The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff is a deliciously sultry tale of intrigue, seduction and power. Set over the course of one golden summer, it takes place in a characterful, periwinkle-blue house by the sea, inherited holiday home of four teenage siblings, their parents, and older cousins. Into this heady mix of hormones and domesticity come the Goddens, charismatic Kit and his sullen, taciturn brother, Hugo. As the temperature rises in more ways than one, it becomes known as the summer everything changed forever.
Our narrator is unnamed and we never learn their gender, an ambiguity that resonates later on. What we do know is that there are some sibling issues with sister, Mattie. Sixteen years old and drop dead gorgeous, Mattie is discovering the power of her sexuality, and it’s so very galling to imagine the Godden boys ‘flirting and drooling over Mattie all summer…more than I can bear.’
As house guests of the siblings’ cousin, the brothers’ arrival changes the dynamic of the group in unsettling ways. As expected, Kit makes a beeline for Mattie, the glowing, golden beauty of the pair making them look like ‘an ad for expensive sportswear.’ In comparison, Hugo is moody and silent, animated only in his loathing of his older brother. Kit charms, Hugo glowers, and tension begins to bubble up to the surface. A summer storm is brewing.
I absolutely loved this novella. Rosoff is a wonderful writer, a happy combination of bestselling author and genuine literary talent. Here, she evokes an idyllic holiday atmosphere of lazy beach days and boozy, chatty dinners on the terrace. Into this she injects a creeping sense of foreboding as the plot begins to unfurl. The twist, when it comes, is shocking but perhaps not unexpected, as Rosoff has carefully signposted the way.
One of my favourite books of the year to date.
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff is published by Bloomsbury, 256 pages.