Earlier reviews can be found HERE
Warning: Seriously this time. This review discusses some adult themes and is therefore (seriously) not suitable for those who might be easily offended.
When we left Ana, she had gone to bed, exhausted due to ‘carnal exertions’ (I’m pretty certain they had a hit in the 90s, but don’t quote me on that). But she’s not too exhausted to go over the contract which Christian lovingly handed to her before he left. Unfortunately after I’d read through two chapters last night, I was exhausted (and I didn’t even have the excuse of carnal exertions). But like Ana knows her duty to tell us the minute details of everything she sees and does, I know it’s my duty, as an ex-CAB advisor, to peruse this contract and relate the details to you.
How much fun would it have been, when I worked at the CAB, if someone came in with a BDSM contract? It would have made a change from advising people whether or not they could take their sofa back to the shop after they’d had it ten years and let their six kids vomit and poo over it (believe me, that’s not as unlikely as I make it sound). Mind you, I have indeed read some mobile phone contracts that threaten to put your wobbly bits in a vice if you dare try to end the contract five minutes before the allotted time. So this should like old times. Do you get the impression I’m putting reading this chapter off by reminiscing about my CAB Days.
Maybe because it’s practically the same contract as we’ve read before, only with more legalese. It’s cold, unappealing and I don’t even know why Ana is wasting her time reading it. Most worrying clause (so far – I’m reading as I review at the moment). That the dominant can ‘flog, spank, whip or corporally punish’ the submissive any time he wants and he doesn’t have to give her a reason. Good God. Ana’s a nervous wreck already, and freaked out by even the most mundane things. Yet he wants to be able to creep up on her and give her a good hiding for any perceived misdemeanour without warning. Yep, that’s domestic violence. It waffles on with stuff about how she can’t look him in the eyes, ever blah blah. Then because he does seem to realise the emotional and psychological toll on her, she’s allowed two safe words. Yellow, which means she’s reaching the end of her endurance. And Red when she definitely wants him to stop. Why not just one word that means she’s had enough? My safe words would be ‘Hit me with that again and I’m going to shove it so far up your backside it’ll knock your front teeth out.’ Too many words perhaps?
I’ve said before, Ana is barely ready for a traditional sexual relationship. In fact she can barely function as a human being most of the time. She doesn’t have the maturity, intellectual or psychological capacity to enter into such an agreement, and as such, if it’s supposed to be a turn on for women readers, it completely misses the mark with this woman reader.
Also, he’s had this typed up, obviously by lawyers. Yet his activities are supposed to be secret? It beggars belief and as such, takes me right out of the story.
From a writerly point of view, half of what we have to read wasn’t necessary, because we’d already seen it. All James needed to do what have Ana say ‘the contract was very much like the one I’d seen, but there were some extra bits’. Then she could just tell us the bits that were added. That’s how a good writer would do it. All James seems to have done is copy and pasted what she wrote before, and added a bit. Maybe that week she was busy, but didn’t want to let her fanfiction.net fans down, so thought she’d best give them something. Who knows?
Then we reach ‘Hard limits’ which we’ve seen, but there are also soft limits, which are to be agreed between the parties. Soft limits include, amongst other things, ‘anal intercourse’ and ‘anal fisting’. Fisting doesn’t sound soft to me, though it’s rather interesting that we’re getting an insight into the stuff Christian obviously has done quite happily in the past. Yet he wants Ana to go on the pill so he doesn’t have to use condoms. And as he doesn’t like condoms, I presume that includes during anal sex. I wouldn’t let him near me with a ten foot barge pole, let alone his ‘considerable length’.
One question is whether or not the ‘sub’ minds swallowing. Well I guess Ana ‘Linda Lovelace’ Steele already answered that question.
