Today we're excited to spotlight The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff.
Read on for more about Meg and her book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Meg Rosoff!
Meg Rosoff is the author of How I Live Now, winner of the Michael L. Printz Award. She is a recipient of the Carnegie Medal and the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award and was named a National Book Award Finalist for her novel Picture Me Gone. Meg Rosoff also completed Mal Peet’s unfinished novel Beck, a promise she made him before he died. She lives in London.
Meet The Great Godden!
This is the story of one family during one dreamy summer—the summer when everything changes. In an eccentric, turreted vacation house by the sea, our watchful narrator sees everything, including many things that shouldn’t be seen, while brothers and sisters, parents and theatrical older cousins fill the hot days with wine and tennis and sailing and planning a wedding. Enter two brothers, the sons of a fading film actress—irresistibly charming, languidly sexy Kit and surly, silent Hugo. Suddenly there’s a serpent in this paradise, and the consequences will be devastating. In a propulsive narrative carrying intrigue and a growing sense of unease, Meg Rosoff, best-selling author of the iconic How I Live Now, offers a summer tale of innocence lost that will find its place among the classics of young adult literature.
From National Book Award Finalist Meg Rosoff comes a lyrical, compulsively readable coming-of-age tale that is heady, irresistible, and timeless.
~ Excerpt ~
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. You look into the eyes of your beloved and see not only the person you’ve always dreamed you’d meet, but the you you’ve always secretly believed in, the you that inspires longing and delight, the you no one else really noticed before.
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.
Every year when school ends we jam the car full of indispensable junk and head to the beach. By the time six people have crammed their bare essentials into the car, Dad says he can’t see out the windows and there’s no room for any of us, so half of everything is removed but it doesn’t seem to help; I always end up sitting on a tennis racket or a bag of shoes. By the time we set oﬀ, everyone’s in a foul mood.
The drive is a nightmare of shoving and arguing and Mum shouting that if we don’t all pipe down she’s going to have a breakdown and once a year Dad actually pulls
over to the side of the road and says he’ll just sit there till everyone shuts the **** up.
We’ve been coming to the beach since we were born, and on the theory that life existed even before that, Dad’s been coming since he was a child, and Mum since she met Dad and gave birth to us four.
The drive takes hours but eventually we come oﬀ the motorway and that’s when the mood changes. The familiarity of the route does something to our brains and we start to whine silently, like dogs approaching a park. It’s half an hour precisely from the roundabout to the house and we know every inch of landscape on the way. Bonus points are earned for deer or horses glimpsed from car windows or an owl sitting on a fence post or Harry the Hare hopping down the road. Harry frequently appears in the middle of the road on the day we arrive and then again on the day we leave — incontrovertible proof that our world is a sophisticated computer simulation.
There’s no such thing as a casual arrival. We pull
into the grass drive, scramble out of the car, and then shout and shove our way into the house, which smells of ancient upholstery, salt, and musty stale air till we open all the windows and let the sea breeze pour through in waves
The ﬁrst conversation always goes the same way:
MUM (dreamy): I miss this place so much. KIDS: So do we!
DAD: If only it were a little closer. KIDS: And had heat.
MUM (stern voice): Well, it’s not. And it doesn’t. So stop dreaming.
No one bothers to mention that she’s the one who brings the subject up every time.
Mum’s already got out the dustpan and is sweeping dead ﬂies oﬀ the windowsills while Dad puts food away and makes tea. I run upstairs, open the drawer under my bed, and pull on last summer’s faded sweatshirt. It smells of old house and beach and now so do I.
Alex is checking bat-box cameras on his laptop and Tamsin’s unpacking at superhuman speed because Mum says she can’t go down to see her horse until everything’s put away. The horse doesn’t belong to her but she leases him for the summer and would save him in a ﬁre hours before she’d save any of us.
Mattie, who’s recently gone from too-big features and no tits to looking like a sixteen-year-old sex goddess, has changed into sundress and wellies and is drifting
around on the beach because she sees her life as one long Instagram post. At the moment, she imagines she looks romantic and gorgeous, which unfortunately she does.
There’s a sudden excited clamor as Malcolm and Hope arrive downstairs to welcome us to the beach. Gomez, Mal’s very large, very mournful basset hound, bays at the top of his lungs. Tamsin and Alex will be kissing him all over, so really you can’t blame him.
Mal clutches two bottles of cold white wine and while everyone is hugging and kissing, Dad mutters, “It’s about time,” abandons the tea, and goes to ﬁnd a corkscrew. Tam hurls herself at Mal, who sweeps her up in his arms and swings her around like she’s still a little girl.
Hope makes us stand in order of age: me, Mattie, Tamsin, and Alex. She steps back to admire us all, saying how much we’ve grown and how gorgeous we all are, though it’s obvious she’s mainly talking about Mattie. I’m used to being included in the gorgeous- Mattie narrative, which people do out of politeness. Tam snorts and breaks rank, followed by Alex. It’s not like we don’t see them in London, but between school and work, and what with living in completely diﬀerent parts of town, it happens less than you might think.
“There’s supper when you’re ready,” Hope calls after them.
Dad wipes the wineglasses with a tea towel, ﬁlls them, and distributes the ﬁrst glass of the summer to the over-eighteens, with reduced rations for Mattie, Tamsin, and me. Alex reappears and strikes like a rat snake when Hope leaves her glass to help Mum with a suitcase. He downs it in two gulps and slithers away into the under- brush. Hope peers at the empty glass with a frown but Dad just ﬁlls it again.
Everyone smiles and laughs and radiates optimism. This year is going to be the best ever — the best weather, the best food, the best fun.
The actors assembled, the summer begins.
Our house is picturesque and annoying in equal measure. For one thing it’s smaller than it looks, which is funny because most houses are the opposite. My great-great-grandfather built it for his wife as a wedding present in 1913, constructed in what Mum calls Post- Victorian-Mad-Wife-in-the-Attic style. It stayed in the family till the 1930s, when my ancestor had to sell it to pay oﬀ gambling debts. His son (my great-grandfather) bought it back twenty years later, restored the original periwinkle blue, and thereafter everyone refrained from mentioning the time it left the family. He also built a
house down the beach for family overﬂow, which is now owned by Hope. Since Mal came on the scene, we think of it as their house, even though technically it’s not.
Our house was built as a summer place, a kind of folly, not to be lived in year-round, so we don’t. It’s drafty, has no insulation, and the pipes freeze if you don’t drain them and ﬁll the toilets with antifreeze in November, but we love every tower and turret and odd- shaped window and even the short staircase that ends in a cupboard. My great-great-grandfather must have had a great-great sense of humor because everything in the house is pointlessly idiosyncratic. But you can see the sea from nearly every window.
My bedroom is the watchtower. Most people wouldn’t want it because it’s ridiculously small, no room to swing a rat. Someone tall enough could touch all four walls at once by lying ﬂat with arms and legs out- stretched. The tower comes with a built-in captain’s bed and a ladder, and the ladder goes up to a tiny widow’s walk, so named because women needed a place to walk while gazing out to sea through the telescope, waiting for their husbands to come back. Or not. Hence widow. I am the possessor of the brass telescope that belonged to my great-grandfather. He was in the navy and in his later years spent a lot of time doing what
I do — standing in the square tower with his tele- scope trained outward. I have no idea what he saw — probably the same things I do: boats, Jupiter, owls, hares, foxes, and the occasional naked swimmer. It’s kind of an unwritten rule that the telescope goes with the room. No one takes a vote; it just gets handed to the right per- son. Theoretically, the telescope and the room might have gone to Mattie, Tamsin, or Alex, but it didn’t.
There are lots of traditions in my family, like the passing down of this house and the passing down of the telescope. On the other hand, we’re distinctly lack- ing in the kind of traditions grand families have, like naming every oldest son Alfred or being feebleminded, and there’s no sign of the gambling gene reemerging, so that’s kind of a relief. But, wobble aside, when it comes to keeping property in the family from one generation to the next we’re practically on a par with the Queen.
On the other side of the house is a turret. Before we four were born, Mum and Dad used the turret as a bedroom, which was romantic but impractical as it threatens to blow away from the house altogether in a high wind. About ﬁve years ago they moved down a ﬂoor to a room-shaped room over the kitchen. Mum makes costumes for the National Opera, so the turret became her summer workroom. Alex’s room is across
the hall and everyone calls it the cutthroat. I used to think that was because of some murky historical murder, but Dad says it’s because it’s so small it makes you want to cut your throat. On the plus side, it has a hexagonal window and feels snug as the berth of a boat. Mattie and Tamsin shared a room for ages, but once Mattie hit twelve they had to be separated to prevent bloodshed. Even Mum and Dad realized that no one on earth could live with Mattie, so she ended up sole proprietor of the little guest house in the garden, which makes her feel exactly as special as she imagines she is.
