Review: Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby


Title: Godmersham Park

Author: Gill Hornby

Published: 23rd June 2022, Century UK

Status: Read July 2022 courtesy Penguin UK/Netgalley


My Thoughts:


The premise of Godmersham Park by Gill Hornby appealed to me in part because of the main character’s connection with Jane Austen. Though little detail is known about their relationship, Anne Sharp and Jane first met during the period that Anne was engaged as a governess at Godmersham Park for Fanny Austen Knight, Jane’s niece, and remained close friends until Jane’s death.

Anne Sharp is 31 years old when she arrives at Godmersham Park, the Kent country estate of Edward and Elizabeth Austen, employed to educate their 12 year old daughter Fanny, the eldest of eight children. Though she has no experience in the position of governess, having until recently been raised in comfort, she is determined to do her best, and serve the Austen family well.

Hornby seamlessly blends history with imagination to tell the story of Anne’s time at Godmersham Park. The people Anne meets, close family and friends of the Austen’s, are real figures, whom the author lists at the beginning of the novel. Many of the events that take place in the story were drawn from Fanny’s preserved childhood diaries or correspondence between family members. The estate itself, said to be the inspiration for Jane Austen’s novel Mansfield Park, still stands today and is depicted on the 2017 Bank of England £10 note.

A refined and intelligent woman, educating Fanny poses no real difficulties for Anne but finding her place within the household proves to be more of a challenge. Anne is often lonely, and though she becomes friendly with regular houseguests Hariott Bridges, the younger sister of Elizabeth, Henry Austen, Edward’s younger brother with whom Anne forms an unwise attachment, and later Jane Austen herself, there is a distance dictated by her position. A sympathetic character given her circumstances and ill-health, I liked Anne well enough, but I didn’t really grow fond of her.

The story moves at a sedate pace as life unfolds at Godmersham Park. It’s a reasonably busy household with so many children, visiting houseguests, and family events, but not a particularly active one, and I felt the story lacked energy. While there are occasional instances of open conflict, most of the drama centres on Anne’s inner emotional turmoil, which I sometimes found overwrought.

Godmersham Park is a pleasant enough novel but I felt the story sacrificed dynamism for historical accuracy. It’s probably best suited for fans interested in its connections to Jane.


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7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. WendyW
    Sep 02, 2022 @ 05:35:23

    I’ve been wondering about this book. I’m so glad you enjoyed it overall.

    Liked by 1 person


  2. joyweesemoll
    Sep 02, 2022 @ 22:57:51

    Thanks. I have moods where a slow-paced novel with a connection to Jane Austen would work well for me. I’ll keep this in mind.

    Liked by 1 person


  3. Kathryn
    Sep 03, 2022 @ 08:56:06

    Ew, I have this waiting for me at the library, but will give it a go. Best thing about a library book is I can return it smartly if it doesn’t work for me.

    Liked by 1 person


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  5. Lory
    Sep 05, 2022 @ 01:33:35

    At times I wish that historical novels would be more accurate and sacrifice less for the sake of excitement — but this might go too far. I think I”ll check it out anyway and see what I think.

    Liked by 1 person


  6. Marg
    Oct 13, 2022 @ 18:08:02

    I have never really been too fussed about all the spinoff books from Jane Austen’s world, but this one did sound like it had some interest to it. Oh well.

    Thanks for sharing this with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge



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