Almost one year ago, I began a journey. Here, now, at last, we come to the end (kind of). I never intended for the reading of one simple book to take an entire year, but real-life (and, in some cases, just plain common-sense) kept getting in the way. In a way, though, I’m sort of happy it worked out this way…not just because one year feels like a nice number; not just because, as previously mentioned, I can claim this as the longest-running Fifty Shades review ever; no…mostly because, the passage of an entire year has just proven the relevance of this blog. Because, believe me, this freakin’ book is still just as popular as it was when I started this damn thing. It continues to dominate the bestseller charts, becoming one of the best-selling fiction books of all time. There are hundreds…probably thousands of web-sites devoted to the series. It has its own merchandise. And soon we will have Fifty Shades of Grey: The Movie unleashed upon us…a true sign of the end times. Long after they should have learned to know better, the Fifty Shades army is still devouring E.L. James’ series. There is only one possible explanation:
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
And so, with Fifty Shades-mania inexplicably not going away, I come to you once last time with this damn book, finally ready to bring this first act of Ana and Christian’s tale to a dramatic (or at least E.L. James’ version of “dramatic”) finale. Let’s do this.
The final chapter begins, as it feels like so many before it have, with Ana waking up. I’m literally too exhausted with this book at the moment to go back and take a look at the actual number, but I think it’s safe to say this is a favorite device of James’. Anyway, what snaps Ana out of her sex-induced slumber this time is that she is still on Georgia-time from her recent trip, and so even though it is 5:00 am here, she still feels well rested and realizes she also has to take her pill.
When Ana awakens she is by herself in Christian’s bed, but the sound of music leads her to the living room, where she discovers him playing the piano. Clad only in his PJ bottoms, Christian “sits in a bubble of light as he plays, and his hair glints with burnished copper highlights.” It’s no surprise that Ana slowly begins to make her way toward him, “drawn as the moth to the flame”… after all, there are few things women find as irresistible as a sexy man playing piano.
Of course, Christian being the sweetie we know and love, is really not all that happy to see Ana, scolding her for not being asleep. Still, he graciously allows her to sit next to him as he finishes playing “Chopin. Opus 28, number 4. In E minor. If you’re interested.” Condescension aside, he even takes a request next, agreeing to play the same Bach piece he played the first time Ana spent the night.
But this piano playing crap is pretty boring in print, and apparently Christian knows it, as he soon moves on to suggesting they make love on top of the piano, instantly making Ana the target of over fifty years of built-up jealous envy from Peanuts‘ Lucy.
Still, even though Ana is turned on by the idea, she is not quick to agree, wanting instead to talk to Christian about the contract. YES. Could this be it?? Could this finally be the culmination of a plot-thread I have been waiting forever to see the resolution of? Could this be the moment in which they sign that damn contract that has hovered over so much of this book?
“Well, I think the contract is moot, don’t you?” His voice is low and husky, his eyes soft.
“Moot.” He smiles. I gape at him quizzically.
“But you were so keen.”
“Well, that was before.”
To be fair (something this book has never been to me), Christian does explain that the general rules of the contract are still in place – he just doesn’t feel the need to actually have Ana sign anything since “we’ve been in the playroom twice now, and you haven’t run screaming for the hills.” More importantly, he will still be allowed to “punish” her if she breaks the rules (which he has thoughtfully amended since the last time she saw the contract, eliminating the set standards about food. We all know about Ana and her food).
Upon learning that the obedience aspect of their arrangement still stands, Ana thoughtlessly rolls her eyes…which of course sets Christian off. Ana playfully demands that Christian catch her first if he wants to punish her, which begins a very brief playful moment – a moment that comes to a screeching halt when Ana confirms that she doesn’t really want Christian to catch her.
“I don’t. That’s the point. I feel about punishment the way you feel about me touching you.”
His entire demeanor changes in a nanosecond. Gone is playful Christian, and he stands staring at me as if I’d slapped him. He’s ashen.
“That’s how you feel?” he whispers.
Those four words, and the way he utters them, speaks volumes. Oh no.
Trouble is clearly on the horizon, as Christian asks if Ana truly “hates” it that much, which in turn tells a surprisingly perceptive Ana that Christian really “hates” being touched, perhaps much more than she realized. Still, wanting to salvage the situation, Ana informs Christian that she tries to go along with his wishes, but is worried that he will hurt her at some point.
“I want to hurt you. But not beyond anything that you couldn’t take.”
