Zöe Wheddon announces new book!

Estelle Benson | 2 February 2024

We are delighted for Zöe Wheddon, teacher of Spanish and French (who is also stepping in to the role of Head of Modern Foreign Languages in September 2024), as she launches a new book this week! This will be Zoe’s second book, the first entitled ‘Jane Austen’s Best Friend: The Life and Influence of Martha Lloyd’ was published by Pen & Sword in 2021.


We chatted to Zöe this week about where her love of Jane Austen came from:


‘I grew up in Basingstoke and I have always enjoyed researching local history. Out of the blue, I get curious about something, it’s like being tapped on the shoulder and having someone whisper a question in my ear. This tiny, quiet thought will lodge itself in my brain and I have to follow the thread, for a small window of time, the idea will niggle at me so much that I am just too intrigued not to take action. I just have to unravel as much as I can find out about a house, a school or a person.


In 2017 to mark the bi-centenary of the death of Jane Austen, Basingstoke Borough Council launched an art trail called ‘Sitting with Jane’ which included a set of 24 ‘Book Benches’ designed by local artists and dotted about all over the area in places that Jane visited. I love a project and that summer my daughter and I embarked on completing the trail. By the end I just wanted to know more about the local woman who walked where we walked. This lead to me volunteering at both Jane Austen’s House and Chawton House. It was during this period that I learnt of a little mentioned but ever present woman called Martha Lloyd, it really did feel like I met someone no one had really taken the time to get to know before, and this lead to my first book ‘Jane Austen’s Best Friend’.


The fact that I am a teacher first drew me in to look more closely at George Austen, Jane’s Father. Everyone seemed to know that he was a community cleric but very few knew that he also ran a boarding school in his home. I was intrigued to know more about this pedagogical side of his personality. I just had to know if he was like me in regard to the vocation of teaching, I wanted to investigate if or  how his educational values might have lead to a particular nurturing of Jane Austen’s talents. He was as interesting and surprising as I thought and as I searched through archival records uncovering his tracks I discovered that he truly does have his own story to tell, a real ‘zero to hero’ arc. This scholarly and visionary educator had me hooked and inspired.


There is something that I must say though, it takes courage to listen to and act on that still, small voice – if it is ignored for too long it passes on and the opportunity for all that growth, knowledge and fun is lost. The other point is that no matter how much I am enjoying the journey, there are days when I don’t ‘feel it’ and that’s when perseverance and determination come in. Sacrifices have to be made and I just have to sit in that chair and go to it. Inspiration does find me but only if I am there putting in the work. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to tell George’s story and it was that which kept me motivated, well that and the marvels of discovering that I had so much in common with a person who lived so very long ago in the places where we tread.’


‘Jane Austen, Daddy’s Girl: The Life and Influence of The Revd George Austen’ is a poignant and pertinent examination of a relationship which became the cornerstone of Jane’s life, the bedrock of family and faith as she knew them.


This epic journey through the life and times of the Reverend George Austen will lead you from his early childhood and humble beginnings as an orphan, through his schooldays and on to Oxford University, and beyond. Follow his career in the Church of England and as master of his own boarding school, as well as peek into his marriage and home life. . Dovetailed in with this revealing biography is a thorough interpretation of fatherhood as a theme, as outlined in Jane’s novels, with scrutiny of the fathers of all her most beloved fictional families. Chapter by chapter we will understand more about Jane’s own view on fatherhood and how the Reverend Austen, as her father, coloured and created that view.


As we draw George and Jane’s relationship closer to us, we understand anew the many layers of clever meaning that Jane Austen interlaced within her stories. Through an examination of this unique father-daughter bond, Jane Austen fans everywhere can pull up a footstool in George’s library and become further united in spirit with their beloved novelist.


Zöe’s latest novel is now available from:


Pen and Sword Books






Readers can get in touch with Zöe at: www.zoewheddon.co.uk and follow her on Twitter: @ZoeWheddon, Instagram: @zoe_wheddon

and Facebook: @Zoe Wheddon