The Great Godden

The Great Godden

By Author / Illustrator

Meg Rosoff



Age range(s)



Bloomsbury Publishing PLC








SHORTLISTED for the Costa Children's Book Award 2020.This is the story of one family, one dreamy summer - the summer when everything changes. In a holiday house by the sea, in a big, messy family, one teenager watches as brothers and sisters, parents and older cousins fill hot days with wine and games and planning a wedding. Enter the Goddens - irresistible, charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there's a serpent in this paradise - and the consequences will be devastating. From bestselling, award-winning author Meg Rosoff comes a lyrical and quintessential coming-of-age tale - a summer book that's as heady, timeless and irresistible as Bonjour Tristesse and I Capture the Castle but as sharp and fresh as Normal People.



A new novel by Meg Rosoff is always something to look forward to. Never one to follow publishing trends or be pigeonholed as a writer, Meg Rosoff can do it all in her own inimitable style: her characters, dialogue, atmosphere, plot, themes, settings and sharp, subtly clever comedy are always second to none and she never fails to create a real treat for her readers.

The Great Godden delivers all of this and more. Essentially, it traces the story of two privileged but fragile families spending a long, lazy summer in an isolated holiday home by the sea, planning for a forthcoming wedding and for the future. It's a summer which seems as though it will stretch on forever with nothing much to worry about - until the break is shattered by the sudden and unexpected arrival of the Godden brothers: irresistible, arrogant charmer Kit and brooding, silent, mysterious Hugh, his polar opposite. The narrator's older sister Mattie falls head over heels for Kit, despite Hugh's warnings. So far, so predictable and seemingly simple but what unfolds is an inevitable tragedy of devastating proportions with a plot twist guaranteed to catch you completely off guard.

At only 245 pages, more novella than novel, The Great Godden is over far too quickly and left me desperate to turn back to the beginning, looking for clues to the emotional disaster which unfolds.

But this is Meg Rosoff so there's no melodrama, just slow-building tension culminating in devastating tragedy - it's no coincidence that members of the group are rehearsing Hamlet as the day of the wedding nears! Though undeniably dark, The Great Godden manages to be smart and funny too. The unidentified, ambiguous narrator remains cleverly detached - given no name or gender - but provides a self-aware, slightly cynical commentary to the unfolding drama. It's a technique which draws the reader in. Mention of mobile phones positions this story firmly in the present but it has a timeless feel. The themes too are completely contemporary: toxic masculinity, gaslighting, abusive relationships, power and equality, trust, deception and the transition to adulthood. The masterful way in which Rosoff spins these huge themes together so effortlessly, though, is nothing short of genius.

This is not a book for every teenager, Rosoff never panders nor talks down to her readers, but every teen should be persuaded to try it. Enthusiastic readers will adore being unsettled by it and fans of popular Netflix dramas such as Schitt's Creek should be tempted to try it, too, for many of the themes and tropes are similar. With its nostalgic, sophisticated cover design, The Great Godden is the ultimate crossover novel, guaranteed to become a classic and fully deserving of its Costa Book Award shortlisting. Its hold over the reader is every bit as magnetic as that of Kit over Mattie. I simply couldn't put it down.

Thankfully, The Great Godden is the first in a planned series of three novellas, each set in a key summer of the protagonists' lives. An audiobook, read by Andrew Scott, is also available.

Avid readers craving more summertime emotional devastation will find it in How I Live Now by Rosoff and in The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden or the newly re-issued A Song for Summer by Eva Ibbotson. What I Was by Rosoff is another meticulously crafted, beautifully written first love story. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is another tragic love story in which appearances prove deceptive. A similarly witty and timeless coming of age story is Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle.

In contemporary YA, the thoughtful and honest romances of Emery Lord tackle similar themes of identity and the transition to adulthood. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart has the same psychological intrigue and unsettling sense of foreboding as The Great Godden while Eden Summer by Liz Flanagan is an emotional thriller with a summery vibe. Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber is a razor-sharp examination of toxic relationships and obsession while Holly Bourne's The Places I've Cried in Public looks at recovering from a controlling relationship. Older readers of Rosoff might move on to Normal People by Sally Rooney.

256 pages / Ages 14+ / Reviewed by Eileen Armstrong, librarian

Suggested Reading Age 11+


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