Book covers for Territory of Light, The Illustrated Mum, NW, Matilda and Sons and Lovers in a collage.

Image: Alicia Fernandes/Penguin

There’s something very satisfying about ending a book, and knowing what’s happened to all the characters within.

But what if you don’t know? What if the book’s ending is ambiguous? Or there’s a question about a character you’re desperate to have answered? That’s when you need a sequel.

Here, the team imagines what the sequels to seven much-loved books might look like. 

Matilda 2: Trunchbull's Revenge

Of all the books I ever read as a child, Matilda by Roald Dahl is the one I remember best and had by far the greatest impact on my eight-year-old brain. It taught me that, no matter how big a problem might seem, you can always think your way out of difficult situations, that adults aren't always right, and that bullies are never the heroes of your story.

My powers of telekinesis remain depressingly underdeveloped, despite my best efforts, but now I'm all grown up, I'd like to know what Matilda made of her life, and if it's anything at all like mine. Maybe she'd be an astronaut, an environmental lawyer or a Booker-winning novelist. I'd like to see if telekinesis was only the beginning... maybe Matilda learned how to read minds, see through walls, fly like superwoman and save the planet. She already has a supervillain arch-nemesis in Miss Trunchbull... back like a musclebound Moriarty to exact her revenge on Matilda, wipe out all children and rule the new world she wants to mould in her image. That is a story I would really like to read. If only Dahl were alive to tell it.

Matt Blake, writer 

Territory of Light: The Sea

Yuko Tsushima’s Territory of Light isn't an obvious contender for a sequel: this slim tome of innovative autofiction from 1970s Japan doesn't boast a careering plot or major cliffhangers. But Tsushima creates such a captivating sense of character and self in her anonymous, first-person narrator that it feels we say goodbye too soon.

Territory of Light is a book about a single mother, her daughter, and the sunshine-soaked home that they occupy. All three act as vehicles for reflection on how society treated - and still treats - single mothers. But it's also a story that teems with ambiguity: we don't know if our character will be reunited with her estranged husband, or not; we don't know how long their home will be stable for. Originally published as 12 short stories in a Japanese literary magazine, there's an episodic nature to the novella that means it leaves you in the most ordinary, quietly devastating way. Tsushima encourages us to live in the moment – but I'd like that moment to be longer. A sequel, I'd imagine, would continue much the same – after the light, the sea, which is what her young daughter calls the rain-flooded roof terrace on top of their building.

Alice Vincent, features editor

I Capture the Castle: Beyond the Castle 

Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle has one of the best known and most unambiguous openings in literature. “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink,” says protagonist Cassandra Mortmain. But its final words ("Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you"), while excellent, has always made me long for more.

Generally speaking, I’m happy with an ending that leaves things open (a bit like life, hey?), but there’s something about Cassandra – her naivety, her kindness, her yearning – that makes me want to know, without any wondering, exactly what happened in her life. Does Cassandra – 14-year-old me particularly wants to know – ever find true love? There are implications in Smith’s book, of course, but I need absolute, certain knowledge that there is a happy ever after, and that that happy ever after involves not just love, but also success and fulfilment in whatever Cassandra turns her hand to. 

Sarah Shaffi, managing editor


As Jonathan Coe returned to the world of 2001’s The Rotters’ Club with both The Closed Circle (2004) and Middle England (2018), so I wish Zadie Smith might return to the world of Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan in her 2012 novel NW. Cleverly titled NW2 (a Willesden postcode still), the novel’s sequel might catch up with its characters 10 years into the future and the past simultaneously. What might we learn about Nathan and Felix, for example, by diving further into their histories? And where are Leah and Natalie 10 years into the future, in a post-Brexit world where the nature of identity feels even more complicated than it did when Smith penned her original novel? The soil feels rich to me – Zadie, care to dig?

Stephen Carlick, associate editor

The Illustrated Mum Returns

Growing up I devoured every Jacqueline Wilson book I could get my hands on, once spending five hours queuing outside of Waterstones to get my copy of The Illustrated Mum signed. First published in 1999, the book follows two young girls living with their fiery, unpredictable mother Marigold in a small flat in London. While undeniably darker than her other work – with Wilson artfully tackling difficult subjects of addiction and mental illness – it's ultimately an optimistic and empowering tale of sisterly love.

Now older, living in London myself, I'd love to revisit the Westward family. The girls would be in their 30s by now. Would their connection be just as strong? Did their unconventional upbringing impact their life at all? Have they become fully domestic, getting through lockdown with weekly Zoom quizzes and late-night walks? More than anything, I'm hungry to read the story from Marigold's perspective. Strong but vulnerable, erratic but passionate, I want to know more about her life, her emotions, and the eclectic collection of tattoos adorning her skin.

Francesca Pymm, social media editor

Bouquets for Algernon

I first read Daniel Keyes’ award-winning novel Flowers for Algernon in secondary school, and it's one of those stories that has really stuck with me over the years. Written as a series of diary entries, the book follows 32-year-old Charlie Gordon, who undergoes an experimental surgical procedure that sees his IQ increase from 68 to 185. Spoiler alert: the ending is profoundly sad. And although I have come to love a tragic ending, it left me with so many burning questions. Did Charlie suffer the same fate as his mouse friend and fellow lab subject Algernon, who sadly passed away after his intelligence reverted? Or did Charlie end up living contentedly in a state institution? Did he ever see his love Miss Kinnian again? Did Charlie (whose memory was very bad at the start of the book) continue to remember that he was once a genius? And did anyone put flowers on Algernon’s grave?

Imogen Rayfield, content producer

Fathers and Lovers

I only read DH Lawrence's Sons and Lovers recently because Howard Jacobson told me to. For many, it's the career peak of man Philip Larkin described as "England's greatest novelist". Written when Freudian theory was first taking hold in the creative arts, it's a psychological portrait of a young man with an unnatural attachment to his mother and a string of unsuccessful romantic relationships (spoiler: the two things are linked). There are also some very, very beautiful descriptions of fields.

It's such a thorough and insightful depiction of young manhood, it made me yearn to know about protagonist Paul Morel's life beyond the ending. We leave him still in his early twenties. Did he become a parent himself? And if so, did he make a better a stab at it than his own did? This, to me, seems one of the central questions of life – and who better to try and answer it? Instead, Lawrence got all preoccupied with sex and wrote a book that changed Britain's censorship laws forever. I guess you can't do everything.

Sam Parker, editor-in-chief

What's your dream sequel? Email and let us know.

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