Which classic book do you wish had a sequel, and why?
In trying to brainstorm a list for this post, I was assaulted by the feeling that I have not read enough of the classics of world literature. Which classic book do I wish had a sequel? First off, which classic books have I actually liked? Well, let’s see.
- The Hobbit? Already has a sequel.
- The Three Musketeers? Ditto, and more than one.
- Anything from Shakespeare? No, he ends his stories properly, they don’t need to be continued.
- Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson? Already has a sequel.
- Treasure Island? Hmm…one could argue that there is a story to be told in what happens to Long John Silver after he rows away, or that perhaps Jim Hawkins has another adventure when he is older. But I can’t imagine such stories being worthy of Treasure Island, which ends rightly without any clear hook for a new story of any significance.
- The Iliad? What is The Odyssey if not a sequel to that?
- To Kill a Mockingbird? It has lately received a sequel, the reception of which has been controversial, to say the least.
- Crime and Punishment? Again, Dostoyevsky ends it perfectly. A sequel would be pointless.
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer? Twain already gave it a sequel, in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Wait a moment. Let’s consider Huckleberry Finn again. I haven’t read it since childhood, but I do remember that the book ends with Jim recognized as a freed man, and left to make his own life. I like the book, and I like the character of Jim quite a bit. No doubt there is a worthwhile story to be told about his struggles to make a good life as a freed man in pre-Emancipation Proclamation America.
“Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better.”Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Where would Jim go? Would he remain in the South, with slavery still legal there, or would he try to make a new life in a Northern state? And where would he be when the Civil War breaks out? Would he enlist in the Union army? Would he try to avoid the conflict altogether? His story seems only beginning when Huckleberry Finn closes out his book. It would provide an excellent way for Mark Twain to confront the difficult lives of free blacks in America, through Jim’s own unflinching perspective, with no childlike filter to cover up the nastiness of racism.
Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is already recognized as something of a modern classic. Set in an alternate Victorian England where magic and Faery are making their belated returns, it is a long, elegant, and at times wild novel. I loved it. Its ending was excellent and satisfying, and yet left me begging for a sequel.
*SPOILERS for the ending of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke*
The book ends with both magicians, Strange and Mr. Norrell, trapped in the magic tornado called the Darkness, which was the result of a curse that a malevolent Faery gentleman had put on Strange. The Darkness follows them everywhere, but also, it seems, makes it possible to travel to other worlds. The final page of the novel has Jonathan Strange bidding passionate farewell to his wife, Arabella. She wishes to go with him, but while he wants to be with her, he is unwilling to submit her to the possible dangers that lie in wait for him and Norrell. So he kisses her goodbye, promises to return to her once he and Norrell have found a way to lift the curse, and departs into the Darkness to explore new and magical worlds.
What an ending! And what a great hook for a potential sequel! Where does the Darkness take Strange and Norrell? What new worlds do they explore? What new magic do they learn? Such a quest would surely be filled with wonders. The two magicians would also change and grow throughout it; their character arcs, both individual and that of their relationship, are far from over at the end of the book. Clarke would have her work cut out for her in matching the success of her debut novel, but I do not think I am the only reader who would welcome her attempt.
What about you, dear reader? Would you be interested in a Mark Twain-penned story that told of Jim’s attempts to make a free life in slavery-ridden America?
Or perhaps, in a sequel to Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell?