Format Hardcover
Publication Date 11/01/22
ISBN 9781639362585
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 416

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Godmersham Park

A Novel of the Austen Family

Gill Hornby

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.


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.

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Endorsements & Reviews

"Drawing her plot from events described in the diary of Jane Austen’s niece, Fanny, Hornby imagines the early life of Fanny’s governess, Anne Sharp, who forged a close friendship with Jane. The pleasure of this novel lies in its quietly satisfying portrait of a woman facing social prejudice and ill health, yet gradually coming to realize her own worth." – The New York Times
“With Godmersham Park, British writer Gill Hornby makes a second fictional foray into Austen territory. A sprightly story.” The Washington Post
"The excellent latest from Hornby (Miss Austen) traces several years in the life of Anne Sharp, a friend of Jane Austen’s. 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
"Hornby (Miss Austen, 2020) continues her fictional dramatization of the Austen family. In 1804, unmarried and with little outside support, Anne Sharp accepts the position of governess for the Austen family at Godmersham Park in Kent. Fanny, her charge, is easy to care for, her charming uncle Henry is a challenge, but Anne’s favorite Austen by far was Fanny’s Aunt Jane. As they discover their similar experiences and opinions, a friendship begins and grows deeper with each letter they exchange. Everything is seen through Anne’s viewpoint, how she views herself and others, how tenuous her living situation is, and how limited her options are, and soon it becomes impossible not to feel as if you're listening to the confidences of a dear friend. Based on actual individuals, all of Hornby's characters are engaging, and the small details of their daily lives build a colorful picture of this time and place. Enjoying the thoughtful treasures and quiet moments encourages a leisurely reading pace, while the Author’s Note is chock-full of fabulous true tidbits. Janites, fans of the Brontë sisters, and readers of immersive historical fiction will savor every moment." Stacey Hayman Booklist, starred review
“This pastiche, peopled with actual historical figures, follows the trials of a new governess whose charge is Fanny Austen, the eldest daughter of Edward, Jane’s wealthy brother. Hornby’s long, deft narrative is not her first trip into Austen territory, following Miss Austen (2020). Her style takes its cue from Austen’s irony and tone…An immersive excursion to Austenland.” Kirkus Reviews
Praise for Gil Hornby:

"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
"A marvelous addition to the genre—waspish and well-written, with all the incisive wit of Austen. This is a well-written and delightfully observant novel. Gill Hornby uses Fanny Austen’s diaries, which detail her days with the governess Anne Sharp, but employs some literary imagination to elaborate on Anne’s intriguing backstory. An excellent read." Historical Novels Review
“If you love Jane Austen you're sure to enjoy Gill Hornby's stylish glimpse into the life of young governess Anne Sharp. This elegantly written tale skillfully recreates a world where governesses are midway between the family upstairs and the servants downstairs.” The Independent
“Meticulously researched, Hornby's absorbing novel revels in the joys and tensions of life above and below stairs.” The Mail on Sunday
"The great writer is brought to life in this clever, well-researched piece of fiction." The Times (London)