of a high building so the helicopter has plenty of room for take-off. But no one has ever thought of that. Certainly Ana hasn’t judging by her perplexity. Perhaps I should patent my idea quickly. Oh, it seems someone has thought of it. Damn. But it’s the lowest helipad ever. The lift takes them just three floors. Three floors?! The helicopter will bring down the phone lines at that height!
Ana is worried that Christian is misusing company property by taking her in the helicopter. His company, which he has made plain that he rules with a rod of iron, answering to no one. We learn from the side of the helicopter that the company is called Grey Enterprises Holdings, which is the crappest name for a company ever! It spells GEH, which means absolutely nothing. Perhaps it’s the noise Ana will make the first time he spanks her…
He harnesses her into the helicopter, and it’s supposed to be a hint of his sexual preferences. As usual it’s creepy, simply because Ana still doesn’t know what she’s getting into, so once again isn’t in on the joke. He knows she’s gauche and naïve, so his constant jokes at her expense fall flat. At least for me. He tells her she’s safe with him, at least whilst they’re flying. He actually uses those words. And for some reason she doesn’t want to unbuckle the harness and jump out of the helicopter before it takes off!
The next bit shows us that James knows how a helicopter should take off, how the controls work, how to use the Phonetic alphabet, how Christian knows where he’s going in the dark (note to E.L. James, don’t let your research show – nothing that happens in the helicopter, apart from the harness buckling bit, is relevant). It could have all been left out without changing anything in the story. It’s the flying equivalent of them walking to the coffee shop and stopping at the pedestrian crossing …zzzz
We’re assured by Ana that there’s a helipad where Christian lives, which is just as well, because I bet he didn’t think of that when he took off.
Despite being in a helicopter for the first time, and presumably in the air for the first time, judging by her reaction, and the fact that it’s pitch dark anyway, Ana manages to guess when they’re moving from Portland airspace into Seattle International Airports’. Could any normal person (without pilot training) really tell where one air space ended and another began? They don’t have junctions and road signs up there as far as I know.
Oh but this is an important section after all. Because Christian reveals he’s never let another girl have a ride on his chopper. So now Ana knows she must be special to him. But oh no, he starts to land and she thinks she’s going to swoon… Thank God for that. For one minute I was afraid that Ana had started to get a bit of backbone and self-esteem. But no, she’s still the same useless, swooning moron we know and love.
Now we’re in his apartment, which is white, with white flowers and white walls. There are paintings ‘everywhere’. It’s not confirmed if they’re also white but I bet they are. According to Ana, ‘the far wall is glass and leads onto a balcony that looks overlooks Seattle’. Personally, I’d have put a window there, but each to their own.
Despite Ana almost swooning at the thought of riding on Christian’s chopper, and the nervousness about the fact she’s finally going to have S-E-X, she’s able to count the stools at the breakfast bar and the chairs at the dining table (six and sixteen if you were wondering). The kitchen is white too, except for the dark worktops. Just dark. No specific colour like black, brown, blue. Maybe they were out of white worktops at B&Q and Christian, switching off his obvious OCD and commanding personality for five minutes, said ‘Just send me some dark ones instead’.
Ana refuses a drink, and walks to the ‘glass wall’ (not window, because this is a posh apartment, and windows are only for plebs). She sees fit to tell us that part of it opens, concertina-like, onto the balcony. I’m relieved, because I was afraid they’d have to abseil from the roof if they wanted to eat breakfast on the balcony. Whilst it’s understandable that Christian’s posh apartment might faze her, she behaves like a visitor from another planet. He’s got the same stuff as everyone else has got (doors, windows, furniture, PATIO DOORS), he’s just paid more for it. But the way Ana describes it all, it’s as if she’s never seen such things.
The kitchen, we’re told, is so far from the ‘glass wall’ (oh for God’s sake, Ana, it’s a bloody window!) it takes Ana ‘a couple of seconds’ to walk to it. A couple of seconds! I’m surprised she didn’t take a bus. She probably needed a sit down when she got to the kitchen. She’ll have been exhausted. It takes me ‘a couple of seconds’ to get from my kitchen to the front window – in the living room of my tiny semi. James is not exactly giving an idea of real space here, and it really shows up her rubbish use of description.
But at last Ana seems to be getting it. She feels like Tess Durbeyfield with Alex D’urbeville. As Alex rapes Tess, I’m wondering why Ana still doesn’t get the hell out of there. Especially when Christian tells her that he could hold her to some impossible ideal like Angel Clare or debase her like Alex D’urbeville. What? There’s no middle ground? You know, like having a normal, loving sexual relationship with someone you respect and care about?
And this is when he gets her to sign the non-disclosure agreement. Again, instead of running for the hills, she signs it without question. She is so desperate for him to love her, she signs it, not knowing if he will end up raping her or doing things to her that cause her harm (so I’m more than ever convinced that Ana has none of the power here and she hasn’t even got onto the BDSM agreement). She says she wants ‘debasement’, but she obviously doesn’t know what he really means. She probably just thinks he’s talking dirty, jokingly, about what will turn out to be traditional sex.
Then he takes her to his red room of pain… Her first thought is ‘The Spanish Inquisition’. Her second thought, as Chapter Seven begins, is that it smells quite nice and the lighting is ‘subtle’. I bet that’s just what the Jews thought just as the Catholic priests flung them into the dungeons in Spain. ‘Well, it’s a bit worrying, them pulling our fingernails out, stretching us on the rack, and ultimately forcing us to change our religion against our will, but you have to admit the Pope’s done wonders with the lighting’
More on the Red Room of Pain tomorrow.