Originally published: 9 July 2020
Author: Meg Rosoff
Published by: Bloomsbury
Genre: Young Adult
Length: 246 pages
Reading dates: 17-19 July 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.
Every summer, the family in The Great Godden visit the same house for the whole of the summer holidays on the coast. The quirky house is painted periwinkle blue, sits next to the sea and was built by their great, great grandfather as a wedding present for his new bride in 1913. The family consists of mum, dad, Mattie (the beautiful 16 year old sister), Tamsin (the horse mad teenager) Alex (a boy of around 12 who loves wildlife) and our narrator. Also staying nearby is older cousin Hope, a drama teacher and her partner Mal an actor, who this year announce they will be getting married at the end of the summer.
Their other surprise is two more houseguests. Hope is the goddaughter of a fading Hollywood actress Florence Godden and has agreed to look after her sons for the summer, who are over from California. Kit is 19, unbelievably handsome with golden skin, thick auburn hair streaked with gold and hazel eyes, while his brother 17 year old brother Hugo is described as brown and rather plain-looking, bony and awkward.
The book is the story of that summer, told from the point of view of the narrator, of whom we know very little, not even know their gender. This is the second book I’ve read this year that has kept the gender of a narrator a secret – my feelings as to whether they were a boy or girl fluctuated throughout the book but I actually loved not knowing.
Mattie predictably, pairs off with Kit quickly and they begin an intense love affair. Hugo keeps himself to himself and is almost invisible to the family but our narrator makes the effort of getting to know him a little, discovering a mutual talent for art.
The story of this summer is evocative, full of nostalgia and sounds absolutely idyllic – the sort of summer I remember as a child where the sun shone everyday! The families fill their days with swimming, sunbathing, tennis and eating and drinking al fresco. A story of young love and the pain it can cause, longing and lust, as well as the relationships and rivalry between siblings, this was a stunning book. Very short but beautifully written, the idea of an almost unknown narrator telling it through their eyes is just wonderful.
This is a young adult book but is an amazing story that I think anyone could read and enjoy. One of the very best coming-of-age novels that I have ever read – timeless and utterly captivating! Thank you so much to Tandem Collective for inviting me to be part of the Instagram readalong and to Bloomsbury for a copy of the book, which is stunning with its beautiful sprayed edges.
About the author:
Meg Rosoff was born in Boston and had three or four careers in publishing and advertising before she moved to London in 1989, where she lives now with her husband and daughter. Formerly a Young Adult author, Meg has earned numerous prizes including the highest American and British honours for YA fiction: the Michael L. Printz Award and the Carnegie Medal.