Good literature always impacts its readers in some way. The story in a novel can offer you a different perspective on a something or have you questioning the life you live. A good story will stay with you. However, as a novel is only a chunk of the story — and a chunk of the characters’ lives — a story may instead leave you with an inspiration. And this inspiration often will manifest into to a spin-off novel, answering questions you had about the untold side of things, investigating characters, and building a bigger picture.
But spin-off novels are hard to do well. It’s someone else’s characters, written from someone else’s style and imagination. The spin-off novels that kill it are the ones that can conjure the same feel of the original. Here are some of the best spin-off novels that are definitely worth reading.
1. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
Spin-off: The Illiad by Homer
Penelope is Odysseus’s wife. In the classic Greek epic The Illiad, Odysseus goes away from his home, and his new child, to embark on a quest — and doesn’t return for 20 whole years. If you’ve read the Illiad or know the story, you know the intense longing spilling from Odysseus to return. And each time he’s thrown off his homebound course, it’s hell for the heart.
The Penelopiad captures Penelope’s side of story in the famous legend; the other half of Odysseus’s longing. It lights the struggles Penelope had to face in Ithaca and the emotions that weighed on her, as she raises a newborn baby, wards off the many suitors trying to win her hand, and waits for her husband to return, but not really knowing that he will.
2. Longbourn by Jo Baker
Spin-off: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice is the highly loved, ever popular, timeless king of love stories. This spin-off novel tells the same story from the point of view of the servants. What did the unseen, unremarkable helpers of Longbourn (which is the name of the Bennet estate) think of the dramatic love lives of their mistresses? Turns out, they’re pretty opinionated, and emotions run high. In this dramatic spin-off novel, we see Jane Austen’s beloved story from a completely new angle.
And as they say, the servants know everything.
3. Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Spin-off: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Spoiler alert. This spin-off novel is only for those who have already read Jane Eyre, or most of it won’t make sense. It’s the story of Mr. Rochester’s first wife, the psychotic, hateful woman trapped in his attic — before she was crazy. It follows her youth, to her meeting with Mr. Rochester, and her relocation to the foreign land of England.
This novel touches on themes of racial inequality, hardships of assimilation and displacement. It will change your view on the secret madwoman imprisoned in dreamy Mr. Rochester’s house.
4. Grendel by John Gardner
This spin-off novel tells the story of Beowolf, from the viewpoint of the monster, Grendel. Basically, the bad guy’s perspective. The original story is about the great hero Beowolf who saves the country from a terrible monster (and its mother). It’s a story of a courageous man and his valiant feats.
Grendel, however, focusses on the life of Grendel before, on how he grew up and the experiences he faced that shaped him into what he was. It’s a tragic story, chock full of pity and pathos.
If there’s anything that spin-offs have taught us, it’s that the bad guys aren’t always bad.
5. March by Geraldine Brooks
pin-off: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women is a classic novel of family and love, with a feminist outlook. In the novel, five girls are left at home while their father goes out to serve in the war. This spin-off, March (a Pulitzer Prize winner), tells this famous story through the eyes of the father fighting in the American civil war. As he fights against prejudice and inequality for the Union, he witnesses the depths of human nature — that anybody is capable of cruelty and racism.
This spin-off novel paints a picture of the man who raised the 5 most famous sisters in literature.
6. Wicked by Gregory Maguire & Douglas Smith
Spin-off: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
I’m sure most people have heard of Wicked: The Musical, but like many other great productions this musical was based on a novel.
This spin-off novel tells the tale of what happened before Dorothy came to Oz. So it turns out Glinda the Good and the Wicked Witch of the West had been best friends back in school.
How did the Tin Man come to be without a heart, or the Lion to be without courage? This novel tells the back story to give a whole different perspective on the world and story of Oz. It’ll have you doubting and questioning what is good? And ultimately, what is wicked?
7. Finn by John Clinch
Spin-off: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Huckleberry Finn is one of the most memorable characters in the world of fiction. In the original story, he’s the “juvenile pariah of the village” and known to be “idle, and lawless, and vulgar, and bad”.
John Clinch here tells us the back story of Huck — specifically by delving into the story of his father, who’s known only to be a drunkard. This spin-off novel takes you back to his father’s childhood and life journey. It’s a terrible tale of murder, secrets, and sick familial relationships. Finn paints us a portrait of one of the most mysterious men in literature.
[quote_center]Which spin-off novel are you most excited to read?[/quote_center]
Republished by Blog Post Promoter