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The Go-Between (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – March 31, 2002

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Editorial Reviews


"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

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 out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Series: New York Review Books Classics
  • Paperback: 326 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; Reprint edition (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322994
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322998
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,535 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on June 29, 2002
Format: Paperback
Resembling both McEwan's Atonement and Frayn's Spies in its plot, this 1953 novel, recently reprinted, tells of a pre-adolescent's naive meddling in the love lives of elders, with disastrous results. Set in the summer of 1900, when the hopes and dreams for the century were as yet untarnished by two world wars and subsequent horrors, this novel is quietly elegant in style, its emotional upheavals restrained, and its 12-year-old main character, Leo Colston, so earnest, hopeful, and curious about life that the reader cannot help but be moved by his innocence.

Leo's summer visit to a friend at Brandham Hall introduces him to the landed gentry, the privileges they have assumed, and the strict social behaviors which guide their everyday lives. Bored and wanting to be helpful when his friend falls ill, Leo agrees to be a messenger carrying letters between Marian, his host's sister, and Ted Burgess, her secret love, a farmer living nearby. Catastrophe is inevitable--and devastating to Leo. In descriptive and nuanced prose, Hartley evokes the heat of summer and the emotional conflicts it heightens, the intensity rising along with the temperature. Magic spells, creatures of the zodiac, and mythology create an overlay of (chaste) paganism for Leo's perceptions, while widening the scope of Hartley's focus and providing innumerable parallels and symbols for the reader.
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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By bensmomma on July 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
On the surface this is a story about a boy's unwitting involvement in facilitating a love affair at the turn of the century (1899 or so), told retrospectively by that boy as a man in his 60s.

On a deeper level one could say it's about our capacity for self-deception, or about the agonies of going from the intense and uncomplicated pleasures of childhood to the tortuous emotions of adulthood. But this makes the book sound detached and overly literary, which it's definitely not. It's involving and dramatic instead.

Hartley's commanding style makes this story extremely gripping; because it's told in retrospect the narrator is as articulate as an adult, yet the emotions expressed (and somehow the ones the reader feels) are the intense and confused ones of a child. Everything seems vivid and yet nothing is completely understandable, just as it is for us as children.

This lends the book a very bittersweet feeling and a magnificent aura of mystery. It's hard to imagine this book will ever go out of style.
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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By hugh riminton on November 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is striking as a counterpoint to Evelyn Waugh's masterpiece "Brideshead Revisited". Both were written immediately after WW2, when Englishmen, exhausted, quite reasonably gazed back at a lost time of grace and innocence.
Both Hartley and Waugh saw the falseness of that innocence, but also its deeper truth.
Hartley's story is worth reading now, at the beginning of this century, for he places it at the dawn of the last one. Leo, his protagonist, is 12 years old. He has huge dreams for the century that is breaking on him. His faith contrasts with the bitter weariness of his older self, the alternative narrator, who in 1950 lays out this story from his memory, prompted by the discovery of a childhood diary.
"Has the 20th Century done so much better than I have?" the narrator chides the memory of his childhood self. "You were vanquished, and so was your century, your precious century that you hoped so much of."
1900 was the last hot summer of Victoria's England. Leo, the only child of a widowed mother, goes to stay with a much wealthier schoolfriend. He sees nothing but the glories of the Maudsley family and their special guest, the Boer war-scarred young nobleman Viscount Trimingham. He becomes enraptured in his friend's sister, the ethereal Marian, for whom he would happily die.
In an emotional sense, he will.
Marian is kind to Leo. She also uses him. How much her affection was false, how much was genuine, lies at the core of Leo's agony.
The boy acts as a go-between in Marian's illicit love for a tenant farmer, a man of physical force, a creation worthy of DH Lawrence. Leo learns that adults are not what they seem. And he takes it hard.
It is possible to quibble with this story.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
I first read The Go-Between in my English class in my last year of high school. Returning to the book some 20 years later, I found it an even richer text than I did as a schoolboy.
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.
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