I’m relieved that Ana does scoff at this. Maybe she’s not the idiot I thought she was. She realises exactly what she’d be giving up. But a few minutes later, one of her many imaginary friends (inner goddess, subconscious) is telling her that if she doesn’t do this she’ll end up alone with lots of cats and her classic novels. And this is worse than being a rich man’s whipping girl? How exactly? But it does point up how Christian is manipulating her. He’s shown her a weekend of good sex, and is, occasionally, kind to her. He’s honed in on her basic lack of self-esteem. So he knows she’ll probably do anything to stay around.
Anyway, just as I think she’s getting some backbone again, Ana’s back to her old pathetic self, with her and all her imaginary friends flushing at the memory of his hands on her. Really? After reading that contract, she ought to be bathing in disinfectant, stocking up on penicillin and suggesting the government send in a Hazmat team to quarantine everyone within a ten mile radius of Christian’s apartment.
More than ever I’m wondering what’s so wonderful about Christian Grey. Okay, it was understandable she’d enjoy the sex when she only had half an inkling of his activities. But now? She ought to feel sick with worry over what he might have given her. I suspect James put much of it in for shock and titillation value. What she doesn’t seem to have realised is that it tells us a lot about Christian’s previous sexual history. Now I understand each to their own, and that in the real world consenting adults can do what the hell they want behind closed doors. But from the point of view of this being a romantic novel, Christian’s clearly got a very dangerous sexual history in these AIDS aware days, and that, to me at least, is not the mark of a true romantic hero. He’s irresponsible and, as we already know, selfish.
Ana shows a rare bit of insightfulness in recognising that she lets Kate boss her around. But it doesn’t last long because once again she’s dreaming of Christian being nice to her, and ignoring the fact that he wants to do things to her that aren’t very nice at all.
Anyway, the morning arrives and so does a bloke with a MacBook Pro from Christian (and I’m thinking ‘come into my web, said the spider to the fly’). And this is where it gets unbelievable again. Because first he has to show her how to use it, then he tells her she’s got an email address. Apparently she doesn’t have one. A young woman living in the 21st century, and who’s just spent four years at college, and she hasn’t got an email address. Apparently she’s relied on Kate’s computer for four years. I’m beginning to admire Ana’s capacity to leech off her richer friends, given that she’s also been living in Kate’s apartment for four years. Now she’s got Christian buying her laptops and possibly clothes, she’ll never have to worry about getting a job.
Oh but she does have to work, according to an email she’s sent Christian, who seems to be waiting at the other end, so despite him saying he’s got a job to do, he clearly has plenty of time to wait for her emails. There’s an asinine exchange between them, and they agree to meet on Wednesday evening. Which means she’s got to walk us through all day Monday, all day Tuesday and Wednesday morning. I don’t think I can bear it.
Jose turns up at work. They go to lunch and make up. She goes back to work. She goes home. You don’t really need all this, do you? I am wondering if Christian has detectives taking pictures of their lunch date. I wouldn’t put it past him.
There’s another asinine email exchange between Christian and Ana. He’s obviously got nowt to do again because he’s able to reply within minutes and I want to tell James that the Internet doesn’t work like that. You can seldom email someone and get a reply two minutes later. Then Ana gets down to research, after Christian tells her to start with Wikipedia. Ah, Wikipedia, making sexual deviants feel normal since 2001. It’s true. You can put any sort of sexual deviancy into Wikipedia and it’ll be described as ‘commonly found’ or ‘increasingly popular’. Sometimes it can seem that everyone in the world is doing something deviant except me. I used to like to imagine there was some sick individual sitting in his underpants in his spare room, editing Wikipedia and adding words like ‘common’ and ‘popular’ to the perverted stuff in order to justify his own deviant fantasies. It turns out I was right and his name is Christian Grey.
We don’t know what she finds (thank God, because I wouldn’t put it past James to have copied all the Wikipedia pages across as well as the legal contracts). Ana’s horrified but in an ‘ever so slightly turned on’ sort of way. I’m ever so slightly bored out of my skull by a chapter that’s consisted predominantly of contracts and email exchanges, so that’s enough for today.