Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett – A Review

The Pride Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge (2013)This is my sixth selection for The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013, our year-long event honoring Jane Austen’s second published novel. Please follow the link above to read all the details of this reading and viewing challenge. Sign up’s are open until July 1, 2013.

My Review:

Before Mr. Darcy’s Little Sister (2010), Miss Darcy Falls in Love (2011), Georgiana Darcy’s Diary (2012) or Loving Miss Darcy (2013), or any of the other numerous Pride and Prejudice sequels elevating Georgiana Darcy to main character, there was Presumption: An Entertainment, by Julia Barrett (1993). Of all of the minor characters in Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s younger sister is the logical choice to continue the story. She has many points in her favor. Being young, beautiful, wealthy, and accomplished she is certainly heroine material—and living at Pemberley with her brother Fitzwilliam and sister-in-law Elizabeth does not hurt either.

The first Pride and Prejudice sequel ever published, Pemberley Shades (1949), also continued her story. What could go wrong in this scenario you ask? Well plenty, if the author takes the liberties that Barrett does—but that does not mean the story is not enjoyable—if you can abide change, and the characters acting in a conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, or lady. I will hint that the title Presumption foreshadows more than mirroring Austen’s use of verbs in her own titles.

Published the same year as another early Austenesque sequel, Pemberley: or Pride and Prejudice Continued, by Emma Tennant, Austen fans must have been agog to see two books available at the same time. Since there were very few Austenesque novels before them, and even fewer still in print, they were forging virgin territory. It appears that the media was surprised too and Presumption received some early rave reviews: “An elegant emulation and continuation of Pride and Prejudice. . . . Jointly composed by two admirers of Jane Austen, the book often achieves crisp replication of her style. . . . Presumption shows how sequel-writing can, like parody, be a sharp exercise in literary appreciation.”—Peter Kemp, Times Literary Supplement. Wow! Any author would be thrilled to receive such praise from the esteemed London newspaper that Austen mentions in P&P and read herself. In the pursuit of more back story I read reviews at Amazon.com. They are more recent, but the general public was more critical and at times abusive. This was not surprising considering that someone was tinkering with Austen and her beloved characters.

Presumption An Entertainment, by Julia Barrett (1995)I first read Presumption in 1999, and like Pemberley: of Pride and Prejudice Continued, my first impressions were not as favorable as I had hoped. As I explained in my previous review of the later, you must put yourself into the shoes of a reader pre-P&P 1995 (Austen Renaissance), because everything in the Jane Austen universe changed dramatically after the airing of the A&E/BBC mini-series starring Colin Firth. It altered the way we think of her as an author and introduced her writing to many new readers—now primed and ready to consume anything Austen related—including the new burgeoning Austenesque sequel genre. In this year of Pride and Prejudice’s 200th anniversary of publication, in addiction to re-reading the novel, I wanted to re-visit many of the early sequels.  So here we are—and back to Georgiana Darcy and her romances.

On the eve of Georgiana’s coming out ball, we are reintroduced to many of the original characters from Pride and Prejudice, and a few new ones too. It has been two years since the marriage of Fitzwilliam Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet. The couple is very happily married, but because of her previous social standing, Mrs. Darcy feels the slight of relations and Society, and is overcompensating by elaborate plans for Georgiana’s coming out party at Pemberley. Mr. Darcy is focused on improvements to his estate and has hired a young architect James Leigh-Cooper who has arrived and is staying at Pemberley for the duration. Also on the guest list are Darcy’s imperious aunt Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her sickly daughter Ann who have chosen to stay with family friend and neighbor, Sir Geoffrey Portland of Denby Park, while they are in Derbyshire. The majority of the story involves Georgiana’s choice of suitors while orbiting characters such as Elizabeth’s married sisters Lydia Wickham and her husband George, Jane, husband Charles, and his sister Caroline Bingley and others.

While Barrett writes in a style of the period, it is at the same time modern and accessible. I found myself laughing quite frequently at not only her wit , but at  her blunders. She trips up on facts quite frequently that readers in 1993 may not have caught, but modern and more savvy Austen readers today will notice in a flash: Georgiana is 17, and should be 19 according to my calculations; Elizabeth is called both Lizzy and Lizzie (oh my); and other tidbits that I will let you discover. Just let them pass and enjoy the story. Unfortunately, Barrett broke the cardinal rule of Austenesque fanfiction: do not, DO NOT, have Austen’s character acting outside their established personalities. (Spoilers: avert your eyes and skip if you are squeamish. Elizabeth’s Aunt Phillips, obliging hostess and head gossip of Meryton, is imprisoned for theft? And, Caroline Bingley, who strove every day to be higher in her station, elopes with a penniless scoundrel?) Yes, characters can change and grow emotionally, but within reason, please. The plot is rather thin, and blunders aside, my second reading improved my opinion over-all. As an early effort I admire Barrett’s bravery and wit. But, in comparison to the four recent Georgiana sequels mentioned at the top of this review, Presumption lives up to everything that its title alludes to.

3 out of 5 Regency Stars

Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett
University of Chicago Press (2nd ed 1995)
Trade paperback (238) pages
ISBN: 978-0226038131

Cover image courtesy University of Chicago Press © 1995; text Laurel Ann Nattress © 2013, Austenprose

42 thoughts on “Presumption: An Entertainment: A Sequel to Pride and Prejudice, by Julia Barrett – A Review

  1. I first read this 6+ years ago and rated it 5 stars. Before the explosion of published JAFF. Here was my 2007 Amazon review.
    “By the first chapter I knew this was not to disappoint! The language is very Austenesque and the wit is extremely enjoyable. The new characters are interesting and the classic P&P characters are loveable as ever. Georgianna channels a bit more of Elizabeth than expected but was fitting for this story. This is definitely a Georgianna story more than a Lizzy and Darcy — but entertaining just the same. (The ending, however, wraps up very quickly– almost too quickly.) I enjoyed this so much I found myself reading complete passages aloud! I believe Jane Austen would have been proud to have inspired such a novel.”
    Obviously, I was very entertained — I may have to re- read to see how my first impressions measure these days.

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  2. This was one of the first Austenesque books I read and I remember enjoying it. Now that I have a few (dozen) more under my belt, I’ll have to check it out again one of these days and see if I feel the same.

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  3. This was also one of the first Austen sequels that I read way back in the 90’s. I also did not have a favorable impression, but may still have my copy lurking on my Jane Austen shelf. This review gives me hope that if I pull my old copy back out again, I may be pleasantly surprised.

    I still need to sign up for this challenge . . . hopefully this week or next!

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  4. I didn’t post a review this month, but I regularly tweet quotes from various authors, challenging the reader to identify the context. (These can be found at @sueannbowling, usually tweeted at noon Eastern time.) Then on Wednesday I identify the quotes from the previous week. This week was identification of last week.s quotes from the original Pride and Prejudice, at http://homecomingbook.wordpress.com/2013/06/12/quotes-from-jane-austin-ian1-2/

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  5. How very interesting! Never heard of it – but then again, I’m not so well versed in JAFF to begin with. From your review I suspect that it will be a source of some, eh…, discomfort :) But having been warned about the pitfalls on here I think I shall be better equipped to handle any ‘transgressions’ that may jump out.

    I think it being the first (known?) published sequel of this sort will make it an interesting piece to read for ‘compare & contrast’ purposes and to gauge the developement of JAFF, as you’ve hinted.

    Again, very interesting – thanks for posting!

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  6. I must have been living under a rock because I would have gladly delved into Austenesque fiction back then and earlier, but I didn’t know it existed. I am so curious to read these now. Thanks for sharing!

    I have the links to my additions for this month’s goal update: The Last Chance Book Club http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/622969414 and Pride & Platypus
    http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/614494651

    This makes 12. I am really enjoying this opportunity to read so many stories in various forms that all have P&P as their focus.

