After Happily Ever After

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My parents celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary last month with a party.  It was a lot like a wedding reception as there was a sit down meal, live music and ballroom dancing.  As the eldest of their children I was asked to give the speech and propose the toast.  Talking to my parents before I wrote the speech and hearing their stories about their wedding day made me realise how that day was only the start of their story.

IMG_0875In books the wedding is so often the end of the story.  The full stop in a ‘Reader, I married him’ kind of way.  But in real life it’s never that simple.  This is an issue that I’m battling with in my writing at the moment.  Having given two of my characters a HFN ending in my first novel (Beltane), in the second book in the trilogy (Lughnasa) we get to see what that actually means.  They went through a pretty traumatic time in Beltane and it would be wrong to think that it’s all heart and flowers for them now.  They’ve got challenges but (so far!) they’re facing them together.

How much information to give readers at the end of a book is a difficult question for writers and I guess that’s why epilogues are popular.  It gives writers the chance to show us what happens next so that we get the satisfaction of seeing the characters tying the knot or having a baby.

But some couples need more than a quick epilogue.  Some need another mention in a later book to reassure dedicated readers that they’re thriving in happy ever after land.  Other couples go on to demand new books all to themselves, sometimes from completely different writers.

Elizabeth and Darcy are a great example of this, hence the proliferation of Pride and Prejudice sequels.  Apparently there are over sixty of these with Death at Pemberley being probably the best known.  Other classics (and I use that word loosely) are ‘Mr Darcy and the Secret of Becoming a Gentleman’,  ‘Mr Darcy’s Undoing’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice and Zombies’ (and no, I’m not making that one up!)

My well loved copy of Pride and Prejudice

My well loved copy of Pride and Prejudice

Being a bit of a Jane Austen purist I’m not keen on any of these.  In my opinion even P.D. James shouldn’t mess with Austen.  But that’s just me.

What do you think?  Are there literary couples who leave you wanting more?  What sequels have you read?  Did they work for you or did they leave you a bit dissatisfied?   I’d love to know.

Alys

Photographs from Golden Wedding Party by Maynard Case www.maynardcase.co.uk

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6 thoughts on “After Happily Ever After

  1. Great post Alys. I think there are definitely literary couples who leave us wanting more, but sometimes it’s for the best. As a reader it’s nice to imagine what actually happens after that happy ever after ending.

  2. Great post Alys and congratulations to your parents! Interestingly, my series explores what happens in the HEE for the couple in the first book so I will give insight into what happens next myself. I remember reading an article about Lisa Jewell’s debut novel ‘Ralph’s Party’. I’d read it myself and I loved it and have been a Lisa Jewell fan ever since. Many years later, under pressure from fans, she wrong a follow-up but it didn’t perform nearly as well and the reason she cited (hope I have this right) was that she’d got them to HEE in the first book and needed to cause problems in this to make a story and ensure they got to HEE at the end of it. But the readers didn’t necessarily like them facing problems. How fickle eh?

  3. Congratulations to your parents, Alys, and what a great post. I wish that Helen Fielding hadn’t revisited Mark Darcy and Bridget Jones after their HEA, given what happened, so, like you, I think some couples are best left alone xx

  4. We’re off to Andy’s parents 60th wedding celebration on Sunday!! Its a wonderful achievement and lovely to be part of that. I never read sequels not written by the original author either, I imagine I’d be disappointed because the writing would be different. Maybe one day someone will write a book that will change my mind though.

  5. Hi Alys,
    What a lovely post, and big congratulations to your parents!
    I agree with the girls, some things are best left…I still haven’t read Helen Fielding’s ‘Mad About the Boy’ and I think that part of the reason is because I loved how Bridget’s story panned out…I could imagine happy things for her and Mark Darcy.

    Helen R 🙂

  6. Thanks for all your comments and I’ll pass on the congratulations to my parents. I had exactly the same feelings about Mad About the Boy and I haven’t wanted to read it either. It seems that lots of stories are best left to the reader to imagine the future happy ever after of the couple involved.
    Alys xx

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