The Go-between Paperback – Jan 1970
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"Exuding such a sense of summer the pages might be warm to touch, Hartley's coming-of-age tale is set during the heatwave of 1900. It all ends in tears, but not before there have been plenty of cucumber sandwiches on the lawn." --The Observer
“The first time I read it, it cleared a haunting little spot in my memory, sort of like an embassy to my own foreign country…. I don't want to spoil the suspense of a well-made plot, because you must read this, but let's just say it goes really badly and the messenger (shockingly) gets blamed. Or he blames himself anyway. And here the mirror cracks; the boy who leaves Brandham is not the one who came. Indeed the narrator converses with his old self as though he were two people. That was the powerful gonging left by my first read: What, if anything, bundles us through time into a single person?” – Ann Brashares, “All Things Considered”, NPR
“I can't stop recommending to anyone in earshot L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between…. One of the fabled opening lines in modern literature: ‘The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.’ The NYRB paperback has a superb new introduction by Colm Tóibín, but don't read it until after you've read the book itself.” – Frank Rich, New York Magazine.com
From the Back Cover
"An intelligent, complex and beautifully felt evocation of nascent boyhood sexuality that is also a searching exploration of the nature of memory and myth" --Douglas Brooks-Davies
An invitation to a friend's house changes an adolescent boy's life. Discovering an old diary, Leo, now in his sixties, is drawn back to the hot summer of 1900 and his visit to Brandham Hall. The past comes to life as Leo recalls the events and devastating outcome that destroyed his beliefs and future hopes.
The first annotated edition of L.P. Hartley's great classic, the present text generally follows that of the first edition of 1953 and also includes a number of small but significant corrections based on the surviving holograph of The Go-Between.
Lord David Cecil described L.P. Hartley as "One of the most distinguished of modern novelists; and one of the most original. For the world of his creation is composed of such diverse elements. On the one hand he is a keen and accurate observer of the processes of human thought and feeling; he is also a sharp-eyed chronicler of the social scene. But his picture of both is transformed by the light of a Gothic imagination that reveals itself now in a fanciful reverie, now in the mingled dark and gleam of a mysterious light and a mysterious darkness.... Such is the vision of light presented in[his] novels. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The author's use of the older Leo's retrospective narrative provides flexibility to alter recollections and timelines in a way that allows him to introduce symbolism to the text - the heat as a guage of the sexual relationship between Marion and Ted (he first notices its destructiveness at the moment he finds out of the true nature of their relationship by glancing at the unsealed letter) - the belladonna / deadly nightshade (even the two names provide contrasting meanings) as a symbol of Marion which he eventually destroys - phallic symbols such as the cricket bat and the gun for Ted (the latter which destroys him both physically and metaphorically).
Hartley's text is also a critique on the 20th century. The story is placed in 1900 and the great hopes of Victorian/Edwardian Britian - the progress of science, the progress of human society and the height of Empire. The shattering of Leo's life and hopes evokes the reality of the 20th century West. Denys and Marcus are killed in WW1 and the 10th Vicount and Vicountess Trimington by WW2. The signs are there at the time of the illusion of this sense of progress for the new century, with the frequent references to the Boer War and the disfigurement of Trimington.
There are some minor quibbles with the story. The emotional collapse of Leo seems disproportionate to what he saw - he may not have known what "spooning" was but he was aware of the intensity of Marion and Ted's relationship. However, it adds dramatic impact and does not detract from the brilliant integration of the text - its use of language, symbols and narrative patterns.
The main themes of the novel are loss of innocence and the destruction of a 'golden age'. Leo's loss of innocence at the climax of the novel foreshadows the loss of innocence that Europe is about to suffer as the twentieth century unfolds. The emotional scars that Leo suffers are also a reflection on the world's inability to ever fully recover from the world wars.
The characters within the novel are highly effective because of their complexity - for example the reader is forced to question themselves whether Marian's manipulative nature is generated by selfishness or from the fact that she is incredibly miserably and desperatly trying to escape from her mother's social ambition.
The Go-Between is full of intense imagery including that of the belladonna plant which represents passion and female sexuality as something beautiful and highly desirable but ulitmately deadly.
The tragedy which ends the main novel is deepened by the epilogue which discusses the fates of all the characters within the novel and the way in which they appear to be 'cursed'. Whilst The Go-Between is by no means a cheerful novel, it is highly thought-provoking and provides a fascinating insight into the charmed life of the wealthly in Edwardian England before it was destroyed by the Great War.
Most recent customer reviews
A strange and powerful tale. Thank you for the chance to have read such a touching, if not disturbing rendering .Published 16 months ago by Elizabeth Eriksson
Out of all the books we had to study for my A-Level english literature class I am glad that we read this one . Read morePublished on April 2 2000 by MADDY
When you start to this read the novel you may, initially, be overwhelmed by the elder Leo's adult persecptive. Do not let that put you off this tremendous novel. Read morePublished on Sept. 25 1999