Tamsin has the room all to herself now, which suits everyone, as it smells powerfully of horse.
Between the bedrooms is a long landing with a built-in window seat where you can stretch out and read or meet to play cards or look out the big window to the sea. The cotton cover on the window seat is so faded it’s hard to tell what color it once was. When we were little we used to call this area the playroom, but it’s actually just a corridor.
Outside, the house is decorated with Victorian curlicue gables and brackets, so even the ﬁshermen stop to take pictures on their phones. It doesn’t help that it’s painted periwinkle blue. When I asked Dad why we couldn’t paint it a slightly less conspicuous color, he
shrugged and said, “It’s always been periwinkle blue,” which is the sort of thing you get a lot in my family. Mindless eccentricity.
Hope is Dad’s much younger cousin; Dad was twenty-two when Hope was born. Since they got together, Mal and Hope started staying at the little house every summer. It’s only a hundred meters down the beach from ours and it’s built of wood and glass, very modern for its time, with big wooden decks where everyone can sit and eat and look out at the sea.
Malcolm met Hope at drama school. No one thought the relationship would last because she seemed far too sensible to settle down with an actor. But they’ve been together for twelve years and we refer to them as Malanhope like they’re a single entity. Where’s Malanhope? Are Malanhope coming for dinner?
“I hope Malcolm doesn’t lose Hope,” Dad says at least once a week, though in fact the joke is particu- larly stupid given how devoted Hope is to Malcolm. We are too — he’s insanely handsome and an indefatigable player of board games.
Mal and Hope are both in their early thirties and far more interesting than our parents. They’re ringleaders in all things summery — drunkenness, indiscreet conver- sations, all-night poker. They both started out as actors,
but Hope decided one day that she hated auditions and hated being poor, so now she teaches drama at a univer- sity in Essex. Occasionally she does voice-overs because she’s a brilliant mimic, unlike Mal. All Mal’s accents sound Irish and his attempts to speak with an American accent are pitiful. None of us has ever said it out loud, but it should probably be Hope earning a living as an actor and Mal teaching drama.
I saw Hope onstage once, playing Nora in A Doll’s House. I was only thirteen but you had to be blind not to see how good she was. I’d never seen anyone do so little and express so much, and I never forgot it. When Malcolm acts, he throws his whole heart and soul around the stage like a rubber chicken.
We adore Mal. He teaches us stuﬀ like sword ﬁght- ing and how to laugh convincingly onstage. Mattie ﬂirts with him, but she ﬂirts with all forms of human life, so it’s barely notable. Malcolm ﬂirts back so as not to hurt her feelings. Mattie isn’t stupid, but sometimes I think she’s the most trivial person I know. She says she wants to be a doctor but her brain seems mostly ﬁlled with sex and shoes.
Mattie’s just wandered back up from the water. No one there to admire her but the ﬁsh. She shouts to no
one in particular that she’s going down the beach to help Hope with supper.
I can hear Tamsin arguing with Dad about giving her a ride to the barn. There’s a sort of policy that Tam is allowed to have Duke for the summer but doesn’t get a lift up every time she has a whim to go and see him. She’s right that it takes ﬁve minutes to drive and twenty to cycle, but if you add up all the ﬁve minutes she’ll require in the course of a summer, Dad’s right to nip it in the bud.
Mum ends the discussion and for a few blissful moments there’s peace.
T H E G R E A T
G O D D E N
This is a work of ﬁction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or, if real, are used ﬁctitiously.
Copyright © 2020 by Meg Rosoﬀ
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, transmitted, or stored in an information retrieval system in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, taping, and recording, without prior written permission from the publisher.
First US edition 2021
First published by Bloomsbury (UK) 2020
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number pending ISBN 978-1-5362-1585-4
21 22 23 24 25 26 LBM 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Printed in Melrose Park, IL, USA
This book was typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro.
Candlewick Press 99 Dover Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144 www.candlewick.com
The Great Godden
By: Meg Rosoff
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: April 12th, 2021
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