by Gill Hornby
Publication Date September 27, 2022
Published by Pegasus Books
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Genres: Fiction / Literary, Fiction / Romance / Historical / General, Fiction / Small Town & Rural
***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***
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 by Gill Hornby is the story of a young governess who works for the wealthy Austen family, cousins of the now-famous Jane Austen, and forms a friendship with the author.
Anne Sharpe’s fortunes change dramatically after her mother dies, and her estranged father only gives her a small allowance to live on. Needing security, she takes a job as Governess to a young girl living at Godmersham Park, the Kent country estate of Edward and Elizabeth Austen. Anne’s charge is Franny, the twelve-year-old daughter of Edward and Elizabeth, and cousin to Jane Austen.
It takes some time for Anne to embrace her new role as a governess. Franny is curious and she grows fond of her almost immediately. However, the role of a governess is neither a downstairs role as a servant nor an upstairs role as part of the family and it takes Anne time to feel comfortable with both sides of the house.
Godmersham Park is a peek into the day-to-day life of a governess, and the family she serves. The story demonstrates both the issues of the upper classes as well as the lower classes as Anne doesn’t fully fit into either class.
We see the life of the wealthy and loving family through the eyes of Anne, as she tries to form relationships with both the family and the servants. I like that the book shows us different women who have made some of the limited choices available and how those choices shaped their lives. It sure made me appreciate living in today and not back in Jane Austen’s time.
I also liked the friendship that grew between Anne and Jane, as they had similar outlooks on life. Anne also formed a friendship with Elizabeth, Franny’s mother, who was also a compelling character as she married for love, and she ended up spending her entire married life either pregnant or recovering from birth, and as she got older, each pregnancy got worse and worse for her.
The story is based on real letters from Franny to Jane, and at the end of the book, the author explains all the evidence she used to formulate this compelling story.
I highly recommend Godmersham Park to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Have you read Godmersham Park?