Thank you so much Pansing for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review! The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff is available at all good bookstores.
The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff is a captivating book that keeps your attention from the beginning to the end. It’s a quick read, though not as heady or lyrical (mentioned in the blurb) as I had expected.
A way I would describe this book is that it’s a play in novel format. As someone who has studied theater and drama which includes the writing of plays and acting of it, I find this execution of the story very clever and intriguing. It brings something new to what would otherwise be a very typical plot and gives the story a touch of absurdity and comedy. However, I think that this choice of execution is a double-edged sword as perhaps someone who has little or no knowledge in theater and drama, may find the narrative too bare-bones as narration plays a big part in novels whereas plays rely more on action and dialogue.
Although I appreciate the execution, I must admit that this choice has also greatly reduced the emotional depth and impact the story could’ve had. Plays are brought to life in its entirety when performed, thus this book feels lacking because it’s written as though it should be preformed but is instead meant solely to be read. I don’t really know how to explain this properly, but I guess the most accurate way I can put it is that the sparse narrative of The Great Godden makes every moment all the more valuable. However, it is also too bare because there is no extra imagery or whatever to give the story more layers and in process, make it more real.
In this sense, I guess you can say that the book feels so unreal and detached that it’s like a faraway, hazy summer dream. Though, I did not get that feeling while reading it. There’s too much mystery (we don’t even know the main character’s name!), which would’ve suited this novel had it just been a novel, but as it held elements of a play, the lack of specific details unbalanced it. When it comes to plays, even though the characters are ignorant, the audience isn’t. In regards to this, I think someone who hasn’t already viewed of The Great Godden as a play in novel form, would have an issue with the lack of specific details.
As for the characters, if you’re thinking in the sense of novels, many of them are unfortunately shallow and not as complex as they could’ve been. It makes the characters difficult for a reader to imagine them into being—to make them more human and realistic. However, in a play, I would say that they’re just right because it’s not unusual to find flat, archetypal characters (needing actors to bring them to life) in plays.
Everything considered, The Great Godden was also a disconcerting read for me. I enjoyed it, but I was very much confused by what perspective I should read the book in. My mind constantly went back and forth between what I knew of plays and novels, hence making the reading journey more complex than it should’ve (perhaps) been.