Longest awaited book sequels as Jacqueline Wilson revisits Girls series after two decades

While novel franchises are usually released in quick succession, a handful of authors defy the quick-to-publish pressure

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Readers are accustomed to waiting a year or so for follow-ups to their favourite books; an engaged audience and pushy publishers present the need for the latest story in a series to hit shelves as soon as possible. Wait too long, and they may miss the boat.

Yet not all authors succumb to such pressure. Some wait years to update fans of their protagonists' stories, and even decades before deciding to revive their characters and fantasy worlds. And beloved British children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson is the latest writer to announce a very long-awaited sequel. Wilson revealed this week that she is revisiting her Girls series – with a new book about Ellie, Nadine and Magda due out in September.

The original series includes Girls in Love (1997), Girls Under Pressure (1998), Girls Out Late (1999) and Girls in Tears (2002), which follows the trio throughout their early teens. Her new adult novel, Think Again, will update fans on their lives in their forties.


Hands up if you remember Ellie, Magda and Nadine?! The Girls are back and we’re thrilled that Jacqueline Wilson’s new novel is her very first book for adults and will follow the trio as they navigate life in their thirties. Get a SIGNED copy of Think Again via our bio link #booktok #jacquelinewilson #thegirls #girlsinlove #youngadult

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And Wilson isn't the only author to revive their books years and even decades after they first hit the scene.

Here are seven more.

JRR Tolkien: 17 years between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Published in 1937, Tolkien's first novel introduced readers to a fantasy world of mythical creatures and heroic quests. The story follows the tale of hobbit Bilbo Baggins's journey through Middle Earth, accompanied by dwarfs, elves and, of course, wizards in the form of Gandalf the Grey.

Originally intended for children, The Hobbit was – and still is – loved by all generations. The fantasy novel was met with critical acclaim by contemporaries and remains one of the bestselling books of all time. Yet arguably, it was his follow-up book that overtook The Hobbit's fame – even if it took the British author a further 17 years before The Lord of the Rings was ready. By 2021, the original book had sold 100 million copies, and the much-delayed follow-up had sold 150 million.

The Lord of the Rings was published in 1954, with the trilogy of the Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King being published as one book, and became one of the biggest book and film franchises of all time.

Philip Pullman: 17 years between The Amber Spyglass and La Belle Sauvage

Between 1995 and 2000, Philip Pullman had readers hooked with the trilogy His Dark Materials Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the US), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. In 2017, he revived the series with La Belle Sauvage. However, it is set 12 years before the original stories and Lyra Belacqua is only six months old.

It was expected to be the first of a new trilogy by the British novelist named The Book of Dust, and the first in the series follows the tale of Malcolm Polstead, 11, and Alice Parslow, 15, finding themselves in an alternative universe. The novel received positive reviews, with critics noting it was worth the wait.

John Updike: 24 years between The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick

A paranormal novel released in 1984, The Witches of Eastwick tells the story of three witches – Alexandra Spofford, Jane Smart and Sukie Rougemont – coming together after their marriages end, only for their coven to be disrupted as an out-of-towner buys a local neglected house.

The novel was later adapted into a film, TV series and even a musical. The idea came to the American author to follow up with his core characters later in life decades later, with The Widows of Eastwick released in 2008.

Marian Keyes: 25 years between Rachel’s Holiday and Again, Rachel

Irish novelist Marian Keyes has a way of walking readers through serious subject matters in a deceivingly approachable manner. Her characters simultaneously deal with life-changing events, from mental illness to divorce, and ponder on the everyday dramas of love, family life, careers, money and more.

And Rachel's Holiday is no exception, as the 1997 book walks readers through the twists and turns of Rachel Walsh's experience in rehab, as her family brings her from New York back to Ireland to clean up her act.

Like authors before her, Keyes likewise itched to revisit one of her most beloved characters – and family characters, as Rachel is just one of five Walsh sisters whose stories Keyes has told – with Again, Rachel in 2022. The book picks up 20 years later, updating fans on how she's fared in the decades after rehab.

Joseph Heller: 33 years between Catch-22 and Closing Time

The satirical war novel set in the 1940s is often cited as one of the greatest of the 20th century, dissected in schools and by literary scholars. Published in 1961, Joseph Heller – who served in the US Army Air Corps during the Second World War – tells the story of Captain John Yossarian. Non-linear and told from different perspectives, the novel centres on Yossarian as the story's antihero, as he tries to repeatably find ways to escape the war.

Following on from its enormous success, Heller released Closing Time in 1994. The dual-narrative sequel revisits some of the first's characters including Yossarian, Milo Minderbinder and Chaplain Tappman in later life.

Margaret Atwood: 34 years between The Testaments and The Handmaid’s Tale

The Canadian author unleashed her dystopian novel onto the world in 1985, giving critics and readers plenty to talk about. The Handmaid's Tale explores social and political themes, and shines a light on extremist views on women's role in society.

A phenomenal success, the book was awarded numerous acclaims, including the 1985 Governor General's Award and the first Arthur C Clarke Award in 1987. In 2019, Margaret Atwood picked up where she left off, penning The Testaments. Set 15 years after the first, it is narrated by a character from the previous story, Aunt Lydia.

The Testaments became 2019's joint winner of the Booker Prize – an award the original book in the series was nominated for in 1986.

Harper Lee: 55 years between To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman

Published in 1960, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most famous and well-read modern classics, again being a classroom favourite in the western world. The novel deals with themes of racial inequality, abuse and criminal justice as readers follow a court case against a black man, Tom Robinson. He is accused of sexually assaulting a white woman, Mayella Ewell. The story is told through Jean Louise Finch's eyes, the young daughter of Robinson's lawyer, Atticus Finch.

The book won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and remains a bookshelf regular. More than 50 years later, Lee released Go Set a Watchman, which was written before Mockingbird. The book dives into the life of Jean as a twenty-something woman and deals with similar themes of race and disillusionment.

Promoted as a sequel by the publisher, and set in a timeline after Mockingbird, it was speculated by critics post-publication if the novel by then 89-year-old Lee was an early draft of her groundbreaking first book.

Updated: March 27, 2024, 4:49 PM