When pressed further, Christian admits that he just “needs” to be able to hurt her…although he can’t – no, won’t – explain why.
“If I do, you’ll run screaming from this room, and you’ll never want to return.”
Clearly sensing the thin ice he is now on, Christian plays his ultimate trump card – finally revealing what Ana really said in her sleep a few nights ago.
“Don’t leave me. You said you wouldn’t leave me, and you begged me not to leave you, in your sleep,” he murmurs against my lips.
Oh…my nocturnal confessions.
Side-note: I can’t believe “Nocturnal Confessions” has not already been used as the title of a late-night Cinemax movie.
Anyway, Ana is eager to diffuse this precarious situation, as well, so she asks Christian to finally “punish” her, in the manner he truly wishes to.
“You would try?”
“Yes. I said I would.” But I have an ulterior motive. If I do this for him, maybe he will let me touch him.
Ahh, yes…a classic line that we find in all great love stories.
Christian agrees, and leads Ana to the playroom, where he bends her over a red leather bench and grabs a belt from a rack beside the door.
Holy fuck, this is gonna hurt… I know.
“We’re here because you said yes, Anastasia. And you ran from me. I am going to hit you six times, and you will count with me… I am doing this so that you remember not to run from me, and as exciting as it is, I never want you to run from me,” he whispers.
And the irony is not lost on me. I was running to avoid this. If he’s opened his arms, I’d run to him, not away from him.
Christian proceeds to lay into Ana’s behind with the belt, not taking it easy on her at all. It hurts. A lot.
Christian obviously finds this to be an incredibly bonding moment for the two. Ana? Uh…not so much.
“Six,” I whisper as the blistering pain cuts across me again, and I hear him drop the belt behind me, and he’s pulling me into his arms, all breathless and compassionate… and I want none of him.
“Let go… no…” And I find myself struggling out of his grasp, pushing him away. Fighting him.
“Don’t touch me!” I hiss. I straighten and stare at him, and he’s watching me as if I might bolt, gray eyes wide, bemused. I dash the tears angrily out of my eyes with the backs of my hands, glaring at him.
“This is what you really like? Me, like this?” I use the sleeve of the bathrobe to wipe my nose.
He gazes at me warily.
“Well, you are one fucked-up son of a bitch.”
I’m actually torn here. One one hand, it’s great to see Ana finally show some agency as she proceeds to storm out of the room (“Don’t you dare ‘Ana’ me! You need to sort your shit out, Grey!”). On the other hand, it’s a little much to ask us to sympathize with her sudden realization that this is what he is into, given all the rather clear evidence on-hand before this point…a fact Ana is at least somewhat conscious of.
What was I thinking? Why did I let him do that to me? I wanted the dark, to explore how bad it could be – but it’s too dark for me. I cannot do this. Yet, this is what he does; this is how he gets his kicks.
What a monumental wake-up call. And to be fair to him, he warned me and warned me, time and again. He’s not normal. He has needs that I cannot fulfill. I realize that now. I don’t want him to hit me like that again, ever.
Having run to her room, Ana is soon joined by Christian, who crawls into bed with her, pleading with her not to hate him (he does bring her some Advil and arnica cream, to prove his good-natured intent). The two lay together for quite some time, before conversation finally once again turns to Ana’s concern that she can not give Christian what he needs. Ana continues to mentally wrestle with the situation, while Christian continues to ask her not to leave…
Seriously… can we just cut to the freaking chase, already?? This whole sequence starts to feel very repetitive, very quickly (even more so because you know you’re near the end and you just want the damn thing to wrap up). I’d say James is gilding the lily here… but this sure as shit ain’t no lily.
Finally, Ana seems to bring things to a head by explaining why all of this is so incredibly hard for her.
“I’ve fallen in love with you, Christian.”
His eyes widen again, but this time, with pure, undiluted fear.
“No,” he breathes as if I’ve knocked the wind out of him.
“You can’t love me, Ana. No… that’s wrong.” He’s horrified.
That appears to do it. Realizing that it all boils down to a very simple but very large incompatibility, Ana informs Christian that this isn’t go to work, and informs the shattered Fifty Shades that she needs some privacy while she gets dressed to leave…for good. Christian is not happy about it, but he obeys.
