Title: The Austen Girls
Written by: Lucy Worsley
Published by: Bloomsbury
An expertly written historical YA novel that weaves real people and places with fictional events that portray the realities of Georgian England. Fanny Austen is the eldest of eleven children. She is the niece of the infamous Jane Austen and is about to be launched at her debut ball in order to find a husband who can support her and take the burden off of her family. Both Fanny and her cousin Anna are frequently told their futures depend on finding a husband with money.
Although, I am aware these were the attitudes of the time and is no reflection on author and historian, Lucy Worsley, I personally found the opinion that women need to be married made my skin prickle and could feel myself getting angry and defensive. It drummed home how the majority of people are much more enlightened than they were over 200 years ago. Lucy skilfully portrays her characters to consider these attitudes and make up their own minds about their reasons for marriage.
We follow Fanny through her trials and tribulations of feeling obliged to find a suitable husband without ever really knowing what her heart truly desires and the emotional ups and downs of life changing events. We also see through Fanny’s eyes how her cousin Anna deals with finding a suitor and views it as a means of escape from her own life.
Yet the only man who Fanny truly enjoys dancing with is the clergyman Dominic Drummond and she has been told clergymen do not earn enough money so are not good prospects. He is then conned and whisked away to a correction centre. Fanny is left to prove his innocence and with the help of her Aunt Jane adopts the role of a thief-taker, which is similar to a detective.
Lucy Worsley’s thorough research and knowledge shines through every page with her cleverly entwined details of rooms within Godmersham Park and other locations. The reader has a distinct idea of the era and the characters are all well formed and leave you wanting to learn more about the Austen girls, their families and their futures.