Friday, October 27, 2023

If You Like This Classic Then You Might Enjoy...

"A classic is a book which with each rereading
offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading."
ITALO CALVINO, found on AZ Quotes

When a modern author writes a sequel or prequel to a famous classic book you love, are you in the front of the line to read it? Are you eager, or reluctant, to see what a present day author creates from a favourite old novel? I admit being one who has been slow to be won over; I ask, how can anyone other than the original author write a book that equals, say, Pride and Prejudice or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Thankfully, I stopped being a snob about it—there are authors with great imagination and skill who have written some wonderful and compelling stories inspired by those original tales. Here are five titles I recently finished. And loved.

If you loved Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice:
Death Comes to Pemberley is the 2011 novel by British mystery fiction author, P.D. James. The book is a sequel of sorts; Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are now wed and living at Pemberley. Things aren't quite so 'happy ever after'—Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are about to host a grand autumn ball and then a body is discovered in the nearby woods. I love how the author skillfully weaves threads of the original Austen novel throughout her own well-told Regency murder mystery. I really enjoyed it.
Longbourn, the 2013 novel by British author Jo Baker, gives the reader a chance to see an alternative view of the Pride and Prejudice story as seen through the eyes of the family servants. While the Bennet family lives their story upstairs exactly as told by Jane Austen, their servants downstairs—barely visible characters till now—suddenly come alive in our imagination. They take centre stage, and we begin to see them as living, breathing people with names like Sarah and James who have their own hopes, dreams, and sorrows. I had a hard time putting this book down.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow was published in 2020. In this imaginative novel, the author focuses on plain and nerdy middle sister, Mary Bennet, and sets her in the limelight as the novel's heroine. I soon came to empathize with Mary as she struggled to find happiness and fulfillment in a world that basically ignored her. From the first page I was drawn in, reading every chance I could, even well into the night a couple of days, because I had to know - does Mary find her life, and love? Well worth reading. 

I found it an altogether enriching experience to read these three novels alongside Jane Austen's. I think the authors did a great job of entwining the old and new story lines into one.

If you enjoyed L.M. Montgomery's 1908 Anne of Green Gables: 

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, published in 2018, lets us imagine Marilla Cuthbert's young life at Green Gables long before Anne enters the picture. She gives the reader a wider look into Marilla's world, picking up threads dropped by Miss Montgomery in the Anne books, including how and why Marilla never married John Blythe, who was once considered her beau. It's a charming tale and fits perfectly as a prequel to the well-loved Anne stories. Delightful and a bit wistful, I'm glad I read it. 

If you are charmed by C.S. Lewis's 1950 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: 

Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan was published in 2021. If you love The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you will enjoy this charming tale in which college student Megs Devonshire tries to fulfill her younger brother George's last wish to discover the truth about his favourite Narnia story. Beautifully imagined, charmingly told, this is a book you might want to save for the weeks leading up to Christmas. I'll be re-reading it this holiday season.

Have you discovered other good sequel/prequel-like books that happily co-exist with your favourite original novels? Do share your recommendations.

She reads books as one would
breathe air, to fill up and live.

Wishing you a beautiful day,


  1. Dear Brenda,
    Happy Friday to you. I have read every one of the books in that lovely stack, and thoroughly enjoyed each one. Now you have me thinking about prequel/sequel books, and I'm drawing a blank for now, but I'll be pondering the question in the back of my mine throughout the day.
    I loved Once Upon a Wardrobe and your reminder about saving it for Christmas is a timely one. I'm beginning to collect my Christmas books for reading in late November and December, and had not thought of that one. Thank you.

    1. Dear Lorrie,
      Thanks for your note. Like you, I've started gathering my winter/Christmas books for reading in a few weeks.

  2. I didn’t like Longbourne, though I love the behind the scenes look at the household, due to the parentage of one of the characters. Once Upon A Wardrobe sounds delightful, as do several others!

    Deanna Rabe

    1. That was a startling twist to the story, indeed, Deanna.

      If you like the Narnia stories, I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy 'Once Upon A Wardrobe'. Although it's not so much a tale about the Narnia stories but more a fictionalized tale about their author, C.S. Lewis, and his acquaintanceship with Megs Devonshire - he was kind of a tutor to her. The book would make a nice Christmas read through December, if you decide to read it.

  3. It's always nice to get book recommendations - I always appreciate them. Marilla of Green Gables sounds like something I would like. I've started so many books of modern fiction that I have set aside due to poor writing, implausible story lines, or boredom, so a recommendation is important. Thank you for sharing. I hope you are enjoying these beautiful, autumn days. x K

    1. Karen, I do hope you'll enjoy the book. Although the author writes in her own style, it has the flavour of the Anne of Green Gables novels. It's set right around the time when Victoria is made Queen in England.

