Columns > Published on August 27th, 2012

Unsanctioned: Sequels To Classic Novels Written By Different Authors

A literary trend I've never been able to support is that of sequels to classic novels written by different authors. Even when the author's estate actually sanctions these sequels, I will never consider them canon. I've read a few of them out of sheer curiosity and a penchant for masochism, and I cannot recommend a single one. 

Alexandra Ripley's Scarlett, the sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone With the Wind, immediately comes to mind. While it should be interesting to follow Scarlett to her ancestors' land in Ireland, the novel is remarkably unremarkable, an 800-some odd page exercise in tedium. Ripley even managed to sap the life out of Mitchell's prickly heroine, turning the legendary hellion into a well-behaved, dowdy homemaker. 

Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is guilty of inspiring a staggering number of unsanctioned sequels, including M.K. Baxley's The Cumberland Plateau, Linda Berdoll's Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife, Ted and Marilyn Bader's Desire and Duty, and any number of vampire-related sequels. I've only read Mr. Darcy Takes A Wife and found it rather trashy, and I can't imagine any of the others are much better.

Recently Eoin Colfer wrote a sequel to the already sequel-heavy Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series called And Another Thing..., David Benedictus supplemented the Winnie the Pooh trust with Return to the Hundred Acre Wood and Bram Stoker's grandnephew Dacre Stoker published the book Dracula The Un-Dead. There are sequels written by different authors to Treasure IslandSherlock HolmesWar of the WorldsRobinson Crusoe and many, many more.

I simply can't muster up any enthusiasm for this medium. I feel that writing a sequel to another author's characters is in poor taste. Certainly the original authors had plans for those characters, secret plans hidden deep within their hearts that have now manifested into something else, someone else's future for their creations. 

What bothers me most about these sequels is that they inevitably spell out the happy endings left to our imagination by the original authors. We can imagine that Darcy and Lizzy will live in wedded bliss. I have a pretty good feeling that Scarlett would have gotten Rhett back one day. But these sequels can't trust us to be satisfied with the ambiguous. They must make the happy endings concrete and tangible - even when the original author didn't intend it.

Let's embark on an exercise, shall we? I'll start. I'm going to conceive of a few unsanctioned sequels to some of the most sacred novels of all time, and then you guys join me in the comments with your picks. 

The Great Carraway, sequel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Nick Carraway travels back West after Jay Gatsby's funeral, where he gets in on the ground floor of plastics and begins to build up his fortune. Ten years later, he moves back to West Egg and purchases Gatsby's mansion, where he then throws elaborate parties with the intention of wooing back Jordan Baker, whom he has never forgotten. Jordan is now married to a gruff man named Rob who is having an affair with a woman named Shirley, and the events of The Great Gatsby repeat themselves with new characters, except that no one dies and Rob happily steps aside so Nick and Jordan can be together forever.

The Fruits of Love, sequel to The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Tom Joad becomes an agent of The New Deal, fighting oppression and promoting equal rights wherever he goes. When Ma Joad dies, Rosasharn takes her rightful place as the dreamy matriarch of the family, and with Tom's help, the Joad Family ekes out a suitable living in California. Rosasharn meets and falls in love with a fellow migrant from Oklahoma, and they have many fat babies together. The Joad Family lives in comfort, love and happiness for the rest of their days, rising above the Great Depression and the trials of their past with a can-do attitude and some jolly good luck. 

The Mockingbird's Song, sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Scout grows up and marries Dill, and they have cute little kiddos together. Boo Radley moves into their house and raises the children as if they were his own grandkids, and through years of affection, he slowly becomes more gregarious and confident. Atticus is elected town judge and he continues to fight for civil rights and justice the rest of his days. Jem becomes a professional baseball player and a national celebrity. Tom Robinson cheerfully haunts the happy family as the perky ghost in the attic. 

Okay, now it's your turn! Speak up in the comments.

About the author

Meredith is a writer, editor and brewpub owner living in Houston, Texas. Her four most commonly used words are, "The book was better."

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