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  7. Pride and the Pyramids
    By Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb
    I was extremely fortunate to have a holiday this year that included a cruise down the Nile in Egypt. We sailed down from Luxor to Aswan and we enjoyed the experience immensely. While on board I choose to read and review Pride and the Pyramids by Amanda Grange and Jacqueline Webb who is an Egyptologist. This is my seventh review for the Jane Austen Challenge. It is a sequel of Pride and Prejudice and written I think with great panache and just the right amount of fact amongst the story.
    We travelled in February and so it was cool at 7.00 am when we set out for the morning sightseeing and by midday we were ready for a siesta and time to sun bathe back on the boat. Yes it was a good book to choose to read as I could easily imagine the heat that Elizabeth and her family endured and how it was essential to be kitted out correctly with the lightest coolest muslin. The book added to my pleasure of the trip. I enjoyed reading how the Darcy family were caught up in the craze to discover more about the Pharaohs and ancient Egypt.
    Elizabeth , Darcy, their 6 children, and various friends and relations, including a stowaway who was Mrs Bennet set off for Egypt. I loved the idea that among the group of people Elizabeth and Darcy took along on the trip was an artist to record the trip and help them all remember and recall all the sights. Taking an artist just sounds so romantic and being able to sketch the view myself would be wonderful and something I can only dream about. It all seems so much more mundane to be able to take a digital camera and take pictures as we did even though my husband takes magnificent photographs.
    The book conveys more about the wonderful relationship of Darcy and Elizabeth and there ideal married life. The two have an amazing chemistry between them and Darcy is still as charming as ever as he suggests romantic trips to the pyramids and before Elizabeth knows it she is climbing a pyramid. I have seen pictures in a book of tourists struggling up the large blocks and I am sure Darcy and Elizabeth would climb with grace and ease. However I am quite glad you can no longer climb the pyramids these days as the damage done to the outside of the pyramids must have been immense.
    There are loads of new characters in this tale and some turn out to be more likeable than others. The tale of the artist Paul Inkworthy did not turn out as I expected. He turns out to be a vague artistic type only really interested in art and not his fellow human beings which I thought was a shame as he becomes a parody of an artist and not a character I warmed too at all. Edward Fitzwilliam a cousin of Darcy’s is drawn to Egypt looking for Egyptian treasure and joins the expedition to go archaeological digging and I thought was interesting inn his mix of wanting to find treasure and be with his fellow travellers. Sophie Lucas the daughter of Sir William Lucas whom readers will have met already in Pride and Prejudice who comes on the trip grows up as the tale unfolds and manages to sort out the unhappiness that afflicts her at the start of the trip. Even Mrs Bennet seems to find things to enjoy in her unexpected trip to Egypt and she seems to come in handy as babysitter even if it only for short periods of time.
    George Wickham turns up again in this book to make things difficult and potentially dangerous for Darcy and his family. His villainy takes many twists and turns.
    The story got a bit confusing with the mystery doll belonging to Margaret and I was not sure about this part of the story. It seemed a bit strange, supernatural and creepy to me. All turns out happily for them in the end, eventually all is sorted out and the final scenes of the book take place in Pemberley when the paintings from the trip are exhibited and admired.

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  8. Pingback: The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013 | Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

  9. Since I’m still learning to appreciate more current sequels to Pride and Prejudice, this one would probably be a struggle for me. Maybe I’ll attempt it after I can get through some better ones. Thanks for the info!

    For my review this month, I read Two Guys Read Jane Austen: http://lingeringpianist.blogspot.com/2013/06/p-challenge-two-guys-read-jane-austen.html
    I really enjoyed it–how refreshing to see Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park from two male perspectives!

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  10. It is a trust universally acknowledged that friendships forged over a love of Jane Austen last forever!

    Pride & Prejudice, Jane Austen (1813)
    Oh, where to begin….how about the opening line: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” From the first sentence, Austen draws her readers in to an engaging world full of irony, comedy, and romance, while making the connection personal and human. 

    Austen broke through the traditional female persona to capture the strength and intelligence of women.  In the same story, Austen captures that there is more to women than a typical mold.  She proved that women-centric novels could have depth and explore the character diversity of women. This is unlike the traditional male-centric novels of the time that often relied on a few static female characters/roles (i.e. the woman of status, old maid, young maiden, etc).  She also emphasizes that women should not let men (or their parents) define who they are in the world.

    Clearly, we could reflect for HOURS…DAYS….LIFETIME. But, now we are on to reading next month’s assignment! 

    THANK YOU JANE AUSTEN FOR YOUR UNPARALLELED CONTRIBUTIONS TO LITERARY EXCELLENCE!

    “Till this moment I never knew myself.” – Elizabeth Bennett

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  11. Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge Book Review

    Pemberley By the Sea (also known as The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice) By Abigail Reynolds

    This is a good book to read in summer time since it takes place by the beach.

    I have read previous books by Abigail Reynolds and could not wait to review this for the Bicentenary challenge. This book had combinations of my favorite things, author, Jane Austen related, and takes place by the sea to name a few. I always feel if I had been better when it came to sciences and math I would have been a Marine Biologist like Cassie is. This book made me more aware of how a Marine biologist field is like and enjoyed this part tremendously.

    SPOILERS (for those who haven’t read it)

    One of my favorite parts of the book was halfway through when Cassie finds out Calder’s new book, Pride and Presumption was released and you read, through her point his novel and the parallels between what happened between them and the characters in his book. You can get a sense of the changes taking shape in the upcoming chapters for the two of them. Another one of my favorite parts was when She finds out his pseudonym and she had talked to the author himself about one of his books without realizing it.

    One of the ways I liked how the author modernized Pride and Prejudice was with Calder’s father; Joe. In a lot of ways Joe, reminded me of a male version of Lady Catherine de Bourgh how they seem to try to use their wealth and positions in society, at least in Joe, to cause problems for those around them, especially if it is beneath their status in life, ranging from marrying beneath them (both Joe and Lady Catherine de Bourgh) or working outside of the political field. (Joe) He was not accepting to his sons wishes and interests when it came to jobs and marriage and tried to cause hardships for Cassie personally. And Caro, I loved her character. I loved how she became her own person and her character development by the end of the novel. She is someone to admire for overcoming the obstacles she had to overcome when it came to her and Joe.

    I had originally got this book through my local library and enjoyed it so much i got a copy for my nook! ( I even got Morning Light to read) :) I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to read a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

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  12. This was one of my first Austenesque novels as well. I liked it better than the author’s other two novels, all of which have their merits (she really does a great job with the period language). I will seriously consider a reread. In fact, I so enjoy how you put the novel in the context of the genre’s development that I may reread Pemberley Shades, too. Great post!

    I reviewed the 1995 version of Pride & Prejudice for my 6th bicentennial challenge post: http://alexaadams.blogspot.com/2013/06/pride-and-prejudice-1995-influence-and.html

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  13. I have chosen “Return to Longbourn” by Shannon Winslow as my June challenge submission. It is a sequel to Pride and Prejudice that tells the story seven years later, following the death of Mr Bennett. Charlotte’s Mr Collins has also died so the heir to Longbourn is now his brother, Mr. Tristan Collins, who has been living in America. Mrs. Bennett, Mary and Kitty are to lose their home unless Mrs. Bennett’s scheme for him to marry one of the girls succeeds. Mr. Tristan Collins is totally different than his brother, and his person and interactions with the family are much more agreeable. This story is chiefly told from Mary’s perspective. She has been supporting herself as Governess for the children of the family that is living at Netherfield since the Bingleys move north, returning home on Sundays or her days off. Although Mary was never a favorite of mine, under Shannon’s capable hand she becomes much more personable, while retaining her original character. We see her interactions and involvement with this family, and a new side of her shows through! I love Ms. Winslow’s writing style and the way she creates this most engaging and diverting story! I highly recommend it!

    However, due to my husband’s month long hospitalization from May 23 to June 22, in a hospital over an hour from our home, I have read and listened to much more! I will also here mention (and recommend, if anyone has not listened to them!) the audio books of Pride and Prejudice… During my two and a half hours daily drive to and from the hospital, I could only tolerate listening to a very little NPR news, and chose to be diverted by a little classical music but mostly to escaping to the 3 audio versions of P&P I own on CD’s… They are read by Sharon Williams on Brilliance Audio, Josephine Bailey on Tantor Audiobooks, and Emillia Fox on Naxos Audio… I had time to listen to each one completely through and then return again to favorite parts! (I Usually begin with CD # 5 where Lizzie goes to visit Charlotte). I love all three, but think my favorite is Josephine Bailey’s interpretation. And while sitting beside his bed, I finished all the rest of the Candice Hern challenge and a couple other light Jane Austen reads, as the easy gratifying happy reading I needed. As Jim improved, I was able to enjoy the 2012 edition of JASNA’s Journal, “Persuasions”, which include edifying literary essays on Jane Austen’s writings.

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  14. I got a lot of new titles from your reviews. Can’t wait to find them. I do have a few that hopefully I can catch up on first. Your review was very informative and I feel prepared to read Presumption when I find it.

    My June review is for Pride & Prejudice BBC/PBS (1980) mini-series. It was the first time I watched this version and enjoyed it. The changes are not as big as the ones in the 2005 movie but since I’ve seen the movie sooo many times I found myself comparing them. Even though it was difficult to fall in love with this Mr. Darcy, my love for the character accepted him. Elizabeth was played well but I found myself really liking the way Sabina Franklyn played Jane Bennett. Lady Catherine de Bourgh was played by Judy Parfitt which was the only actress I recognized and, of course, played her part well. I would watch it again and probably not compare it as much now that I know what it’s like.

