Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley
Scarlett
by Alexandra Ripley

What's better than a gripping, captivating, riveting read? Another one, of course. That's where the sequel comes in. A sequel is a piece of work complete in itself, but continuing the story or narrative of a work that came before it. Sounds pretty simple but it can become complicated. A literary sequel can occasionally be more loosely defined. For instance, some books that contain the same or related characters as the previous work, while focusing on an entirely different narrative or theme, can still be considered sequels. Sometimes an author will write a book introducing earlier, backstory of a work he or she has already written. The book is written after the original, but takes place earlier in the story (think the Star Wars movies). This is a prequel.

Sequels can be the second book of two, or the second book in an ongoing trilogy or series. While fans are generally delighted at the prospect of a sequel to a well-loved read, it can also be nerve-wracking for both the reader, who often gets emotionally invested in the story, and the author, who feels pressure to write a second book as good as the first. In the case of crtically-acclaimed or bestselling books, that can be daunting.

That could in part explain why so many authors choose not to write a sequel, despite the highly elevated chance of commercial success. One can imagine how many fans and publishers must have pleaded with Harper Lee for a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

An author's refusal to write a sequel, however, seldom means that a sequel does not exist. Often, other writers take matters into their own hands and write versions. Sequels and parallel works by other authors cover a wide range of legitimacy, quality and fame, from well-regarded parallel novels, to middle-of-the-road versions, known as unofficial sequels, unauthorized sequels or informal sequels, to entirely amateur fanfiction.

Some stories have real staying power, achieving an almost timeless status, with legions of fans, fan clubs, discussion forums and more. These are the books most often retold, parodied, and heavily borrowed from. Take Pride and Prejudice for example. This legendary novel by Jane Austen has had countless authors try their hands at sequels and parallel novels, from the well-known (like Helen Fielding, whose Bridget Jones' Diary was a sort of modern adaptation, and P.D. James, who penned the recent Death Comes to Pemberley) to virtual unknowns.

The Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
The Wide Sargasso Sea
by Jean Rhys
Gone with the Wind is another classic work to inspire numerous sequels and retellings. Margaret Mitchell herself never wrote a sequel, but her estate authorized two: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley and Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig. But a third which got attention, The Wind Done Gone, by Alice Randall, was not authorized by Mitchell or her estate, and Gone with the Wind's copyright holders attempted to block the book’s publication, which was a retelling of Gone with the Wind from the point of view of Scarlett’s alleged half-sister, a slave. The courts found in favor of Randall, however, ruling that the book was a parody and therefore legally publishable.

Some sequels written by others are well-received and achieve acclaim as a stand-alone work based on their own merits, such as Jean Rhys' work The Wide Sargasso Sea. It was written as a post-modern prequel to Charlotte Bronte's 1847 classic Jane Eyre. Rhys wrote the work in 1966, from the perspective of Rochester's first wife, exploring how she became the “madwoman in the attic” eventually introduced in Jane Eyre. If it’s true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Bronte would likely be flattered indeed, as The Wide Sargasso Sea has won several awards, and has been named by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels since 1923.

Some of the imitation out there might be slightly less flattering, particularly for authors who don’t want others borrowing their stories and characters. In 2009 a legal and literary hubbub exploded when a nobody of a writer calling himself J.D. California (actually a publisher called Fredrik Colting) published an unauthorized sequel to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye halfway through 2009. Salinger, infamously private and reclusive, sued furiously and printing was halted very quickly. Debates, appeals, injunctions and more days in court battled on, and in early 2011, a year after JD Salinger died,  the book won the right to be published.

Still further down the ladders is the genre known as fanfiction. A simple internet search for the title of a popular book plus “fanfiction” or “fanfic” will turn up endless examples of writing by fans about their favorite characters. While some is surprisingly good, much of it seems to stem from fans’ desires to see various characters romantically linked.

While all of these offer potential enjoyment, and a much-needed fix for die-hard fans, there is little debate that the best sequels are those written by the author of the original work. With that in mind, we've put together a selection of some of the best literary sequels out there. Enjoy.

 

A Selection of Sequels

Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence is the sequel to The Rainbow
Women in Love
by D.H. Lawrence

is the sequel to The Rainbow.
River of Smoke by Amitav Ghosh is the sequel to Sea of Poppies
River of Smoke
by Amitav Ghosh

is the sequel to Sea of Poppies.
Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie is the sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories
Luka and the Fire of Life
by Salman Rushdie

is the sequel to Haroun and the Sea of Stories.
Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell is the sequel to The Wordy Shipmates
Unfamiliar Fishes
by Sarah Vowell

is the sequel to The Wordy Shipmates.
Small Steps by Louis Sachar is the sequel to Holes
Small Steps
by Louis Sachar

is the sequel to Holes.
Difficulties with Girls by Kingsley Amis is a sequel to Take a Girl Like You
Difficulties with Girls by Kingsley Amis

is a sequel to Take a Girl Like You.
Porno by Irvine Welsh is the sequel to Trainspotting
Porno
by Irvine Welsh

is the sequel to Trainspotting.
Superfudge by Judy Blume is the sequel to tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing
Superfudge
by Judy Blume

is the sequel to Tales of a Fourth-Grade Nothing.
Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh is the sequel to Decline and Fall
Vile Bodies
by Evelyn Waugh

is the sequel to Decline and Fall.
Itsuka by Joy Kogawa is the sequel to Obasan
Itsuka
by Joy Kogawa

is the sequel to Obasan.
Closing Time by Joseph Heller is the sequel to Catch-22
Closing Time
by Joseph Heller

is the sequel to Catch-22.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is the sequel to Little Men
Little Men
by Louisa May Alcott

is the sequel to Little Women.
No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard is the sequel to The Deep End of the Ocean
No Time to Wave Goodbye
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

is the sequel to The Deep End of the Ocean.
Force 10 from Navarone by Alistair MacLean is the sequel to the Guns of Navarone
Force 10 from Navarone
by Alistair MacLean

is the sequel to the Guns of Navarone.
Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub is a sequel to The Talisman
Black House
by Stephen King and Peter Straub

is a sequel to The Talisman.
Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden is the sequel to Three Day Road
Through Black Spruce
by Joseph Boyden

is the sequel to Three Day Road.
The Lost World by Michael Crichton is the sequel to Jurassic Park
The Lost World
by Michael Crichton

is the sequel to Jurassic Park.
Tales from Watership Down by Richard Adams is the sequel to Watership Down
Tales from Watership Down
by Richard Adams

is the sequel to Watership Down.
Half-Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls is the sequel/prequel to her memoir The Glass Castle
Half-Broke Horses
by Jeannette Walls

is the sequel/prequel to her memoir The Glass Castle.
'Tis by Frank McCourt is the sequel to Angela's Ashes
'Tis
by Frank McCourt

is the sequel to Angela's Ashes.
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason by Helen Fielding is the sequel to Bridget Jones' Diary
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason
by Helen Fielding

is the sequel to Bridget Jones' Diary.
The Hidden Land by Pamela C. Dean is the sequel to The Secret Country
The Hidden Land
by Pamela C. Dean

is the sequel to The Secret Country.
The Widows of Eastwick by John Updike is the sequel to The Witches of Eastwick
The Widows of Eastwick
by John Updike

is the sequel to The Witches of Eastwick.
The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks is the sequel to The Notebook
The Wedding
by Nicholas Sparks

is the sequel to The Notebook.
Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
by Lewis Carroll

is the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

What excellent or terrible sequels did we miss?

But wait! There's more...




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