To be continued…

Next week sees the release of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”, which revisits some of the characters from “To Kill a Mockingbird” in their adulthood and explores how the ideologies to which they were exposed in their youth have affected them later in life.  When I first heard about this book I was intrigued, not because I’d always wondered what happened to Jem and Scout after the events of the original story had concluded, but because I hadn’t.  The question that came into my head moments later was, which books have left me wondering about how their characters’ futures panned out after the final page?  My instinct was that there would undoubtedly be some, yet the more I considered it the more I realised that for me the vast majority of novels are done and dusted with that last full stop; I may well mull over what I’ve read and how it affected me, but I don’t really think beyond the scenario the author has chosen to give me.  Does that mean I’m severely lacking in imagination, I wondered?  Or is it simply that most novels don’t invite us to question the finality of their conclusion?  Take “Pride and Prejudice” – clearly Elizabeth and Darcy are going to have many more challenges and emotional upheavals together after they become man and wife, but are we really meant to care about those?  The point of the novel is how a love that at first seems unlikely eventually blossoms between them, and once that story has reached its natural end I almost don’t want to know any more.  I can’t imagine Jane Austen wanting us to know any more either; ultimately it’s the author’s choice when to bring the curtain down on their creations.

There are times when a sequel genuinely expands your view of the characters in a previous novel.  When I finished Rose Tremain’s “Restoration” I may not have given any thought to what could have happened next, but when I read the follow-up, “Merivel”, I really felt it gave me an insight into elements of the protagonist that I hadn’t seen before.  On the other hand, every idea eventually reaches the point where to stretch it further would diminish its impact.  “The Meaning of Night” by Michael Cox is one of my all-time favourite novels and as such the prospect of a sequel seemed too good to be true.  Yet it turned out to be an enormous disappointment – not because of the quality of the writing but because it pushed its main characters and their behaviour beyond the limits of both sympathy and credibility.  The ending to the first book was the perfect conclusion to that particular story and I couldn’t help feeling it had been somehow undermined by what the author chose to do next.

I will probably read “Go Set a Watchman” – now that the possibility of finding out about Scout’s adult life has been dangled in front of me I pretty much have to!  I’d love to know if there are any books you wish had been continued; I’m sure there are many of you out there who are far more curious than me…

2 thoughts on “To be continued…

  1. Nice piece. I’m sure there are loads of books that left me feeling dissatisfied at the end but I am struggling to think of them except for Ian Rankin’s ‘Exit Music’ which was supposed to be the last ever Inspector Rebus novel. I recall it because I threw the book across the room when I had finished! Of course he has now gone on to write more of the books but at the time it was frustrating – thinking that I would never get answers or fully understand and I wasn’t even sure if it was supposed to be left open or if there were subtleties present I just wasn’t getting (actually, that happens to me a lot!). Do you have any thoughts on different authors expanding on classic tales (thinking Death Comes to Pemberley/new Bond/Sherlock Homes stories)?


    1. It’s funny you should ask that last question, I was planning to do a blog article about it at some stage! Generally I’m not a massive fan of new authors taking on classic novels or established characters; but then again you have books such as Wide Sargasso Sea which use another novel as a starting point but have since become modern classics in their own right. I’m sure I will be able to write at some length about this! Glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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