    I did like Mr. Darcy’s smile when he found out Elizabeth loved him too. Also how Jane, being older, was more correct about everyone’s character than Elizabeth was. I laughed with Mr. Collins’ dancing. :)

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  15. I have been reading an awful lot of JA fanfiction recently and have gone well beyond my challenge goal…it is so hard to stop!
    #10 1980 movie…I agree the one you see first becomes your favorite. HAving said that, upon rewatching the 1980 version there is alot to appreciate. I did have a problem with MR Darcy in that I thought he was too stiff throughout and didn’t see a warmth towards Elizabeth. I guess I was spoiled by the 1995 where Mr Darcy occasionally smiles and there are lots of closes ups of Elizabeth’s eyes!
    #11 Compelling Consequences ( St Andish) I found this to be rather far-fetched. With the exception of Mrs Collins, all the supporting characters were nothing like Austen’s …even the beloved Gardiners were not as involved with Jane and Elizabeth asn they go off on vacation while their nieces are missing. Mr Darcy seemed to be so many different people I never really decided if I liked him at all .. he was rich and successful yet terrified of the Matlocks and Lady Catherine,he employed men who committed violent acts of retaliation for Mr Darcy’s generous bonuses; next he was not quite the revered boss when his employees plotted to rob and kill him, he loves Elizabeth like no other yet tests her like the last 2 women he considered marrying…..etc etc.
    #12 Ashes of Longbourn This one I found fun. I liked the characters and Darcy’s concerns for Elizabeth were touching.

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  16. I am late, sorry! This time I tried to write a review, not just a simple comment as I did previously. Please tell me what you think since this is my first review and English is not my mother language! Thanks!

    “Becoming Elizabeth Darcy” by Mary Lydon Simonsen

    When Beth Hannigan from New Jersey falls into a coma cannot imagine what kind of adventure her spirit will live. She soon discovers she is in the body of her beloved heroine Elizabeth Bennet Darcy and after an understandable shocking moment she embraces her new life in 1826 with great joy. She learns a lot of things and she also teaches some others but the real purpose of her time travel is far more important than to improve nineteenth-century’s people life. Through the help of her ideal man, Fitzwilliam Darcy, she will understand her real mission and will discover a dark secret that divided the literature’s most beloved couple.

    Mary Lydon Simonsen did a great work! I really enjoyed the way she developed the whole story. I think the description of the places Beth visits during her stay in the nineteenth-century England is beautiful. Mr. Darcy is very handsome and in several occasions he reminded me the real Darcy, the Jane Austen’s one. His smile, his statements, his behavior, everything was treated with cure and attention. I did not like a particular intimate moment between Darcy and Beth because I am sure the real Darcy would never do a similar thing but I handled it with professionalism, like the best readers! I witnessed the gradual change in Beth’s personality: she was scared at the beginning and then perfectly at ease into the shoes of the Mistress of Pemberley. The author used the right words to describe delicate situations and she succeed to get the readers involved, you definitely want to know how it ends! In addition, she showed a great knowledge of English history through the different centuries and, since the main character has Italian origins, I could feel a deep interest in Italian traditions, especially about the food: some recipes Beth prepares are very detailed! I can say Mrs. Simonsen loves Italy!

    If you are a Jane Austen addicted and you cannot get enough of her timeless characters, then “Becoming Elizabeth Darcy” is the book for you. Plus, if you love time travels you cannot miss this one! I highly recommend.

    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  17. Have neglected to add my month’s review. Became a NaNa! which has taken priority =)
    Hoping this isn’t too late, my 6th P&P review is of Karen Aminadra’s ‘Rosings’

    Seems Karen Aminadra has a knack of keeping me awake reading to all hours !
    Release day Party for her newest, Rosings, wouldn’t be complete without a read of the book we are celebrating, right? and what a treat it is…

    All the fun you might imagine when Lady Catherine de Bourghe is a feature!
    Brace yourself for the confrontations you know will present themselves.
    Also, a new light shining on her daughter, Anne. A little more action than I’d anticipated,
    I’ll admit. And some insights on their characters that played into the story quite nicely. Rogues to detest a plenty. New character introductions we’re left anticipating in future stories.

    When her Ladyship’s best laid plans for her daughter Anne’s marriage go awry,
    I despaired for Anne. There was no putting the kindle down at that point.
    Discovering the outcome was more important than sleep!
    I’m happy to report an entirely satisfying conclusion that’s left me smiling into my pillow :)
    Thank you, Karen! Keep writing.
    What would my dreams be without a Karen Aminadra book to inspire them?

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