Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Janespotting: Presumption, by Julia Barrett

This 1993 novel, written by a journalist and a novelist under the pseudonym of Julia Barrett, was my first foray in the world of Austen sequels. It is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice, and revisits most of the characters from Austen's classic. It takes place not long (maybe 18 months) after Darcy and Elizabeth's marriage, and focuses mainly on the character of Darcy's younger sister, Georgiana. Although as a rich heiress she has no need to marry, she encounters two potential suitors in the book. One, the attentive Captain Heywood, is related to the family through the de Bourgh side and has honorably served in the Royal Navy. The other, the architect James Leigh-Cooper, is brilliant and intriguing, but socially little better than a tradesman. I leave it to you to guess which one ends up capturing Georgiana's heart in the end; as you read, it doesn't take more than a chapter or two to figure it out.

Overall, I enjoyed this more than I thought I might. Part of it was the attitude of the authors: they announce in their title that they know they are undertaking an impossible task in writing a sequel to a classic, thus earning my sympathy from the onset. The writing strives to be like Austen, and achieves real wit in a couple places; it wasn't particularly memorable, but it doesn't get in the way of the story, which is the least good writing should do. As far as the characters, they stick closely to Austen's originals—perhaps excepting Georgiana, now less shy and even somewhat determined, but whose improvements are ascribed to growing maturity and the influence of Elizabeth. This makes sense for the story; someone has to grow and change, or there's no impetus to the plot.

Although the story itself was predictable, that's not necessarily a bad thing; you read a book like this for the sheer entertainment of it, not for any deep contemplation of the human condition. And as a light romance, it was perfectly accessible. It didn't besmirch Austen's characters, just posed an enjoyable answer to the question, "What might have happened next?" So if you're inclined to try other author's explorations of Austen's world, this isn't a bad place to start.


  1. Hi Diane, I found you through Jacqui's blog. I like your Janespotting idea. Are you going to look at The Jane Austen Book Club? Not strictly an Austen "sequel", but I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.

    Last night on TV here they played the first of a two-part BBC show called Lost in Austen, about a modern-day woman who magically swaps places with Lizzie Bennett just as the events of Pride and Prejudice start -- and of course nothing goes the way it's supposed to without Elizabeth being there. As Part 1 finished Jane had just married Mr Collins, and I lay awake for a long time last night trying to figure out how on earth they were going to get things back on track in Part 2. Or maybe they're not. Interesting idea, anyway.

  2. Hi Marina, thanks for stopping by! My plan is to visit as many "sequels" as I can stomach, and also sample some Austen-inspired works like JA Book Club and Austenland. Plus there are biographies of Austen, and films inspired by her life, like Becoming Jane and Miss Austen Regrets.

    I know I can't read them all (there are a couple dozen P&P "sequels" alone), but I intend to go through everything in my library, at least. I can't do all of the P&P sequels at once, though; I'll have to come back to them between looking at other books, otherwise I'll go nuts.