      Looking out my window, autumn has fled these parts and we're definitely into early winter. Snow, gray skies, and windy. Good days to cozy in and read a good book. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. I think I've read all but Longbourne, The Other Bennet Sister, and Marilla. If you suggest them, then I'm sure they're great. I'll keep my eyes open for these three. I hadn't even thought of gathering my Christmas reading yet ... I'm not ready! But thanks for the reminder.

    1. Like you, Joy, I'm not ready for Christmas reading just yet, but when that snow fell the other day, something on the inside twigged, and I felt myself being pulled toward thinking about what might be nice reading in a few weeks. BTW, I really loved The Other Bennet Sister. As the oldest daughter in my family, I have never quite come to appreciate the 'plight' of middle children. This book opened my eyes and my heart, and I drew Mary inside, so she could know she was loved too. (In case she's real somewhere - wink.)

  5. PS. I have another book to add to my small pile of modern books inspired by classic authors. It's titled "Marple: Twelve New Mysteries" and is a collection of twelve short stories written by contemporary authors inspired by Agatha Christie's well-loved elderly sleuth, Miss Marple. There were some stories I preferred over others; overall it's one book to enjoy on a cozy evening, especially if you are a Miss Marple fan.

  6. Isn't it interesting that so many friends enjoy the same books! I have not read 'Once upon a wardrobe,' though it sounds delightful. I grew up with the Narnia series and have read and re read time and time again. Normally I dont care for new authors writing older author's books, but PDJames is always good value. Very soon I shall be sorting out my December reads, which always includes Winter Solstice by Rosamund Pilcher. My Kindle offers me so many 'Christmas' books many of which have little real content......but the cover picture is always beguiling!

    1. Like you, Barbara, I love that connection with friends who enjoy the same books. It's a real kindredness.

      Pondering your comment about being disappointed in many seasonal books, I would like to offer three other novels I really love to read around Christmas time (along with Winter Solstice), in case you have not read these:

      1. Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon. Father Tim (an Episcopal priest) wonders what he should give his beautiful wife for Christmas. For me, this story is a lovely kind of meditation for the season. It's been on my annual reading list since 2003.

      2. Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good also by Jan Karon. Not a Christmas novel per se, but it's set in autumn. The reader, along with Father Tim, now retired, is propelled towards the holy season as the story unfolds like an Advent calendar with lovely new surprises in every chapter.

      NB. I write more about these two in this post:

      3. An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor. As the Christmas season draws near, the good doctors (young Barry Laverty and Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly of Ballybucklebo) have their hands full treating the usual season's ailments and a couple of medical emergencies, all the while living life sorting through disagreements, disappointments, and life's ups and downs.

      Barbara, I love all three of these.

  7. I'm going to look for the Miss Marple stories. I love these mysteries. I can't think of any book to add...but I'll jump back on if I do! I love to read!!! I check out books from my library as ebooks and read them on my IPAD!

    1. I hope you enjoy this collection of Miss Marple stories. Thanks for popping in to say hi, Diane!

  8. Like you, I can be hesitant to read sequels, but I came across one I thoroughly enjoyed for Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier. It's called Rebecca's Tale, by Sally Beauman. Apparently there is another one by Susan Hill, titled Mrs. De Winter, but I haven't read that one.

    I loved Patti Callahan's Once Upon a Wardrobe, and her other CS LEwis book, Finding Mrs. Lewis, was SO good.

    Marilla of Green Gables sounds wonderful. Thank you for the suggestions, Brenda.

    1. Thanks, Karen, now I'm off to look for Rebecca's Tale by Sally Beauman.

      Something I've learned in this little venture, if a new author is going to take a beloved classic and create her own story using some of the original characters, then those characters must remain as close to their original as possible. If someone different is needed in the story, then make new characters to suit. Don't play with our beloved original characters. So unless an author remains true to the original characters, I probably won't enjoy the new book as much. Perhaps that's been part of the hesitation all along.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    2. I've read Mrs. de Winter and didn't like it nearly as well as Rebecca, although it carried the story along well.

  9. That is quite a service you performed there, on behalf of us readers! Thanks for all the good ideas - they are provoking in the best ways.

  10. I might be a little bit of a snob about it, Brenda! I've read the originals and did write down Once Upon a Wardrobe as a Christmas gift since my son has read all of the Narnia books to my granddaughters. I do know that I can't stand it when movie remakes don't stick to the original story and even drastically change the personality of the main character but I'd be willing to try the books with an open mind. I admire you so much for reading the new versions alongside the originals! You have a scholarly mind, Brenda!


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo