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