It started right before the December holidays. I would see my friends huddled in groups and whispering. It was as if we were transported back to middle school and someone liked a boy. Over the course of the next week, the huddles got larger, the whispering got louder and I started to hear references to The Book. It came in spurts like “Did you read The Book?” or “Do you have The Book?” As I’m usually pretty in the mix of what’s going on, I was truly baffled because I had absolutely no idea what these girls were talking about.
Then I saw this Facebook status posted by a friend –
Again, I felt really out of the loop and posted a response along the lines of What are you talking about? Within minutes, she had dozens of comments on her status, all variations of Enjoy!, You’ll love it! and I can’t wait. Oh, and the comments also included things like My family didn’t see me for an entire weekend and I called in sick to work just so that I could read.
After seeing similar status updates and hearing this same conversation go on multiple times amongst different groups of friends, I truly could not believe the absolute ridiculousness of the whole thing. I mean, really, could 30 to 40 year old women seriously be loving this book so much just because it’s technically classified as erotica? Truly, we are all grownups here, not 15 year old boys.
When I couldn’t take the pressure (aka curiosity) anymore, I finally succumbed and began to read Fifty Shades of Grey, the first book in this trilogy, written by a British author named E.L. James. Within pages, I was totally immersed in the story and read the first two books over a weekend. I had just short of two weeks before the final book in was released, during which time I reread the first two. I’ve always been a reader, and I’ve read hundreds of books. But never has a book sucked me in to the point where I read it and then immediately reread it.
If you have not yet read these books, I can bet that you are sitting there right now, rolling your eyes and asking, What’s the draw? And I have to say that the draw is so many things, on so many different levels. The bottom line really is that Fifty Shades is the ultimate love story from beginning to end. It’s a story about two people who are so different in ever way possible and want different things, coming together and figuring out how to just make it work. It’s about a man who looks so perfect to the outside world but is so damaged and vulnerable, only showing these sides of him to one person in his entire life. And it’s about how two people find each other and learn and experience a love that has no limits on its depth. And in a way, it’s the ultimate fairy tale with Prince Charming sweeping a non-princess off of her feet, giving her the world and living happily ever after. (And it’s got some spicy bits thrown in…)
Fifty Shades was not written by a Pulitzer Prize winning author. It was not published by a house that spent millions of dollars garnering press and publicity to increase sales. It was not reviewed by Oprah or on the New York Times best seller list. However, it has turned into the ultimate latest thing to “go viral”, the best example of word of mouth marketing (also known as “word of mom” for obvious reasons). Women everywhere – from Long Island to Boca to Nebraska and back – are reading this trilogy over and over again and falling in love with the characters and the story each and every time. And they’re talking about it to friends and their friends and their friends, and the circle is growing and growing.
Last week, I was able to meet E.L. James at a book signing in NYC and she was absolutely floored by the response that she has getting to these books. She said that she never thought, in a million years, that people would react this way – she is flooded with e-mails on a daily basis from people who are professing their love for her characters and her books, and thanking her for writing them.
Have you read the Fifty Shades trilogy? Have you heard about it? Post your opinions in the comments below!
Editor’s Note: I struggled with whether or not to write this post based on the content of the books. Please note that the books discussed in this post contain graphic adult material and are recommended for mature audiences only.