Fifty Shades sends Tess of the d’Urbervilles skyrocketing

This is certainly an unusual piece of news – and certainly not two novels that I would expect to feature in the same story, but yes, it’s true. Fifty Shades of Grey, the hugely successful erotic novel has reportedly sent sales of Tess of the d’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy skyrocketing.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said that since May, when Fifty Shades of Grey was published, sales of Thomas Hardy’s classical novel have increased threefold. A spokesman for Waterstones said sales of the novel had doubled since the publication of Fifty Shades.

Interestingly, there are references to this wonderful Hardy novel in Fifty Shades that may have inspired this increase in sales. In Fifty Shades, character Ana Steele is completing an essay on Tess when she meets Christian Grey, the man who is responsible for millions of swooning women across the world. Grey later sends Steele an 1891 first edition of the novel.

I really am delighted that this novel has increased the sales of Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I read Tess over a year ago, and I was utterly enthralled from start to finish, particularly with the sensual but deeply innocent Tess Durbyfield. It’s fantastic that this novel has increased in popularity and it’s certainly deserving of the attention.

On the other hand, it’s a shame that it takes a badly written erotic novel to make people turn to the classics. It’s not like Tess has been an underground thing, the book’s been around for years and it’s maintained popularity. I find it strange that people are only reading this truly wonderful novel now – as a result of Fifty Shades.

4 comments on “Fifty Shades sends Tess of the d’Urbervilles skyrocketing

  1. The ONLY good thing to come from 50 is its forcing people to read the classics. The same thing happened with Twilight and Wuthering Heights because it was Bella’s favorite book, or something like that. I don’t understand the hype, but I guess if it gets people to read the classics they at least have one thing going for them, even if that is the only thing.


    • Hi, thanks for your comment! I see what you mean, I suppose at the end of the day at least people are reading them, even if it’s for slightly bewildering reasons. Another one was when Kate Bush’s song Wuthering Heights, based on the book, sent the book to the top of the bestseller list. Although that doesn’t annoy me very much as Kate Bush’s song was fantastic and really captured the essence of the book.

  2. I think there’s a lot more going on here than just a “bad” book making people go back to reading a classic. Fifty Shades not only mentions Tess in passing. Its evocation of Hardy’s novel is more nuanced, It deserves more than a dismissive shrug.

    • Hi Yael, thanks for commenting. Having actually read (most of) Fifty Shades of Grey since I wrote this post, I can agree with you completely that E.L James does use Tess of the D’Urbervilles as a tool to tell her story. Unfortunately it is still my opinion that the novel itself is utterly dreadful, terribly written and in no way anywhere near the standard of Hardy’s Tess. But opinions are opinions! I get the impression that you like Fifty Shades, so if so, I hope my comment won’t be offensive! Thanks again for reading and commenting. 🙂

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