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An Austen Family Novel
Publication date: November 1, 2022
A richly imagined novel inspired by the true story of Anne Sharp, a governess who became close friends with Jane Austen and her family by the number 1 international bestselling author of Miss Austen.
On January 21, 1804, Anne Sharpe arrives at Godmersham Park in Kent to take over as governess. At thirty-one years old, she has no previous experience in teaching or in good country houses. Her mother has died and she has nowhere to go. Anne has no choice. For her new charge, twelve-year-old Fanny Austen, Anne’s arrival is all new and exciting.
The role of governess is exceptionally awkward. Anne is neither one of the servants, nor one of the family, and balancing a position between the “above” and “below” members of the household is a game of diplomatic chess. One wrong move can result in instant dismissal. Anne knows that she must never let her guard down.
When Mr. Edward Austen’s family arrives to stay, Anne forms an immediate bond with Jane. They write plays together and enjoy long discussions. However, in the process, Anne reveals herself as not only cute, charming, and competent; she is smart too. Even her sleepy and complacent mistress of hers can hardly fail to notice.
Meanwhile, Jane’s brother Henry begins to take an unusually strong interest in the charming young governess. And from now on, Anne’s days in Godmersham Park are numbered.
Godmersham Park by gill hornby is a very interesting book of women’s biographical fiction. It tells the story of the real-life character, Anne Sharpe, who was a governess to jane austen niece, Fanny.
In this story, Anne’s life is turned upside down when her mother dies and her father disappears, leaving her with 35 pounds a year. Out of necessity she takes a job with the Edward Austen family, teaching her eldest daughter. The book describes Anne’s life for two years with the Austens, during which she strikes up a friendship with Jane.
Janeites and history buffs alike will enjoy this story of a woman struggling to find her place in a complicated social world. As a governess, her position is precarious, with no staff or family. Anne negotiates this difficult situation as she develops her writing skills and strengthens her sense of self. There is a subtle yet strong underlying message of feminism, and readers may sympathize with the plight of single women in this period.
Some outside reading tells us that Anne worked as a governess in other homes before opening a school in Liverpool. Her association with Jane continued until Jane’s death.
Godmersham Park is an intriguing piece of Austen history that paints a detailed picture of the plight of a single, low-income woman in the Regency era.
gill hornby he is the author of the novels Miss Austen, The Beehive, Y all together nowas much as Jane Austen’s story, a biography of Austen for young readers. She lives in Kintbury, England, with her husband and her four children.