Godmersham Park (2022)

About the Book

Title: Godmersham Park

Author: Gill Hornby

Genre: Historical Fiction; Historical Biographical Fiction

Publisher: Pegasus Books (November 1, 2022)

A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became very close with Jane Austen and her family by the #1 International bestselling-author of Miss Austen.

On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take up the position of governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience of either teaching or fine country houses. Her mother has died, and she has nowhere else to go. Anne is left with no choice. For her new charge—twelve-year-old Fanny Austen—Anne’s arrival is all novelty and excitement.

The governess role is a uniquely awkward one. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and to balance a position between the “upstairs” and “downstairs” members of the household is a diplomatic chess game. One wrong move may result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let down her guard.

When Mr. Edward Austen’s family comes to stay, Anne forms an immediate attachment to Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not merely pretty, charming, and competent; she is clever too. Even her sleepy, complacent, mistress can hardly fail to notice.

Meanwhile Jane’s brother, Henry, begins to take an unusually strong interest in the lovely young governess. And from now on, Anne’s days at Godmersham Park are numbered.


Advance Praise

  • “This is a deeply imagined and deeply moving novel. Reading it made me happy and weepy in equally copious amounts…I read it straight through without looking up.”— Karen Joy Fowler, author of The Jane Austen Bookclub
  • Hornby’s skillful mix of fact and fiction captures the complexities of the Austens and their era, and her crisp, nimble prose sparkles throughout. Best of all, Hornby genuinely channels the sentiment of 19th-century English literature. Janeites aren’t the only readers who will relish this smart, tender tale.”— Publishers Weekly, starred review
  • “…a well-written and delightfully observant novel…an excellent read.”— The Historical Novel Society

About the Author

Gill Hornby is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Hive, and All Together Now, as well as The Story of Jane Austen, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and their four children.


My Thoughts

Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby is an expansive imagining of two years in the life of Jane Austen’s dear friend, Anne Sharp. Two things impressed me the most about this novel. First, oh my word, the amount of serious research that went into this novel! I can only imagine just how much work went into creating this story. I’m actually exhausted thinking about it all — pouring through Fanny Austen’s childhood diaries, trying to put two and two together from Jane Austen’s letters that didn’t get destroyed by her sister, Cassandra, and piecing clues together from other historical avenues — this novel really was a labor or love for Gill Hornby. The second thing that impressed upon me is just how hard and potentially dangerous it was to be a single woman in Jane Austen’s time period. Jane, herself, declared the plight of the single woman as the Female Conundrum. We all know it was hard to be a woman in every historical period. I have said this many times over the course of my 41 years. BUT I’ve never experienced what Jane and Anne and Cassandra and Mrs. Austen had to experience. I have always had options. I could basically get any job I wanted and have always had a roof over my head. Yeah, they might not have been the best jobs or the best places to live, but I had options. Godmersham Park had me stressing the entire time because of how unstable Anne’s life was from day to day. And Jane and Anne’s discussion about this very topic really illustrates just how strong and fearless these independent, single women HAD to be every single second of every single day. When considered in this light, to know how popular Jane Austen was in her time is even more awe-inspiring. Jane Austen truly was a force to be reckoned with; and, likewise, her best friend, Anne Sharp.

Godmersham Park is a very slow read, but an intense one. It’s attention to historical detail is masterful. If you are a fan of historical fiction, if you are a fan of Jane Austen, and/or if you are a fan of biographical fiction Godmersham Park may just be the book you need to read ASAP.

I received a review copy of this novel in eBook form from the publisher, Pegasus Books, via AustenProse PR. In no way has this influenced my review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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