Books

Godmersham Park – Gill Hornby

Having read the previous novel by Gill Hornby, Miss Austen where I was transported into the world of Jane Austen, the Georgian Period and the gentile life that was being led by them all.

This theme continues in this novel and is told through the eyes of Anne Sharp, governess to Fanny, who was niece to Jane Austen. Jane is not a prominent character in this novel, that falls to Anne but her presence is keenly felt and her friendship with Anne is seen as interesting.

Anne is lucky to find this work as a governess, as now almost passed marriageable age and with no mother and a father who pays an allowance no more, she is permanently in a state of flux where she thinks her background and origins will see her being asked to leave Godmersham. The role of governess is stuck between the servants and the family and can be a lonely one.

But there is something about Anne, which spark interests in many of the Austen family and she becomes embraced into their life and their hearts.

If I said that is all there is to the book, a snapshot of this governess life with the Austen’s you would be forgiven of thinking why bother to read. Well you are transported back to Austen, both in time and writing, the book resonates as if you are reading an Austen, I am sure a skill which isn’t the most easiest when we have such a rich modern language that can be used. The vignettes of life in this house and its inhabitants is quite, peaceful with very little excitement to jump off the pages. That is the beauty of the book, all of it is interesting and not with equal measure.

Of course we know very little about Anne Sharp and her life before this time and Hornby has chosen to fictionalise Anne’s past. There is much to be gleaned from correspondence between differing Austen’s, dairies left and even a rare copy of Emma given by the author to this governess who clearly made some sort of impact on her short life. However what we know and that has been clearly researched by the author is formed into this novel giving insight into a small part of the literary world.

For fans of all things Austen without a doubt, but if you want a peak at society, class from another time it works as an interesting piece of historical fiction. I look forward to seeing what might be next from this author.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

Godmersham Park is out now.