The Great Godden is a story that leaves a lot of things open to interpretation, which adds a sense of being involved in understanding the story instead of being guided to the end. It revolves around a family whose lives change over a particular summer. Our protagonist – who also happens to be the narrator – is quite mysterious on a societal level as the gender and name isn’t revealed throughout the book. This allows for multiple possible narratives and emotions based on your perception of the character.
It all begins with the protagonist’s family – mum, dad, two sisters Mattie and Tasnim, and brother Alex – heading out to their summer house near the beach, which has been described as “picturesque and annoying in equal measures”; where they spend their summer with “Dad’s much younger cousin” Hope and her boyfriend Mal. Their summer revolves around family traditions such as the annual male bonding sailing trip and the tennis tournament.
But this year, it won’t be their usual summer after Hope’s double surprise – she and Mal will be getting married towards the end of summer and the arrival of two L.A. boys – Kit and Hugo Godden.
Kit Godden is the charming irresistible brother with whom everyone falls in love instantly, while the surly, silent Hugo is the black to Kit’s white. Kit has been described to be like a Greek statue with hair resembling to Medusa’s hair. On the other hand, Hugo has been said to be distant and even invisible.
Now, the rest of the book goes on to describe it as a summer full of drunkenness, swimming, lots of wedding planning, love and laughter. But there’s also an occasional hint of darkness in the way that everyone is charmed by Kit. To say the least, the author’s subtle depiction of gas-lighting and toxic energy is so well portrayed that it took me a second read to notice it happening as well.
What makes the book even more intriguing is the subtle hint in the title itself. Who is the great Godden? In which manner should ‘great’ be perceived, which again like the mysterious identity of our protagonist leaves it open-ended for your interpretation.
I rate this book 4 out 5 bookmarks considering how alluring the story is because of everything which remains unsaid. It’s a short novel packed with quality narration and pop culture references; one may even choose to call it timeless as for the most part, with its rare technological references, it could just be any summer during any period of time. With an occasional whiff of the lurking darkness as you flip every page and an unsettling feeling of impending doom, I highly recommend you read this book with low-key dark academia vibes to find out what really happened that summer because I assure you, you will NOT see that end coming!
I’d also like to thank Bloomsbury India for being very kind and sending me this review copy.