May 262012

It’s generally a bad sign when a book written in a female character’s first-person POV opens with her looking at herself in a mirror. In short order, I knew more about how Anastasia Steele looked and dressed than anything else about her. To be fair, this may be attributed to EL James’ background in television, in which visuals, dialogue and action tell the story, instead of introspection or exposition.

Anastasia goes to interview enigmatic (and improbably young) billionaire Christian Grey. Correction: she’s actually filling in for a sick friend, a journalism student. Thus, she goes to meet Grey with no research, no preparation, no professional boundaries, and no agenda.

The first time Anastasia and Christian see each other, she is literally on her hands and knees after tripping on his way into his office. Like her quasi-mother, Bela Swan in Twilight, she’s a klutz. In the subsequent interview, Christian Grey comes across as a narcissistic, controlling, high-performing jerk, the classic steel hard man. Anastasia comes across as as hard as a pile of talcum powder.

The most annoying aspect of Anastasa has to be her alleged innocence. This is a woman who literally does not recognize her own sexual arousal. While she knows she is embarassed by Christian, she dismisses her other responses to the environment.

Again, the narrative goes out of its way to emphasize Anastasia’s innocence. Not only does she have no job, and no agenda in meeting Christian, she has no awareness of her own sexuality. She’s a lamb being lead to slaughter. It’s so strong that it starts to feel like a disguise so forced that it makes one wonder what it is concealing.

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