I should probably begin by explaining that I really have no idea what I’m getting myself into. I haven’t read this book and I know very little about it. In fact, I really only know three things:
- It began as a piece of Twilight fanfiction.
- It has a lot of sexy scenes and BDSM.
- The BDSM community, if there is such a thing, absolutely hates it.
- The quality of writing, from the few excerpts I have seen, could be charitably described as “very bad.”
Okay, four things.
Typically, when I spork something, I don’t read ahead – I read and spork simultaneously, which I think keeps the chapter fresh, and also allows me to make predictions and to experience the novel for the very first time. I’ll be doing the same for this work of art.
The dedication page reads: For Niall, the master of my universe. Niall is the name of James’ husband, which is simultaneously sweet, and reveals quite a bit about the author’s fantasies.
Incidentally, James has admitted that a lot of the contents of this book are her fantasies, which is just great. At least she’s being honest.
We begin with our heroine who is looking into the mirror trying to tame her ‘unruly hair’. And, like most people do when they look into the mirror, she describes herself to us:
I roll my eyes in exasperation and gaze at the pale, brown-haired girl with blue eyes too big for her face staring back at me, and give up. (page 3).
Okay, so she doesn’t think of herself as being very attractive. Bella Swan, anyone?
Oh yeah – this book is written in first person present tense. I don’t have a problem with first person – I hate writing in first person, but I have enjoyed plenty of books written that way. I do cordially dislike present tense, but I’m open-minded. Maybe the present tense will make the scenes of erotica all the more real.
I just shuddered.
We learn that our as yet unnamed main character is a student and finals are next week. Her roommate, named Kate, is the editor of the student newspaper. After nine months, Kate managed to secure an interview with some “mega-industrial tycoon” in Seattle. Apparently he’s a benefactor of their university, which I guess explains why he’s willing to give a student newspaper an interview.
But….(coincidence alert) Kate is extremely sick, and so now our heroine has to drive 165 miles to Seattle to do the interview for her. Holy fuck. 165 miles. Okay. Time out. You do realize there’s this incredible new invention that has actually been around for a few years? It’s called a telephone. And contrary to what TV will have you believe, reporters frequently conduct telephone interviews – very commonly, when their subjects live 165 miles away.
Anyway, Kate has given our heroine her voice recorder and a list of questions to ask. So really, the heroine is being given a task that a well-trained parrot would be capable of. Why is Kate sending her? Doing an interview is a lot more complicated than just reading a list of questions, and I know this because I’ve worked as a reporter.
Of course, if it had taken me nine months to score an interview, I don’t care how sick I was, I’d make that damn interview, unless I was actively in the process of shooting liquid from my body, from one end or the other. And, if I wasn’t able to make it, I’d send another reporter, not my fucking roommate.
Still. James needs to get our heroine and this CEO together. So. She sets off from Vancouver, driving Kate’s car, and arrives. It’s a big shiny intimidating building. As she gets inside, she introduces herself as…Anastasia Steele. What a unique name. Almost as unique as ‘Isabella’.
The elevator whisks me at terminal velocity to the twentieth floor (page 5).
I don’t think you know what terminal velocity means.
She gets up top and chills out while a couple of blonde underlings get her a glass of ice water and she waits for Grey to be available. This sequence isn’t badly written, actually, as we get a good sense of Anastasia’s nervousness.
After a bit, the door opens and an attractive black man leaves.
“Mr. Grey will see you now, Miss Steele. Do go through,” Blonde Number Two says (page 7).
Sorry, James, but over here in America, we don’t use the word “do” in that way. I understand it’s hard to write for characters from a different country, but maybe you could set your story in England, rather than the Pacific Northwest. Especially since it’s only set in the Pacific Northwest because this was originally Twilight fanfiction.
Alternately, have your editor look for and excise that shit. That’s part of their job.
Anastasia goes inside and immediately trips and falls on her hands and knees. She’s clumsy! What a Bella Swan trait!
Christian Grey offers her his hand. He’s very young, and very attractive.
In a daze, I place my hand in his and we shake. As our fingers touch, I feel an odd exhilarating shiver run through me (page 8).
Anastasia explains that Kate was indisposed so she came instead. They go over to the couch and chairs to sit down, and she admires the décor.
Apart from the paintings, the rest of the office is cold, clean, and clinical. I wonder if it reflects the personality of the Adonis who sinks gracefully into one of the white leather chairs opposite me (page 8).
