The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff
Bloomsbury, 2020. ISBN: 9781526620538.
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) Highly recommended. I am a great fan of Meg Rosoff's books (particularly There is no dog and Picture me gone) which are complex, challenging and unforgettable. The great Godden is no exception, a book that highlights manipulation and loss of innocence. One large messy family stay in a holiday house by the sea every summer, but this year there is a difference, the Goddens, charming Kit and morose Hugo, are staying with older cousins nearby. It is a summer when unexpected consequences will unfold, told in the unforgettable voice of the unnamed narrator.
Everyone talks about falling in love like it's the most miraculous, life-changing thing in the world. Something happens, they say, and you know . . . That's what happened when I met Kit Godden. I looked into his eyes and I knew. Only everyone else knew too. Everyone else felt exactly the same way. pg. 1.
There are four teenagers in the family, beautiful Mattie who immediately attaches herself to Kit, Tamsin who is obsessed with horses, younger brother Alex, who loves bats and wildlife, and our unknown narrator, who loves to draw and observes everything that is going on. Initially life continues as normal with swimming and games and then there is a wedding to plan for Mal and Hope (known affectionately as Malanhope), but Kit is an unexpected storm on the family's horizon. Mattie is not the only one who comes under Kit's influence, even though the morose but ultimately surprising Hugo tries to warn the narrator about his nature.
Rosoff's description of the way that Kit manipulates Mattie, playing on her emotions, attentive one moment and cold the next, will be a lesson for all about the manoeuvres of a master controller and the devastating consequences of sex without feeling. There are some shocking revelations about Kit's actions and how he sways the whole family.
The great Godden has been compared to Rumer Godden's The Greengage Summer, a tale of loss of innocence. It is a coming of age story that will linger in the memory, ideas to be brought out again and again to examine and think about. The manipulation here could also be compared to that in The lost witch by Melvyn Burgess.
Rosoff is a skilful writer and it is easy to see this story becoming a modern classic and it would also make an ideal TV series.