Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"He has an innate propriety and simplicity of taste, which in general direct him perfectly right,'' remarks Elinor Dashwood of her suitor, Edward Ferrars, in Sense and Sensibility. Would that the same could be said of this work, an ambitious but maladroit "continuation'' of Austen's masterpiece by Barrett (the joint pseudonym of Julia Braun Kessler and Gabrielle Donnelley), who previously brought us Presumption, a sequel to Pride and Prejudice. While Barrett mimics her model's vocabulary and cadence competently and re-creates characters and setting with generally scrupulous attention to detail, she invariably misses the mark in terms of tone and characterization. The expert combination of satire and suds that makes Austen so irresistible is here replaced by a plot that whiffs of a Harlequin period romance, and the heroine, 17-year-old Margaret Dashwood, younger sister of Elinor and Marianne, is simpering and self-absorbed. Opening three years after the close of Sense and Sensibility, the narrative finds Margaret living with her mother at Barton cottage and serving as a part-time nanny to her neighbor Lady Middleton's bratty children. This tedious existence is enlivened by the appearance of one William de Plessy, a dashing half-French army lieutenant. Margaret has been so emotionally scarred by her older sister's traumatic courtships that she flees du Plessy's attentions into the unscrupulous arms of George Osborne, a distant relative who turns out to be both a cad and a con man. The poorly paced plot may be enhanced on the movie screen, but Austen devotees will demand more on the printed page. Film rights to Viacom. (Aug.)
The pseudonymous Barrett's first novel, Presumption (Evans, 1993), was a sequel to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice (1813). Her second features Margaret, the youngest of the three Dashwood sisters. Margaret, who was briefly mentioned in Sense and Sensibility (1811), is now 17. She combines the best of her sisters' character traits: just the right amount of Elinor's good sense and Marianne's emotionality. Despite her attractive appearance and pleasing demeanor, Margaret despairs of ever finding a man who will overlook her lack of a dowry. Shortly after the novel opens, however, she meets two handsome and eligible young men. High-spirited William du Plessy and mysterious George Osborne are both besotted with Margaret. Predictably, she accepts the wrong man's proposal of marriage and, just as predictably, is rescued at nearly the last minute by information fortuitously received. This well-intentioned but often tedious sequel is a far cry from the stylish and witty original. Libraries should skip this and instead purchase another copy of Sense and Sensibility.Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Fans of Jane Austen dream of a suddenly unearthed manuscript to savor and treasure. Barrett's first book in the world of Austen's characters, "Presumption" (1993), was not that novel, though it is a sincere tribute. Her latest homage is a continuation of "Sense and Sensibility". The "third sister" is, of course, Margaret, who as a child lived in the shadow of restrained Elinor and passionate Marianne. Here Margaret embarks on her own journey of love and self-discovery. She has been made cautious and circumspect by Marianne's near-tragic encounter with the cad Willoughby, and so her first meeting with Lieutenant du Plessy, the handsome soldier son of the French expatriate Comtesse du Plessy, finds her attracted but alarmed by his easy flattery and open admiration. Elements of the book depart from true Austen style, such as the masculine badinage over boxing and the faro table, but the dialogue is crisp and amusing and the threat of unhappy marriage compelling in this tale of Margaret Dashwood's emotional blossoming.
Yet another Jane Austen sequel from the pseudonymous Barrett (Presumption: An Entertainment, 1993), this time continuing the adventures of the Dashwood girls from Sense and Sensibility.
Fortuitously timed amidst a virtual Austen revival, Barrett's continuation of the classic marriage novel leaves us with the dilemmas of the forgotten third sister Margaret, described by Austen as a "well-disposed girl; but as she had already imbibed a good deal of Marianne's romance, without having much of her sense, she did not, at thirteen, bid fair to equal her sisters at a more advanced period of her life." Barrett, taking up Margaret's cause, gives her a plot of her own. Her sisters are both happily married and comfortably established: Elinor is a useful matron to her husband's Dorset parsonage, and Marianne is happy as the wife of Colonel Brandon, a wealthy landowner. Margaret, eager to leave the dull life of Barton cottage and her unofficial position as nanny to her cousins, the nearby Middletons, goes looking for a proper match. Potential husbands line up from the right and the left, with a few red herrings thrown in for good measure. The arrogant and dashing William du Plessy is the first contender but proves too bold for Margaret's liking. Then there's the humble and handsome George Osborne, a more suitable candidate, though surprisingly secretive. Meanwhile, a diverting subplot concerning sister Elinor and her husband's inheritance breaks up the predictability of Margaret's fate. Going back and forth to Brighton with her new- found friend Lady Clara, Margaret encounters some not so surprising coincidences and has some chance meetings, becoming engaged to the wrong kind of man and saved in the final hour by the right kind.
An interesting and ambitious idea gone to waste. Lacking the broad panorama of Austen's social insight and her depiction of provincial life, only the details and many plotting devices remain, leaving, at best, a momentary amusement.