After you read a great stand-alone novel or finish a wonderful series of books, do you wish the story would continue?
Of course, this isn’t possible if the author is deceased (though there’s the occasional ill-advised sequel by a different writer). And many novels don’t need a continuation — they ended perfectly. Still, one can dream, and this blog post will do that before it also asks which theoretical sequels you’d like to see.
When it comes to knowing what happens to cherished characters, readers this summer will get a chance at gratification (or disappointment) with the publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman book featuring an older Scout and Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. But that’s a rare instance of wish fulfillment, so let’s return to imaginary sequels.
As some of you know, my favorite novel is Jane Eyre, and thinking of a follow-up to that book seems almost blasphemous. After all, Charlotte Bronte wrote other books after Jane Eyre‘s 1847 publication while choosing not to revisit her most famous work. But if the 1855-deceased Bronte had lived as long as her husband (Arthur Bell Nichols didn’t die until 1906), who knows what she might have done?
In a hypothetical Jane Eyre sequel by Bronte, I would love to read more details about the title character’s marriage. And if Jane’s two-decades-older husband eventually predeceased her, what would her life have been like? Remarriage? Becoming a teacher again?
Daniel and Mirah’s time in Palestine, where they were heading at the end of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, would also be something to see.
Worth reading, too, would be a chronicle of the later lives of the three memorable siblings (good and bad) in The Brothers Karamazov. I’ve read that Fyodor Dostoyevsky, if death hadn’t intervened, planned to write two more Karamazov books to complete a trilogy.
How would adult life work out for angst-ridden teen John Grimes, the semi-autobiographical protagonist in James Baldwin’s Go Tell It On the Mountain? If John ended up having something like Baldwin’s career, that would be impressive!
If there were a sequel to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, I’d be very curious to know what happens to disillusioned “fireman” Guy Montag and the outcast band of book lovers he joined.
The last Harry Potter book concludes with an epilogue that gives readers a glimpse of Harry, Hermione, and Ron as adults. It would be great to see that fleshed out, and there’s a chance it could eventually happen. But J.K. Rowling is certainly quite busy writing her non-magical novels.
If the authors were alive to write sequels, I’d also want to know whether Ravic the surgeon of Erich Maria Remarque’s Arch of Triumph survives World War II and how Maria in Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls fares after things go south for her lover Robert Jordan during the Spanish Civil War.
And I’d be curious to know what Isabel Archer — yoked to a ghastly marriage while still young in Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady — ends up doing with her life. Isabel is smart, charismatic, and independently wealthy, yet wrestles with self-doubt and the restrictions and expectations women faced in the 19th century.
Days after I wrote the above paragraph, I reached a passage of The Master — Colm Toibin’s quietly engrossing novel about Henry James’ life — in which James’ niece Peggy asks her uncle if he intends to write a sequel to The Portrait of a Lady! Peggy is very dissatisfied with the momentous decision Isabel makes at the end of James’ 1881 classic.
Which novels would you like to see sequels to (in the case of deceased authors, theoretical sequels; in the case of living authors, sequels that are possible)? What would you like to see happen in those sequels?
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