Presumption is a sequel to Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, written by Julia Braun Kessler and Gabrielle Donnelly as ‘Julia Barrett’. At the end of Miss Austen’s 17th century novel, Elizabeth Bennet married Fitzwilliam Darcy. It was obvious to Gentle Reader that married life was not going to be plain sailing for two such strong-willed characters, and so it runs out in this novel. “Presumption” is written in the same formal yet witty style as Miss Austen’s and it is to their credit that Kessler and Donnelly never allow 20th century attitudes or language to spoil the story. By contrast, Georgette Hayer’s enjoyable Regency novels are set in the same period, yet they could not have been written by anyone but a more modern author.
Presumption is a little disappointing however. The authors seem to have been unable to think of a story based around Elizabeth and Darcy. Instead the story revolves around Darcy’s younger sister Georgiana. In “Pride and Prejudice”, Georgiana is narrowly rescued from a disastrous elopement with a distant cousin, Whickham, and now there is more trouble for the Darcy family. Georgiana has vowed never to loose her head and her heart again. But one Captain Haywood begins to woo her with determination, armed with Lord Byron’s verses. Meanwhile, her brother’s architect, Leigh-Cooper, adds to her confusion.
In the original, pride and prejudice was owned in equal amounts by the haphazard Bennets and by the noble families of the county. In this version, the upper class residents presume that, having married beneath him, Darcy is doomed to a life of scandal and despair. Both novels use the uniquely British class system and all of Jane Austen’s sharply portrayed examples are included in the modern version. They haughty lady Catherine de Bourgh, the obsequious Mr Collins and Elizabeth’s hysterical mother are all so well drawn that it is easy to “see” them as they were in the old Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier film. The novel is an enchanting homage to Jane Austen’s wit and skill.