As she prepares to go, we finally discover the secret of her surprise gift for Christian – a modeling kit for a Blahnik L23 glider. Well, I never promised it would be interesting, did I? Though I wonder if it comes with a little miniature figurine of Mark Benson…
Eh, no matter. Ana decides to leave the present for Christian, anyway, including a note that says “This reminded me of a happy time. Thank you. Ana.” She then heads to the living room, where she discovers Christian on the phone, in a heated discussion about business matters – “He said what? Well, he could have told us the fucking truth. What’s his number? I need to call him… Welch, this is a real fuck up. Find her.”
Find her?? What could it mean???
Oh. Well…do you even really care?
Yeah… me neither.
Ana makes one last defiant move before leaving, returning all of Christian’s gifts (MacBook, BlackBerry and keys to the car) before demanding to have back the money Taylor got for selling her car. Christian isn’t happy about this, but when he realizes Ana won’t take no for an answer, he finally gives in and arranges for Taylor to give her a ride home. This means they must wait for Taylor to bring his car around, which in turn means one last awkward, uncomfortable moment between them.
I turn back to face Christian. We are four feet apart. He steps forward, and instinctively I step back. He stops, and the anguish in his expression is palpable, his grey eyes burning.
“I don’t want you to go,” he murmurs, his voice full of longing.
“I can’t stay. I know what I want and you can’t give it to me, and I can’t give you what you need.”
He takes another step forward, and I hold up my hands.
“Don’t, please.” I recoil from him. There’s no way I can tolerate his touch now, it will slay me. “I can’t do this.”
The two share a final somber goodbye, and Ana finally steps out of what I can only assume is the smell-of-sex-infused apartment for (allegedly) the last time.
The elevator doors close and it whisks me down to the bowels of the basement and to my own personal hell.
Whether or not it does so with “terminal velocity” is not elaborated on.
On the ride home, a brokenhearted Ana reflects on her misery.
Shit – I’ve left him. The only man I’ve ever loved. The only man I’ve ever slept with.
Geez, you’re 21 years old and just lost your virginity like a month ago, Ana. Not exactly the end of the world here (and, I know, I could be more sympathetic toward her feelings…but this book really just sucks the humanity right out of you).
Once home, Ana collapses on her bed, defeated – “the physical pain from the bite of a belt is nothing, nothing compared to the devastation.” As Ana lets loose her anguish, we finally come to the end, with four words that are both incredibly thrilling and yet somehow also oddly threatening:
End of Part One
And there it is. I did it. Against all odds, I finally finished Fifty Shades of Grey.
Oh my, it feels good.
* * * * * * * * * *
Only two more “oh my’s” in the book’s final chapter. For a while there near the beginning, I really thought we’d get up into the triple digits, but instead we end up with a still-not-too-shabby grand total of:
The Official George Takei “Oh My” Counter® = 63!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In case you missed it, it needs to be said again – Fifty Shades of Grey is awful. If I haven’t made that clear throughout this review, I apologize. Those who have read the entirety of this blog know that I started this project intending to write a humorous piece charting my own evolution as a lover using what I learned from the book. This aspect was quickly dropped as I became more and more horrified/dismayed by what I was reading. Suddenly, that joke seemed less and less relevant as I instead felt compelled to comment on what I see as a quite disturbing tale. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with consensual BDSM relationships – it’s not really my cup of tea, but whatever floats the boat of consenting adults is fine by me. The problem here is the nagging question of just how consensual this relationship is. Ana is a very problematic heroine, embodying the worst aspects of Bella Swan and somehow going even further with the whole “well, I’ll just do whatever makes him happy, even though he appears to be a dangerous, possessive maniac” vibe. Combine that with a depressing lack of imagination in James’ writing style (even – or especially – within the sex scenes, which are clearly the book’s main selling point), and you end up with a boring, disgusting and at times downright deplorable piece of crap that somehow does the unthinkable – it gives you a new appreciation of the writing “skills” of Stephenie Meyer.
But, hey, what do I know? Fifty Shades remains incredibly popular…and, in all seriousness, I am not here to mock anyone who truly enjoys this book for whatever reason. I mean, I will tell you that there is certainly a lot of much-better, well-written erotica out there that you could be reading instead, but that’s up to you.
Whether you’re a fan of the book or not, I hope you’ve enjoyed this trek through the chapters with me. I’ve truly loved all the feedback I have received from readers, and especially appreciated the kind words I got during a pretty rough personal time. You all rock… and you’re not done with me yet. This site isn’t going anywhere. I encourage you to continue telling your friends and others online about the blog, and in return I promise to finally get to that Fifty Shades magazine…