Marian Keyes’s new book Again, Rachel reminds us just how wonderful a sequel can be. We’ve rounded up the best to revisit now.
This week, Marian Keyes is publishing her highly anticipated follow-up to the 90s mega-hit Rachel’s Holiday, which saw high-flying Rachel Walsh wind up in “Dublin’s answer to the Betty Ford Clinic,” something she viewed, unsettlingly, as a holiday. Rachel was complicated, impulsive and relentlessly real – and the book, which catapulted Keyes’s then burgeoning star, drew heavily on her own experiences of alcoholism.
If you’re anything like us, then you have probably wondered at least once or twice what might have happened to Rachel in the years since it was published. Well, flash forward to 2022, and Keyes is answering that question. In Again, Rachel, the book’s sequel, we find her working as a counsellor at the same clinic she was treated in, approaching middle-age, and feeling happily settled when the reappearance of another character makes her question the path she’s on. Ultimately, though, it’s a brilliant reminder of just how comforting it can be to return to characters that once captured our hearts.
With that in mind, we’ve rounded up the best book sequels to revisit now.
The Story Of A New Name by Elena Ferrante
The second book in Elena Ferrante’s highly acclaimed Neapolitan novels, The Story Of A New Name follows on from My Brilliant Friend, which first introduced readers to best friends Elena and Lila, whose lives are the focus of the series. In The Story Of A New Name, Lila is recently married and beginning to feel a little stifled, while Elena’s desire to excel outside of the community she was raised in threatens to become too much.
Shop The Story Of A New Name by Elena Ferrante at Bookshop, £8.99.
Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout
When Elizabeth Strout’s third novel Olive Kitteridge published in 2008, it skyrocketed her career, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and later being adapted into a HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand. In 2019, Strout decided it was time to revisit the stubborn, contradictory character of Olive in her coastal town of Crosby, Maine. Unsurprisingly, she’s as funny and frustrating as ever.
Shop Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout at Bookshop, £8.99.
China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
This is the sequel to Kevin Kwan’s buzzy Crazy Rich Asians, which took readers inside the world of the wealthy elite of Singapore and was later adapted into a hit movie. In the follow up, we meet Rachel as she’s about to wed Nichols Young, the heir to one of the biggest fortunes in Asia, who swept her off her feet in the first book. But things are never simple and a shocking revelation intercepts her plans.
Shop China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan at Bookshop, £8.99.
The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
The Testaments is the Man Booker Prize-winning follow up to Atwood’s unforgettable 1985 novel Handmaid’s Tale. It’s set 10 years after the events at Gilead and provides a new perspective on the dystopian world. Narrated by three women – one brought up within its confines, another on the run, and a woman at the centre of its regime, it’s as dark and brilliant as ever.
Shop The Testaments by Margaret Atwood at Bookshop, £8.99.
Transit by Rachel Cusk
Much has been said about Cusk’s Outline trilogy, which follows a British writer named Faye as she goes about her daily life, encountering a series of people and places. The New Yorker said she’d ‘gut renovated’ the novel (in a good way), while some critics insisted it was auto fiction. In Transit, the second book, Cusk dives deeper into the series’ subtle social commentary, with Faye attending a literary festival only to be talked over by male writers and groped by the chairman. Smart as ever, it’s arguably the best in the series.
Shop Transit by Rachel Cusk at Bookshop, £8.99.
Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The mesmerising follow up to Wolf Hall, Mantel’s first instalment of her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII, this is the book that Mantel made history with when she become the first woman to be awarded two Man Booker Prizes (her first, of course, was for Wolf Hall in 2009). In Bring Up The Bodies, we meet Henry VIII as he’s growing increasingly disenchanted from his wife Anne Boleyn, who has failed to give him a son. Thomas Cromwell strategises to bring her down.
Shop Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel at Bookshop, £9.99.
The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy
This is the second instalment of writer Deborah Levy’s “living memoir,” following her critically acclaimed Things I Don’t Want To Know. Here, we meet Levy having an argument with a neighbour in the building of her daughter’s flat which she has recently moved into following her divorce. She is a moment of flux and the book works its way through the themes of transformation, gendered rituals and empathy, all with gorgeous prose.
Shop The Cost of Living by Deborah Levy at Bookshop, £8.99.
Images courtesy of publishers