Can You Really Read The Sequel First?

I am rather particular about reading a series in order. So far this has only happened with crime novels and thrillers, that is until two books recently arrived in the post…


James Long’s ‘The Lives She Left Behind’ is the sequel to ‘Ferney’, a book which has a cult following and I know I bought once upon a time because I really wanted to read it and yet now can’t find. Rose Tremain’s ‘Merivel’ is the sequel to her very well known ‘Restoration’. My mother will be furious if she reads this as I am about to admit that I have never read Rose Tremain, let alone ‘Restoration’ is that bad? I know my mother will think it is, sorry Mum!

So I am left wondering, as I fancy reading both, if I need to read the books that these follow before I can read these? Any thoughts?

Oh and before I go, and along the line of sequels, I noticed that Joanne Harris has a new book out, ‘Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé’, which is part of the ‘Chocolat’ series. Now I want to read those but also her thriller books too. Have you read any Joanne Harris and if so where should I start with those?

Right I’ll leave you with that task then for now… Oh by the way I’m going to be playing catch up with comments here and other blogs over next few days, sorry I’ve been a bit rubbish at it of late.



Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

24 responses to “Can You Really Read The Sequel First?

  1. Sharkell

    I am like you and prefer to read books in order. One member of my bookclub once picked the seond book in a sequel as her book choice. I was a bit put out at the time but I read it and found out that it didn’t make any difference that I was reaing a sequel – perhaps it depends on how closely they follow each other (the sequel I read was only loosely connected to the first in the series)? I haven’t read either of these books so I can’t help with specifics.

    • I was having this discussion on twitter with Sophie Hannah the other day and she doesn’t read books in a series in order which I found really interesting as she writes a crime series. I think really its each to their own but I do like a bit of order amongst the madness. Ha!

  2. I don’t always read things in order, and sometimes it doesn’t matter, but Chocolat should definitely be read before Lollipop Shoes, because it establishes Vianne and her history.

  3. I used to think that I could never read a series out of order… it would just feel wrong and I’d worry (yes worry) about what subtleties I was missing. But I recently read Camilla Lackberg’s The Drowning, not realising it was the (fifth?) book in the series. I loved it on its own merits and have now gone back to read the first. A friend of mine, on my recommendation, read The Drowning too, then read book 4. Now she’s going to go back and read books 1, 2 and 3 – not necessarily in that order! She says it doesn’t matter – they’re all books in their own right. A sequel is also a book in its own right, (wouldn’t be much good otherwise!) so I’m sure you’ll get a lot out of it even if there’s a few strands you miss. You could then go back and read the first book as if it’s a prequel, which will help fill in any remaining gaps!

    I’ve got Chocolat and The Lollipop Shoes on my TBR shelf – I really must get round to those if there’s a new one out…

    • It is interesting you mentioning reading the Lackberg books out of order and not knowing as one series I started were the Nesbo books. Richard and Judy chose one of his for their reads and I read the one before that first to try and pre catch up, yet as I went on I felt there was a back story I was missing. Sure enough I discovered that there were books before those that hadn’t been translated yet which I thought was really odd. I have stopped with that series now.

  4. Col

    As someone with OCD tendencies (for example I stack Coke in the fridge with all the labels in exactly the same position and I organise my shirts in colour and shade order!!!!) I would find it virtually impossible to consciously read books out of sequence – so I’d say read in order every time!
    As for Rose Tremain – I don’t think it’s “bad” that you’ve not read any of her books – but I think they are great and I’d be confident you’d really enjoy them – I loved Restoration and more recently I thought Trespass and The Road Home were brilliant. I didn’t know there was a sequel to Restoration till I read your post – it’s now on my list so thanks for that!

  5. David

    ‘Merivel’ sounds very interesting (despite my not liking the only other Tremain I’ve read) but I am going to read ‘Restoration’ first, even though ‘Merivel’ is being billed as a book where you don’t need to have read the first one. I think sometimes you can read sequels as stand alones, but even then I think you get a richer and more rewarding experience from reading the books in sequence. For instance I think you could perfectly well read ‘Bring Up the Bodies’ without reading ‘Wolf Hall’ and still get a lot out of it, but you’d be missing out on a lot too – the histories and relationships of the characters mainly, but of course a scene in the first book is repeatedly referenced as a motivation for some of Cromwell’s actions in the second.

