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on December 20, 2008
A story of lost innocence, "The Go-Between" is also about the introverted, relatively impoverished Leo trying to fit in with his friend's aristocratic family. But, above all, it is about misplaced trust, and a trust betrayed.

Bored and left to his own devices when his friend becomes ill, yet eager for acceptance by his friend's family, Leo develops a schoolboy crush both for his friend's sister, Marian Maudsley, and for Ted Burgess, a tenant farmer, who use the boy to convey messages enabling their illicit liaison--an affair complicated by the fact that Marian is to be married to a local viscount. Leo eventually divines the import of his mission, and it's a heavy burden for a young boy: "It seemed to me that if I went away, and only if I went away, the relationship between Ted and Marian would cease. I didn't ask myself how it had been kept up before I came."

In his introduction to the NYRB Classics edition, Colm Toibin notes the autobiographical elements of Hartley's novel: the yearning for a lost (and largely imagined) paradisiacal England, the nostalgia for his boyhood, his status as an outsider. A more subtle autobiographical intrusion is the author's censorious fascination with "forbidden" love: he meant readers to disapprove of Ted and Marian's affair and was somewhat surprised when they didn't. Hartley himself was both homosexual and a bit of a prude, and it doesn't take a Freudian therapist to understand the tensions that compelled the author to fall in love with his own "wayward" characters without realizing he was doing so. (The jilted viscount, in contrast, seems almost buffoonish.) Yet the most sympathetic portrait remains Leo himself, who is treated as both a pliable pet for the family's patronizing manners and a credulous pawn of their household machinations.

What truly distinguishes this coming-of-age tragedy is the elegiac simplicity of its prose. Hartley's style is reminiscent of the later, more serious Waugh, combined with a Proustian (but more easily readable) attention to detail. It's a luxurious and deceptively quiet read, with a startling climax and an ironically poignant denouement. In the end, Hartley successfully re-creates the paradise of a pollyannaish childhood at the turn of the last century, only to expose its purgatorial foundation.
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on August 13, 2016
Lovely, sad, beautifully written story.
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on August 1, 2017
Very good writing. The story is compelling, but probably not a reread.
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on May 6, 2017
Interesting protagonist. Good story. Rich details. Very well done. Starts slow and builds with intrigues. I highly recommend it to discriminating readers.
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on November 14, 2016
Halfway in, I remember feeling that there should have been a plot complication by now. I was ready for the usual quickening of the pace, heightened emotions or increase in action that would follow the complication. But it didn’t happen until near the end.

In spite of what you may have read, this story has little to do with magic or the supernatural. It’s a coming of age story based on what a boy did on his summer vacation on his friend’s parent’s estate. Much of the story revolves around games, swimming, exploring the countryside, playing with his friend and meeting new people. I liked the banter between the two boys, the playful insults. Though it is set in late Victorian England, the setting is probably too rural or upper class to provide much period detail. The activity around the estate is structured, but relaxed. I thought that the author did a particularly good job sketching out Mr. And Mrs. Maudsley, the parents of his friend.

Later, he starts taking messages between his friend’s older sister and her men friends. That is, he becomes a go-between, something that leads to the real drama of the story. I’ll leave it at that.

In spite of this story’s excessive length, I never got tired of reading it. It’s a pastoral story, told in a warm, gentle and sympathetic tone. The story details should be familiar to anyone who ever spent a childhood summer vacation in a rural setting. Leo, the young protagonist, presents us with a dead accurate psychological portrait of a young boy approaching puberty—take it from someone who’s been there.

The British class system, social propriety and forgiveness are the themes that are explored in this story.

It’s suitable for children.

2.7 stars
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VINE VOICEon November 28, 2005
This is a fine, well-penned book, dealing, ultimately, with loss of innocence and with human selfishness and self-deception. But I'm not so sure that all this twaddle about the horrors of the Twentieth Century and what many readers, and certainly Hartley himself, regarded as the motif for this work (to wit, "The Past is a different Country. They do things differently there.") will really do. It reminds me of Tolstoy's remark that small minded people think that the human condition changes with each generation.

Hartley was more than a bit of a blimp (Americans, read "reactionary") in his later years, and most of his later novels are deservedly forgotten because of their tendentious invectives against the modern world.---He frequently went out of his way to refer to the Working Classes as the "WCs" -another blimpish drollery which I shan't bother to explain to my Transatlantic cousins not familiar with "water closets."

I was raised in upper middle class England during the age of tellies and all sorts of talk about sex. Yet, I still feel that, if confronted, as Leo was, with a similar situation at his age, I would have responded, inwardly and outwardly, much the same: Found myself enchanted with the lovely Marian, awed by the viscount, etc This is why this book, unlike Hartley's other later works, has stood the test of time, it truly does touch on things universal, even if one of those things is nostalgia.
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on March 7, 2016
Enjoyable reading. Interesting characters.
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on October 5, 2005
Leo Colston is an exceptionally naive 12-year old when he goes to spend many weeks one early 20th century summer at a friend's English country home. Soon he becomes caught up in the comings and goings of two lovers with a world of class differences between them. Yet he still manages to retain his innocence, a situation author L. P. Hartley makes completely believable. Hartly pulls off the enviable trick of making Leo three-dimensional and fully fleshed-out despite his youth and his obtuseness. This ability to be unruffled by the passions around him is employed as a devastating counterpoint to the emotional implosion that rocks the family when the lovers are exposed.

My only real complaint with the book was the introduction of Leo as a grown man towards the end. It felt tacked on, and as though the book would have been better without it--as a sort of fever dream, beautifully written and left alone to stand on its own without the hard addition of reality and adulthood.
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on November 1, 2015
I love that book so much
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on May 19, 2016
excellent book.
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