August 2, 2008

On "Sequels"

A catalogue got sent to me this week by a purveyor of books, and having a few leisurely moments this morning, I flipped through it to see what I could see. Here is what I saw: no less than 15 Jane Austen "sequels" on offer.

What on earth? Who is writing these things? Who is reading them?

Maybe I'm just a cynic,* but I can't imagine any of these being any good. Or perhaps they might be good in their own rights, but I can't imagine Elizabeth and Darcy Throw a Party** as being able to hold a candle to, you know, Pride and Prejudice itself. I note Pride and Prejudice as especially singled out -- but why? I know it's the most beloved book in the Austen canon, but why should that translate to "Durrr, I must write a sequel!"?

Here's the thing. You can't write a sequel to Pride and Prejudice because it exists as its own little ball of perfection. Darcy and Elizabeth need a sequel the same way I need all of my teeth to dissolve and/or explode.*** I know that in real life things don't tie up nicely like that -- that marriage is the beginning of the rest of your life, not the end of the story -- but from a narrative perspective, Pride and Prejudice told all of the story it needed to tell, and then stopped. We don't need more information than the epilogue gives us; that's moving into overboard territory.

I dunno. I just can't see the point.

Has anyone read this sort of thing? Are they any good?

* Okay, there's no "maybe" about it.

** Note to aspiring authors: I made this title up. You can write this book if you like, if you don't mind that I won't read it.

*** Don't laugh: I get nightmares about this.

9 comments:

Amy said...

I see this stuff as glorified fan fiction. ;)

Mrs S | Blue Archipelago said...

I have read a prequel/sequel (can't remember) to Wuthering Heights and Rebecca and seem to remember enjoying both of them. Budge Wilson's Before Green Gables the prequel the the Anne series could have been penned by Montgomery herself. I suppose there are some decent ones in there if you look hard enough.

kevin said...

I don't mind so much when the novel's written using characters and settings from the classics so long as it's not marketed as a sequel or, worse, the reader is mislead into thinking it's a book by a favourite author. You know the covers: FRED SMITH's character Harry Jones in BRAND NEW BOOK by Jim Merkin. Those are utterly despicable.

glumpuddle said...

I admit I've tried one "sequel' to P&P. It was called Pemberley, if I recall correctly, and was recommended somewhere online. It was dreadful. It seemed the person who wrote it hadn't READ the epilogue in the actual book. I didn't finish the thing as I recall, it was so awful.

On the other hand, I've read books by Jill Paton Walsh that pick up on characters invented by Dorothy L. Sayers, and I've really enjoyed the Lord Peter Wimsey "sequels" - but Wimsey and Co. were already serialized by Sayers, whereas Austen wrote ONE stand-alone novel about Darcy and Elizabeth. So I think there's a difference to begin with -- series are possibly easier to continue by other authors.

Katherine said...

Ugh, I hate them too; I'm an Austen purist. I read one of Linda Berdoll's books, and guess what? She based her characters on those from the 1995 BBC miniseries, not the book itself! As I read reading, I kept thinking, are tese the same people? Plus, and even though I'm not squeamish about sex, I think Berdoll went a little overboard with the sex. And then she had Mr. Bingley (age 4o-something) have an affair with a teenager. Grr. It irks me when authors try to rip apart favored novels like this.

And I agree: where are the Sense and Sensibility spin-offs? The Emma spin-offs? Whatever.

danica said...

Not Austen-related, but here is a horrifying side note: dreams about teeth dissolving (and other horrifying teeth/mouth issues, but I've particularly heard dissolving) are generally symptoms of sexual abuse. I doubt that makes it into many dream analysis books....

Edit by Christine: not applicable in my case, but thanks for the info. Other possible interpreations include failure of a small business, fear of losing face in public, the fortelling of a relationship break-up, etc., etc. Personally, I think most dream analysis is a bunch of hooey.

The Broken Man said...

Eeww, really? What an awful thought. *shudders*

The Broken Man

http://theblogofabrokenman.blogspot.com/

kegsoccer said...

I haven't read any that were truly great, although Pamela Aidan's books- told from Darcy's POV aren't too bad. Obviously nothing can measure up to the original.

bookchronicle said...

Well said! Last year I had Austen-palooza in my living room where I (re)read all of her books. After finishing, many people pointed out the enormous amount of sequels and roughly a year later I still can't bring myself to even read the summary on the back of the books. I suppose I'm in the mind set that if I'm going to read about Austen's plot and characters I might as well just read Austen.