Sunday, June 7, 2009

Review: Presumption by Julia Barrett

I know I've harped on my adoration of all things Jane Austen and my inability to leave well-enough alone, eschewing all but the originals on here before and this is another instance of me happily reaching for an Austen sequel. This time the obsession paid off nicely though as the writing team who comprise author Julia Barrett have crafted a novel similar in scope and tone to the original Pride and Prejudice, if somewhat lacking in plot originality.

Many of the characters from P&P make appearances here although they re-enact the original with different characters in the leading roles. Georgiana Darcy is faced with two very different suitors and she must determine which is the honorable man and which the charlatan. Having repented of her youthful folly with Wickham, she is determined not to offer her heart to the wrong man, only occasionally confiding in sister-in-law Elizabeth as she navigates the potential pitfalls of courtship. The plot unfolds in ways that keep it true to Austen's own future vision of her characters as laid out at the end of Pride and Prejudice but getting to that ending parallels, extremely closely, the plot of Pride and Prejudice.

I didn't go into this expecting Austen. No thinking reader would. And the authors who write as Barrett are neither of them Austen. But they have done a creditable job in setting the stage and evoking the language of the time. They have not strayed too far from the comedy of manners that defined Austen and while I would have liked to have seen more of Elizabeth and Darcy's life together, it is perhaps more fitting that they turned their authorial lights on Georgiana instead. There are moments where it seems that beloved characters act out of character from the original and that can be disconcerting indeed but for the most part, they've created an entertaining sequel to one of the most beloved books in the English language.

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