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The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

The Go-Between (1953)

by L. P. Hartley

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,664306,231 (3.94)119
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    Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (Anonymous user)
  3. 10
    Spies by Michael Frayn (whits100, hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: Lots of strong similarities (coming of age tale, child narrator, thoroughly English, murky adult goings-on, even symbolic plants) but Hartley's is the superior novel.
  4. 00
    The Fit by Philip Hensher (KayCliff)
    KayCliff: The heroes of both books, traumatised by early experience, retreat into book-centred, isolated careers.

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» See also 119 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
I give it a resounding BBB (beautiful British book) rating.
It encompasses themes of bildungsroman, realism (class war, novel of manners), and a love story doomed from its inception.
The setting is the start of 20th century, almost end of the Victorian era.
The style and diction is signature British with its wry wit, civil dialogue and actions sprinkled with gossamer tenderness.
Ali Smith in her Guardian article about the book:
"Can a book ambush you? From the prologue ('Are you vanquished, Colston, are you vanquished?') to the epilogue ('Tell him there's no spell or curse except an unloving heart') it felt, as I reread, uncannily familiar, like something I knew – and had no idea I knew – by heart." ( )
1 vote faisalmemon | May 6, 2018 |
Leo Colston is turning 13 in the summer he spends at his friend Marcus's house, Brandham Hall. Although he and Marcus attend the same school, Marcus is certainly higher on the social ladder than he is, with a larger house, servants, and a more carefree attitude to money. Leo is an awkward youth who nevertheless tries to fit in, and he fits in by serving as a go-between, carrying messages for Marcus's sister, Marian, and her lover. The three weeks or so he spends at Brandham Hall are burned onto his memory, and the story is told from his perspective as a much older man remembering all the sensations, emotions and events of that time.

I really enjoyed this book and made short work of it. It is said to be fairly autobiographical, and the vividness of Leo's emotions, as well as the details of the Hall and its surroundings, made that an easy assertion to believe. It was also interesting as a portrayal of friendship between Leo and Marcus; they fought and made up and were indifferent to each other in a way that felt realistic to me, although I don't know or remember that much about the social behaviours of preadolescent boys. And as someone who was also crushingly awkward in early adolescence, I could relate all too well to Leo's plight at school that begins the novel.

The New York Review of Books edition contains an interesting introduction by Colm Tóibín and an introduction by Hartley himself. I read Tóibín's and skipped Hartley's.

Worth reading if you like stories about awkward protagonists, the early 20th century, or England. Also worth reading just so you get the full context for that famous first line: The past is a different country: they do things differently there. ( )
1 vote rabbitprincess | May 9, 2017 |
The point of this one is in the writing. The 'shock' ending is nothing of the sort; the homosexual subtext is far more interesting. ( )
  soylentgreen23 | Jul 3, 2016 |
First read this 40 years ago when the film came out. I'm now re-reading it for a course I'm doing on Film and the Book. And what a great novel it is. You get sucked in from the moment you read that opening line (has there ever been a better one?).
It's a true millennium novel written in the mid-20th century and set in1900. Reading it now, it could easily be labelled as simply another heritage, country house, upstairs downstairs, Downton Abbey sort of thing but it's so much more than that. A meditation on the past and the power and pitfalls of memory. A blistering depiction of England's class-based society. A subtle depiction of the relationship between the worlds of child and adulthood (Leo's role as go-between is a perfect metaphor). A heart-breaking portrait of the transition from boyhood to manhood. An examination of budding sexuality. It has it all, including the growing sense of tension as it nears its end. ( )
1 vote stephengoldenberg | Apr 6, 2016 |
It's taken me longer than usual to get through this book - I was well over halfway in before I started to get drawn into the story.

Set in the year 1900, a young boy goes to Norfolk for a month in the summer to stay with his school friend at their large country house. Over the course of that period, he ends up becoming the messenger go-between for the young lady of the hall and a local farmer, who are lovers. I won't give away any plot spoilers, but suffice to say it all leads up to dramatic climax.

This is another book that is highly revered, yet I struggled to be completely engaged by it. For much of the book nothing of note really happened. There were no sub-plots or twists at play; everything was just slowly building up to the story ending, yet the dramatic tension only really got going in the last few chapters.

The slowness would have been OK if I'd enjoyed the writing, but I found it laborious and stodgy at times, particularly in the first half. I don't mind re-reading a few passages if I'm really enjoying the prose, but I found many of the chapters quite dull. L.P. Hartley successfully typified the detached and aloof manner that would have existed amongst the upper class in that era, but somehow this limited the emotional connections between the characters.

It was an interesting depiction of the darker side of an adult world slowly coming into focus for a teenage boy, and his thoughts and feelings were quite well played out, but somehow the climax wasn't as emotionally impacting as it should have been.

Just 3 stars for me. ( )
  AlisonY | Mar 20, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (17 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Hartley, L. P.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tóbín, ColmIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

Has as a student's study guide

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But, child of dust, the fragrant flowers,
The bright blue sky and velvet sod
Were strange conductors to the bowers
Thy daring footsteps must have trod.

Emily Bronte
To Miss Dora Cowell
First words
The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0940322994, Paperback)

"The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley's finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend's beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. The inspiration for the brilliant Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naiveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart. This volume includes, for the first time ever in North America, Hartley's own introduction to the novel.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:51 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"L. P. Hartley (1895-1972), the son of the director of a brickworks, attended Harrow and Balliol College, Oxford, before setting out on a career as a literary critic and writer of short stories. In 1944 he published his first novel, The Shrimp and the Anemone, the opening volume of the trilogy Eustace and Hilda (also published by New York Review Books). In the spring of 1952, Hartley began The Go-Between, a novel strongly rooted in his childhood. By October he had already completed the first draft, and the finished product was published in early 1953. The Go-Between became an immediate critical and popular success and has long been considered Hartley's finest book."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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Average: (3.94)
1 4
2 13
3 49
3.5 31
4 106
4.5 23
5 72

NYRB Classics

2 editions of this book were published by NYRB Classics.

Editions: 0940322994, 1590175360

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141187786, 0141195169

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