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What Came Before: The Best Book Prequels

A particularly unusual sounding film has been in the news lately. Directed by Brenda Chapman, Come Away is being described as a “prequel to both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Peter Pan.” The two classic children’s stories are not typically thought of as going together, but in this version, the title characters will originally be brother and sister. The premis of the film has lead to considerable speculation as to how Lewis Carroll and James M. Barrie would feel about this prequel to their work.

It’s also lead to some serious reflecting on some of our favorites… 

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

 

You’ve probably seen the broadway musical, but Wicked began as a book prequel to the beloved Wonderful Wizard of Oz,  by L. Frank Baum.  The primary difference between this book and the original it was inspired by, is that it’s directed at a considerably more mature audience. Written by Gregory Maguire, it tells the story of the Elphaba, a misunderstood girl with green skin who will ultimately grow up to become known as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her unusual name was inspired by the initials LFB, as a tribute to the original author.

Finn by Jon Clinch

 

Writing a prequel to one of the most beloved classics in literary history is no easy task, but Jon Clinch does it pretty well. In Finn he creates the backstory of Huckleberry Finn’s father, a character rarely discussed in the original novel by Mark Twain.  Even more impressive is the fact that this book is Clinch’s debut novel. The many fans of the original knew Huck’s father as a brutal, abusive, and alcoholic figure, but in Clinch work, we see a side of him that Twain’s readers would never imagine. 

The Family Corleone by Edward Falco

 

It’s rare that a prequel to a classic would have the personal touch of the original author. The Family Corleone, however, has exactly that. It was based on an unproduced screenplay written by author Mario Puzo, shortly before he passed away.  Written by Edward Falco, this sequel to The Godfather tells the complete backstory of Don Vio Corleone and his rise to power in the New York Italian  during the Geat Depression. We learn the backstory of Luca Brasi and get a complete picture of how Sonny Corleone and Tom Hagen rose to their ranks in the powerful crime family. 

Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara

 

In even rarer cases, we see prequels written by the children of noteworthy writers. Such was the case for Gods and Generalsthe prequel to his father Michael Shaara’s classic civil war novel The Killer Angels that brought literary fame to Jeff Shaara. The younger Shaara took a similar writing approach to that of his father, focusing primarily on the two most noteworthy figures of each civil war army. Like his father, he does an excellent job of emphasizing the emotional trauma of the soldiers on both sides while being very historically accurate. Both books were adapted into feature films and shared many of the same cast members.

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