'Fifty Shades of Grey' Literally: Post-50s Erotic Romance, 'Thursdays in the Park'
One of the biggest success stories of 2012, sales for E.L. James' "Fifty Shades of Grey" breakout erotica trilogy are virtually unrivaled. Women, and even some men, the world over have transformed the books into a phenomenon, identifying with the kinky protagonists 27-year-old billionaire Christian Grey and the demure 22-year-old Anastasia Steele. Thanks to James' success, now the post-50s set has its own "Fifty Shades of Grey"-type romance: British author Hillary Boyd's "Thursdays in the Park."
Although it sold less than 1,000 copies when it was first published in 2011 by independent imprint Quercus, a new e-book edition of "Thursdays in the Park" has caught on mostly thanks to word-of-mouth and has now topped Amazon's bestseller charts in the U.K. for four weeks, outselling even "Fifty Shades."
"Thursdays in The Park" tells the story of Jeanie, a 60-something woman who meets the man of her dreams while spending the afternoon with her grandchildren in the park. The woman is conflicted by her commitment to a husband who has withdrawn from their relationship sexually and her desire for a life with a new partner.
After 22 years of marriage, Jeanie's husband George suddenly ups and leaves the marital bed without explanation, moving into the spare room and ending any physical relationship between the couple. 10 years on, Jeanie finds herself trapped in a loveless marriage. She finds solace in her business and spending time with her granddaughter at the park, where she meets Ray.
Ray and Jeanie begin to chat and continue to develop their friendship with their Thursday trips to the park. Jeanie feels far from settling down into retirement, and Ray offers her the possibility to experience love again. Will she abandon her loveless marriage or stay with George?
Boyd, herself a 62-year-old grandmother, said she got the idea for the book when she was watching her granddaughter in the park and thought it to be a great place to find romance. She wanted to explore the sexual aspect of older relationships because she felt it was a taboo that needed to be shattered.
"Because no one ever talks about older love! It's an ewwwww! moment. And because longer marriages have a very different dynamic. Just being with someone for 30, 40 years, carries with it a sharing and responsibility -- as well as love, hopefully -- that's hard to explain to someone younger. But older couples are often portrayed by the likes of Hyacinth Bucket and Richard, or Victor Meldrew and his long-suffering wife, Margaret. They bicker and tolerate each other, but they aren't -- god forbid -- sexy!" said Boyd in a recent interview with Quercus.
She continued, "In Victorian times, the average marriage length was more like 15 years -- death in childbirth, shorter lifespan, etc. intervened. But now we can hope to live into our eighties, marriages over 50 years will become much more common. Scary thought, eh?"
As The Huffington Post notes, "Thursdays in the Park" taps into the niche market of "gran-lit," written for the crowd that made the movie "Hope Springs" such a hit.
Since being published last year, "Fifty Shades" has become notorious for its explicit sexual content and controversial portrayal of a relationship involving BDSM. The novel has sold more than 30 million copies in the U.S., and more than 10 million copies to British readers, making James' book the UK's fastest-selling book of all time. All three books from James' trilogy have remained in the top five of The New Yorks Times' bestsellers list for over three months.
James' books have become such a widespread phenomenon, the author was chosen as one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World" in 2012.
"Thursdays in the Park" looks to capitalize on that success, while analyzing what keeps couples together for long periods of time, searching for the ties that bind people.
"Thursdays in the Park" is out now.