    Another example I’d give is the Canadian author Linden MacIntyre’s trilogy of novels. ‘The Bishop’s Man’ was published in Canada and in the UK two or three years ago with no mention at all of it being a sequel to ‘The Long Stretch’ (which has never been published in the UK) – I read it, and enjoyed it, as a stand alone. Then this year his new novel ‘Why Men Lie’ came out (due to be published here in September) and suddenly all the Canadian publicity and reviews were referring to it as the concluding volume of his trilogy. That came as news to me! So, since I was keen to read it, I went back and read ‘The Long Stretch’ first and, goodness, was I glad I did. Not only did it make ‘Why Men Lie’ a much richer book (there was so much that I would have missed the relevance of without reading the first book) but it also made me realise that there had been things going on in ‘The Bishop’s Man’ that would have had much more weight to them if I’d read the first book first.

    I think the ones you can read in any order are books like Sebastian Barry’s which all feature members of the same family and have characters that crop up in more than one book, but they work in a kind of patchwork way so it doesn’t really matter which order you read them in or even if you only ever read one, because there isn’t a linear or narrative element connecting them. I also just read Alex Miller’s ‘Landscape of Farewell’ which could be seen as a loose sequel to ‘Journey to the Stone Country’ but actually they work more like companion volumes. They share one character and some themes, but you could read either one first and it wouldn’t matter at all – they sort of bounce off each other rather than book one leading directly to book two.

    And then there are books like mystery/crime novels where only the characters overlap from book to book but each has a self-contained plot. I know in my teens I read some of Ellis Peters’ ‘Cadfael’ novels out of order (I think I started with the second or third book) and it didn’t make much difference.

    • Interesting you mention Mantel as I will be reading ‘Bringing Up The Bodies’ soon so I will be able to discuss this further. I have read Wolf Hall but that was some time ago, I loved it.

      I was thinking about this just yesterday actually when I was editing an interview I did with Carlos Ruiz Zafon whose books are meant to be read in any order. I haven’t read The Angels Game and read The Shadow of the Wind ages and ages and ages ago so was worried I might be missing something with The Prisoner of Heaven, apparently they are designed to be circular so this doesn’t happen. Clever!

  6. Ewww! I bought A Wild Sheep Chase by Murakami last month and then got to know it is the last book of a trilogy! *Roars* So didn’t read it and now I’m searching for Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973! 😀

  7. Louise

    I’ve read all of Joanne Harris’ books and you should read Chocolat first, I did read the Lollipop shoes, but I didn’t think it was as good, however Peaches…was great! I wouldn’t even bother with The Evil See, Holy Fools or Blueeyedboy, absolute cods!…Gentlemen and Players was very good, and Five Quartes of the Orange, ooh and Blackberry Wine. I couldn’t finish Coastliners…seems her non foodie books are just meh!

    • I managed to get a copy of Chocolat a few weeks ago so I will be reading that one first as it seems everyone has that advice with this series in particular which I find interesting in itself.

  8. Chocolat is part of a series? I didn’t even know that! I got a copy several months ago; haven’t started it yet but I hope it’s the first book!

    I mistakenly read a sequel first this year – I didn’t know it (The Good Muslim) was a sequel until after I finished it, and then it clicked. No wonder I was struggling to follow the history and events etc.!

    • Chocolat is the first in the series so fear not Shannon.

      I find it odd when publishers send me teh sequels to books without the first one just in case. I almost had the same thing happen with The Good Muslim and I stopped reading as I didn’t want to feel I was missing out on anything. I still haven’t got its predecessor.

  9. Ed

    I have read Restoration and I think it is a very good book. It is the only one of Tremain’s books that I have read though. I am normally pretty hopeless at reading series in order. However, I find that books written in series often have details of previous stories written into the book. Often the first chapter or two is a kind of recap.

  10. I prefer reading books in order as I feel you get a more complete picture of the world the author has created. Saying that, if it doesn’t make that much of difference and you aren’t missing out, why not?

  11. James Long

    So far as ‘The Lives She Left Behind’ goes, I promise you that you can read it first. Making sure of that was the main reason it took me such a long time to write! I hope you enjoy it, James Long.

    • Oh wow, James, thank you so much for popping by and commenting. Sorry this is so tardy but I have had family, holiday and computer issues all at once. I have Fearney too now so I will be reading them both!

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