EL James may have bagged another number one bestseller slot, but the public appetite for Christian Grey’s violent sexual antics appears to be on the slide, with the latest Fifty Shades novel selling 300,000 copies fewer than its predecessor in its first week on sale.
Darker is the second volume in James’s project to retell the story of Grey and Anastasia Steele’s BDSM relationship through the eyes of the millionaire businessman. According to the Bookseller, it sold just over 85,000 copies on publication last week – enough to catapult the novel to the top of the book charts, but only 22% of the 385,972 copies notched up in a week by the retelling’s first volume, Grey, in 2015.
“Since that summer of 2012, when the Fifty Shades of Grey series sold over 10m copies and spent a combined 22 weeks in the number one spot, the public’s passion for the series seems to be waning,” wrote the magazine’s Kiera O’Brien. “Grey’s enormous 1.1m-copy total volume was not quite a quarter of the even more enormous 4.7m Fifty Shades of Grey shifted, and the Fifty Shades Darker film tie-in, released earlier this year, sold fewer than half what the Fifty Shades of Grey tie-in did in 2015.”
The decline in sales comes in the wake of a series of allegations of sexual abuse by a number of high-profile men in the cultural sphere, from Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey. In a book review for the Telegraph, Anthony Cummins pointed out that “the timing doesn’t seem good” for the latest instalment in the Fifty Shades juggernaut.
“The recent Harvey Weinstein allegations might seem to muddy the already questionable appeal of a ‘sensuous romance’ built around the magnetism of a predatory tycoon,” wrote Cummins. “The original novel, published in 2011, was always disconcerting, but rereading it amid the ongoing flood of testimony to the abuse of male power makes one’s mind boggle that there was ever a good time for this unsavoury hymn to workplace harassment.”