Sunday, October 30, 2022

Book Review: Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby


  • Title: Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family
  • Author: Gill Hornby
  • Genre: Historical Fiction, Biographical Historical Fiction, Austenesque
  • Publisher: ‎Pegasus Books (November 1, 2022)
  • Length: (416) pages
  • Format: Hardcover, eBook, & audiobook 
  • ISBN: 978-1639362585
  • Tour Dates: October 24 – November 13, 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.


Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby transports the reader to Anne Sharp’s years as governess to Fanny Austen, the daughter of Edward Austen who is brother to Jane Austen. I deeply admired the writing in this novel. Using Anne’s life events as a plot-basis, the story flows with an Austen-like feel that was neither forced nor poor imitation. The crafting of the descriptions and the chosen words felt very much 1800s England. As for the ending, I had mixed feelings, but appreciated it after I read the author’s note about the characters’ subsequent years.

In Godmersham Park, Anne Sharp is the star of the story. She’s clever, resilient, and knows her own mind. Anne’s character growth runs from start to finish and I was invested in her character within a few chapters. Later, I fangirled with Anne at Jane Austen’s presence. Their friendship developed quickly, but believably. Anne’s fascination with Jane may be borderline obsessive, but I enjoyed watching them interact, advise, and encourage each other.

Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby is biographical fiction for the general market, which is a bit out of my normal reading genre. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the story and was not offended by anything in the novel. Henry’s actions are morally gray at times, but I liked him as a character. No cussing, violence, or sex scenes, but jealousy, unkindness, and petit theft do occur.

Five stars for Godmersham Park: A Novel of the Austen Family by Gill Hornby.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I was provided a copy of this book by the author or publisher. All opinions in this review are my own.


·         "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




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


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