23/07/2024

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Jane Austen Sequels

Jane Austen Sequels

I, personally have never liked the idea of people writing sequels to Jane Austen’s books. No matter how accomplished an author is if they choose to write a sequel to any of Jane Austen’s books they are taking her characters and deciding their fate. My first objection to this is Jane Austen is the only person who really knew what would happen to her characters. Her characters were very real to her and in letters to her family she used to update them on what had happened to her characters so even if she never wrote a sequel she certainly knew in her head what would happen in their lives after the end of the book.

My second objection is that the author sometimes does not know Jane Austen as well as they think they do. When I went to stay with my cousin she very sweetly left a copy of Pemberley by my bed to read while I was there. I did not get very far because the author did not seem to know the characters at all and had it not been for their names I would not have known I was reading a book about the characters of Pride and Prejudice. The line about Mrs Bennet never displaying her emotions so others did not know what she was feeling seems to stick in my head, for anyone who has read Pride and Prejudice knows Mrs Bennet is nothing if not a display of emotions.

Having said all this I have read a few sequels I have enjoyed and I am going to mention two. The first one is Letters From Pemberley by Jane Dawkins which is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. It is a series of letters that Elizabeth Bennet writes to her sister Jane in her first year of marriage. I think one of the reasons I liked this book is that nothing too dramatic happens and all that Elizabeth experiences is more than likely what the new Mrs Darcy would have experienced. By the end of the book both Elizabeth and Jane are pregnant and in the days of no contraception most women probably did fall pregnant in their first year of marriage. The author does not go so far as to tell us whether they give birth to boys or girls which I am pleased about as I think that is something that only Jane Austen should have decided. The other reason I like this book is that there is a ‘game’ for true Jane Austen fans to play while reading. Elizabeth Bennet, on becoming the wife of Mr Darcy would have had to move to Derbyshire and meet many new people and the author has made all the new people she meets characters from Jane Austen’s other books but has changed their names. A true Jane Austen fan can have fun guessing who is who. For example, Elizabeth meets a lovely newlywed couple Mr and Mrs Daley, the husband is sixteen years older than his wife and they are now living at her father’s house as she could not bear to leave him but at the same time her father hates any kind of change so could not move to Mr Daley’s house. Anyone who has read all of Jane Austen’s novels would know this could not be anyone but Emma Woodhouse and Mr Knightly from Jane Austen’s Emma.

Another sequel I enjoyed is Mr Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange. It’s not, strictly speaking, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice but does continue the story after Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy are married. I particularly enjoyed the book firstly because it told the story I know and love so well from the hero’s point of view. It omits certain things like Mr Collins’s proposal because Mr Darcy was not present when that took place. At the same time it adds things like what Mr Darcy did while in town for the winter which we do not know when reading Pride and Prejudice. As I have said it does continue the story into the first few months of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy’s marriage and has quite an amusing diary entry about the whole family arriving for Christmas at Pemberley. It also covers the issue of how Mr Darcy deals with having Mr Wickham as a brother-in-law.

My conclusion on sequels to Jane Austen’s novels is that they must be read as speculations of what could have happened. One sequel I read had Colonel Fitzwilliam marrying Georgiana Darcy and yet in another sequel I read he married Anne de Bourgh. I was momentarily confused before realising that nobody except Jane Austen herself knows who he did eventually marry and it may not even be a character in Pride and Prejudice. I have concluded that I shall read sequels if they come my way though I will not actively seek them and always know that no one can improve on the original – the works of the one and only Miss Jane Austen.