Adonis. Isn’t that Meyer’s favorite adjective for Edward?
She sets up the recorder, which causes her some trouble, because she’s so nervous. Fair enough. I actually really don’t mind most of the writing so far. It’s not exactly what I would call ‘good’, but we do get a nice sense of Anastasia’s nervousness, which is perfectly natural during this type of situation.
The interview begins, and she asks him about his success. Grey explains he’s a people person:
“Business is all about people, Miss Steele, and I’m very good at judging people. I know how they tick, what makes them flourish, what inspires them, and how to incentivize them.” (page 10)
Nobody uses that word. Incentivize? Really, James? Really?
“I make decisions based on logic and facts. I have a natural gut instinct that can spot and nurture a good solid idea and good people.” (page 10)
Maybe this is just me, but logic and facts and gut instincts are not the same thing.
“Maybe you’re just lucky.” This isn’t on Kate’s list – but he’s so arrogant (page 10).
Hmmm…sorry, but I don’t agree. True, Grey did point out some things that he was good at, but ultimately, what he just said was that he’s good at hiring and motivating good people. Opinions may differ on whether that statement is arrogant, but what he is saying is that the reason his company is a success is because of the people who work for him, which is pretty much the complete opposite of arrogance.
Grey explains he has the right people working for him and he knows how to direct their energies. So Anastasia calls him a control freak. Right. So a boss directing his employees on how to make his company succeed is a control freak. That makes total sense.
Anastasia is kind of a bitch.
Why does he have such an unnerving effect on me? His overwhelming good looks maybe? The way his eyes blaze at me? The way he strokes his index finger against his lower lip? I wish he’d stop doing that (page 10).
The fact that he’s a vampire?
He talks about his power, and then we get this exchange:
“Don’t you have a board to answer to?” I ask, disgusted.
“I own my company. I don’t have to answer to a board.” (page 11)
Hmmm. I distinctly recall James mentioning that his company was incorporated. I don’t know a lot about corporations, but I’m pretty sure all of them have a board of directors.
Blah blah, we get a few more questions, and Grey explains the reason he gave the interview was because Kate wouldn’t stop pestering him.
That’s why I’m sitting here squirming uncomfortably under his penetrating gaze, when should be studying for my exams (page 12).
- What is it with authors who use ‘penetrating’ so often?
- It’s called ‘finals’, James. In a pinch, ‘tests’. We don’t use ‘exams’ over here in the uncultured, backwater United States.
We get another page and a half of questioning that isn’t remotely interesting, and then Anastasia asks him if he’s gay. Because it’s on the list of questions. What the fuck is Kate, and by extension Anastasia’s, problems? I don’t care who you are interviewing, randomly asking someone about their sexual orientation or identity is not okay – especially not in this context.
Grey realizes she’s just reading the questions, and Anastasia explains she doesn’t even work at the paper. Wow. She doesn’t even have a bit of reporting experience. Kate is an appallingly bad reporter.
One of Grey’s underlings pops in and says he has another meeting in two minutes, but Grey informs the underling to cancel his next meeting because he’s not finished. Clearly, Anastasia is just too beguiling.
Grey starts asking questions. He continues to be attractive, and Anastasia swallows for the 4th or 5th time this chapter. We get another mention of his penetrating gaze, which is special, and then Grey mentions they have an excellent internship program. Anastasia is confused because she’s not sure if he is offering her a job.
The interview ends and Anastasia packs her stuff up. Grey’s gaze is stern and authoritative, his eyes narrow, he’s polite, he’s voice could be a challenge or a threat…we really don’t know. What we do know is that she is paying an awful lot of attention to it. I wonder of Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey will hook up before this book ends?
Okay, I lied. I do know a little bit about what happens in this book.
Moving with lithe athletic grace to the door, he opens it wide (page 15).
Grey is so awesome.
Outside, the blonde underling fetches her jacket, and Grey helps her put it on.
Grey places his hands for a moment on my shoulders. I gasp at the contact (page 16).
As would anyone, I think.
He waits with her, at the elevator. Finally, it arrives, and she gets aboard..
He really is very, very good-looking (page 16).
To recap: Anastasia is a judgmental bitch, Christian Grey is a young, rich, and ridiculously attractive man, and James doesn’t know how to write American characters.