Everything from ''Pride and Prejudice'' to ''Gone With the Wind'' has been revisited by new, different writers. Our books editor asks, when is enough enough?
When should a book remain without sequel?
Like a lot of book critics — including EW’s Jennifer Reese — I enjoyed Jon Clinch’s Finn. It isn’t exactly a prequel or sequel to Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; more like a riff on it. That’s a perfectly legal thing for other writers to do when the copyright of a great novel expires, or when authors’ estates license sequels, like Mario Puzo (The Godfather)’s did. And there seem to be more and more of these books around.
Finn aside — it’s the exception, not the rule — this is a trend that bothers me. I think it really got started with Alexandra Ripley’s Scarlett. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was a staple of my southern girlhood (I still have my grandmother’s battered 1939 hardcover), and I really hated to pick up its ”sequel,” no matter who’d written it or who’d authorized it. Yet pick it up I did. Though I found it truly dreadful and could only get a hundred pages or so into it, clearly I was in the minority, because Scarlett was a huge hit, by some counts the best-selling novel of 1991.
Soon there were sequels everywhere. Another one of my favorites, Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, gave way to The Second Mrs. DeWinter. Jane Eyre’s story continued. So did the saga of the Darnay family, in a continuation of A Tale of Two Cities called Evremonde. And I don’t know how many novels Pride and Prejudice spawned.
So Finn got me thinking: What favorite novels would I really hate to see ruined by a half-witted ”sequel”? Right off the top of my head, here’s a couple:
To Kill A Mockingbird
The Catcher In The Rye
Harry Potter (can you imagine, in 75 years’ time, if Rowling’s estate authorized Vol. 8)?
And I’m not necessarily talking just high-end literature. I wouldn’t want to see a continuation of The Firm or The Prince of Tides, either.
What about the rest of you? Any particular book you’d hate to see turned into a second volume?