In our occasional spot where we recommend books for younger readers, a superb read for those aged 12 and over.
One of the areas that’s been heavily cut back on as newspapers and magazines trim their budgets in current times is reviews of books for young readers. As such, it’s getting trickier and trickier for authors of books for children and younger readers to get their work noticed. This occasional spot on the site is our attempt to do something about that. If you see a book you like here, please do spread the word. And who knows? We may see some of these stories on the big screen in the future.
The coming-of-age narrative is the one most frequently utilised in Young Adult literature: a teenage protagonist choosing, being forced or being forced to chose to grow up. Yet as we all know, all children, except one, grow up. Therefore a good coming-of-age novel can be a roadmap to help its reader navigate the uncertainty and difficulties that arise as the mind and body lumber towards being a supposed adult. A great coming-of-age novel is unafraid to show the beauty and the pain that comes from this time, how our perception of ourselves and the world around us remoulds to an almost unrecognisable and oft intolerable extent – and how that change doesn’t just stop when we turn 18.
That’s what makes The Great Godden not just great, but in my view something of a modern masterpiece.
The first in Rosoff’s three summer novels, in The Great Godden we follow one family’s summer trip to Suffolk. Our unnamed protagonist and her three siblings – magnetic and enigmatic eldest sister Mattie, their horse-mad sister Tamsin and their budding naturalist brother Alex – return to their family estate for what they anticipate to be an usual summer. With their annual reunion with their father’s cousin Hope and her long-term boyfriend Mal seeing the recommencing of their summer traditions and idyllic time-less days, the arrival of two distant relatives will reshape this summer and all the summers to come. Kit and Hugo, brothers just a few years older than the siblings, are total opposites. Kit is a human magnet, dazzling and charming all that come into his path. Hugo is reticent, cautious to be point of being rude and aloof.
Mattie and Kit quickly fall into a summer romance, entailing so many public displays of affection that they nauseate the rest of the family. Our protagonist looks on, reporting back to us their envy-tinged observations.
What follows is not to be expected. At times dark, with a preference for subtext rather that explicit declaration, Rosoff’s novel is lyrical and compulsively written with a short length – at only 128 pages – that belies its potency. Like the coming-of-age greats such as Dodie Smith’s I Capture The Castle and L.P Hartley’s The Go-Between, or modern classics like Laura Wood’s A Sky Painted Gold and When Life Gives You Mangoes by Keren Getten, this novel transports you – encapsulating the summer season and all the bittersweet wonders it can evoke.
Told with such beautiful imagery and a timelessness that allows the story to be truly transcendent, this an exquisite novel that shimmers off the page. Elegant and incandescent.
Recommended age: 12+
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