Friday, 11 April 2014

Lit Nerd Recommends: Prequels, Sequels and Re-Writes

I don't know about you guys, but I love it when an author takes on the challenge of writing a prequel, sequel or re-write of a classic. There is something about meeting favourite characters in a different setting and under different circumstances that is just really quite satisfying. Particularly when they are characters that are memorable and lovable (or even hate-able, actually). I thought I'd share 10 such books which do just that and have been particularly memorable - one of these novels I read when I was about 15. If you hang about to the end there are also a couple of bonus recommendations!

1. Havisham by Ronald Frame
A prequel to Dickens's Great Expectations which focuses on the character of Miss Havisham. The writing style is rich and rewarding and the story intriguing.

2. The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

Feminist retellings of fairy tales - vicious, violent and so so good.

3. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

A prequel to Jane Eyre focusing on 'the madwoman in the attic' and the background to her madness. It seems to be a marmite book but I enjoyed the writing even if the story didn't grab me as I expected it to.

4. The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

I guess you could call this a sequel - Horowitz has written another Sherlock Holmes mystery that is full of twists, turns and all the phrases you expect to read. Elementary.

5. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood

A retelling of Homer's Odyssey. This is one of the most amazing retellings I have ever read, so much so that I reread it every couple of years. 

6. Mrs De Winter by Susan Hill

Hill's sequel to du Maurier's Rebecca has been much slated (so I have just found out) but I liked revisiting the story and Hill's writing is always top notch.

7. Mary Reilly by Valerie Martin

A retelling of Jekyll and Hyde from the point of view of Mary Reilly, Dr Jekyll's servant. As with everything Martin has written, the story is engaging, enthralling, riveting etc. etc. (you get that I liked it?).

8. William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher

I don't think this needs any explanation. Shakespeare and Star Wars is a marriage made in Lit Nerdy heaven.

9. The Innocents by Francesca Segal

This is roughly and loosely based on Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence and was longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction in 2013.

10. Not So Quiet...Stepdaughters of War by Helen Zenna Smith

Commissioned to write a satire of All Quiet on the Western Front, Smith thought 'screw it' and wrote a harrowing 'female' version instead which looks at the lives of a group of female ambulance drivers just behind the front line.

Bonus Recommendations:

Movie - 10 Things I Hate About You
Based on one of the best Shakespeare plays (in my opinion, at least), The Taming of the Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You puts Shakespeare in an American high school with hilarious and heart warming results. There is Heath Ledger. And he sings. I rest my case.

TV Series - Shakespeare Retold

This mini series of four Shakespeare plays retold in new settings was aired way back in 2005. Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Taming of the Shrew were adapted and modernised by the BBC with an all-star cast for each 'play'. As much as I love Willy-Shakes, I always enjoy a modern adaptation and these are some of the best I've seen.

Have you read/seen any of these? Can you recommend any other prequels, sequels or re-writes?



  1. I've been researching previous women's prize longlists & would definitely like the read The Innocents.

    P.S. Love your new blog header!

  2. I loved The Bloody Chamber, I read it at the end of last year and don't know how I lived so long without it! Like you, I've also reread The Penelopiad, such a great book.

    Loved this post Ellie, all the books I haven't already read have gone straight on my wishlist :)

  3. I've only read The Penelopiad, but there are so many of these books I would really like to read like Havisham and Wide Sargasso Sea. Did you hear that Anthony Horowitz has a new book out called Moriarty?

  4. I read The Innocents, and had quite a few problems with this book, but it might have been due to my own ... un-intelligence? Non-intelligence? (Sometimes it really shows that English isn't my native language...) Anyway, maybe I just didn't get the book because I haven't read The Age of Innocence - something that needs to be fixed, really.

  5. I have 'The Hound of the D'Urbervillies' by Kim Newman in my TBR pile.... [grin]

  6. My sister watches Shakespeare Retold on a regular basis, every time she needs a bit of a lazy evening with something fun. Also, I know I definitely HAVE owned The Penelopiad and Mary Reilly at SOME point... but since we moved I haven't seen either of them. Do I still have them somewhere? The mystery continues... :)

  7. Great list. I haven't read any of these yet, but I definitely have to add some of them to my tbr list.


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