OK Chapter 1:
Not that bad. Actually kind of compelling—I sort of want to read more even though it wants for creativity in terms of Ana’s internal monologue; for example, we can do better than “crap” or “double crap” can’t we?
The basic premise is that college student Ana is filling in as interviewer for an article about entrepreneur and multi-billionaire Christian Grey. The book fails to haul me in with its hastily sketched descriptions of the architecture, the interior design, and the 2 faceless blonde receptionists in Mr. Grey’s office. I can’t really think of another way that the book could have introduced itself, but hey, JK Rowling managed to draw me in on the first page and I can still recall every word of the first sentence of Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca, so it can be done. Like Bella Swan, Ana is painfully awkward both physically–she trips over her own feet entering Mr. Grey’s office– and in her interactions with others. While this could be excused somewhat in a teenage protagonist, it’s kind of out of place when your main character is a 21-year-old college senior.
Ana’s first sight of Christian Grey is rather underwhelming. He’s gorgeous, of course, with gray eyes– naturally, but apparently no other distinguishing features. Faceless beauty, whose clothing is described to us in far more detail than the man himself. His behavior at least is more interesting, especially as the interview progresses. His facial expressions are more detailed than any mental picture we could sketch of his actual face, but perhaps this is for the best. We can’t invade his inner monologue, but perhaps that’s also for the best, since the narrator gives us enough clues to know that there is at least something more going on than what Ana can see. The author gives us just enough to leave us wanting more from his side, if not hers.
The first interaction between our star characters is awkward and a bit difficult to get through until Ana begins to ask questions that aren’t on her cheat sheet given to her by her roommate, who conveniently developed the flu just in time to recruit hapless heroine Ana into doing this interview for her. The book only began to capture my attention when Ana and Christian start discussing the questions she asks in response to her own curiosity. I can see the S&M setup perfectly here, in fact, it’s kind of heavy handed with Christian’s emphasis on how much he likes being in control. Of everything. But I’m far more interested in Mr. Grey’s character and background than in the protagonist or in any potential interactions between them, sexual or otherwise.
This guy should have an interesting backstory, but I fear that the author won’t build on it since so much of the narrator’s focus is on Ana’s reaction to him. She’s completely cowed, intimidated, and whether she admits it or not, aroused. It seems extremely unlikely, however, that a man like Christian Grey would at all be interested in an awkward, plain (self-described), college student. And even more unlikely that he would take an immediate and total interest based on that first interaction. Of course, this is exactly what happens by the end of the chapter. Mr. Grey cancels all appointments for the day and offers to show Ana around the building, but our protagonist is far too unnerved by him to acquiesce, so she flees from the building. Awkwardly.
So in honor of this first underwhelming chapter, I have for your entertainment 3 cocktails.
(from Virginia Reynolds’ The Little Black Book of Cocktails: The Essential Guide to New & Old Classics)
1-1/2 oz. vodka
1 oz. unsweetened mango juice (I added 1/2 oz. more to suit my tastes, but YMMV)
Stir with cracked ice; strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a slice of mango.
(from the same book as above)
1 oz. vodka
1 oz. blue Curacao
Mix vodka and blue Curacao in a cocktail shaker and strain into an iced highball glass. Fill with cranberry juice and garnish with a cherry.
(same damn book)
3/4 oz. vodka
3/4 oz. Midori or melon liqueur
5 oz. orange juice or pineapple juice (we made one of each)
Mix ingredients in a cocktail shaker and strain into an iced highball glass. Garnish with an orange wheel or a slice of melon.
Stay tuned! I’ll keep reading so you don’t have to.