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The Go-Between (Essential Penguin) Paperback – 25 Feb 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition (25 Feb 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140282661
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140282665
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 2.1 x 18.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 159,881 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 4 Jan 2006
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 8 Dec 1999
Format: Paperback
One of the best books I have ever read. A sad and lonely old man reflects on the events of one late boyhood summer at an aristocratic house in rural England. His emotional, passionate and social assumptions were explored so violently in that visit that he doesn't seem to have ever recovered in the fifty years since . It can seem like a slow read at times but I feel that the pace matches the oppressive atmosphere of the setting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By hiljean VINE VOICE on 9 Mar 2010
Format: Paperback
This has to be my all-time favourite novel. It has, of course, one of the most famous opening lines of any work of fiction: "The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there". And how times have changed from the innocence of the young Leo Colston, through whose eyes we see the events unfold in the summer of 1900, a turning point in the century and in his life.

I don't think I have ever read a more convincing child-narrative than in this story. It is perfectly possible (contrary to what some other reviewers think) that a child of his age should at that time have known nothing about sex. I grew up in the 1960s and it wasn't until I started secondary school (1959/60) that I was told "the facts of life" and that was perfectly normal at that time. The year 1900 was still the Victorian era (Victoria died in 1901) so it is perfectly plausible that Leo knew nothing of sex at his age then. He has a romantic view of the world and his ignorance of social mores provides rich dramatic irony for the reader.

One of the aspects of the novel that is most richly developed is the heatwave which builds up over the summer; Leo is obsessed with the rising temperature, and as it escalates so too does the tension and the build-up of the climax of the novel (literally!). This is brilliantly evoked.

There is so much to savour in this novel that there is not enough space here to do it justice. All I can say is read it. If you enjoy a truly atmospheric classic novel, then this is for you.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By P. Dickinson on 3 Jun 2000
Format: Paperback
This is the only book I have ever read twice in succession - it really is wonderful. As the heat of an Edwardian summer rises, so the passion between two lovers from different social classes grows. They use a boy to run messages back and forth from the big house, across the park to the tied farm.
It is clear to us that the boy, the go-between, is being used. But through his eyes he is the cause of whole affair and therefore responsible for its tragic end. Something that affects the rest of his life.
The film starring Julie Christie is not a patch on the book and gives a very one-dimensional reading of a deep and complex tale. However, if you want to know where it was filmed - it is Melton Constable Hall in Norfolk which, the last time I sneeked in to see it, was a devastatingly romantic semi-delapidated gem.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Andrew D. on 11 Mar 2004
Format: Paperback
In the uncharacteristically hot English summer of 1900, Leo Colston, a middle-class school-boy living with his widowed mother, is invited to spend his holidays at the home of a wealthy classmate. Leo is seduced by the lifestyle of the wealthy Maudsley family, and develops a crush on the eldest daughter, Marian. When his friend is confined to his room by illness, Leo finds himself pressed into service as a go-between for Marian and her secret love, a lowly local farmer named Ted. With only a very limited understanding of how the world of grown-ups works, Leo tries to make sense of this relationship, and struggles to use his school-boy logic to prevent it from devastating both himself and everyone around him

It is surprising that many people have interpreted this novel as a tragic love story, in the vein of a thousand tales from Greek myths to Romeo and Juliet to 'Titanic'. But to make this interpretation is to fall into the same mistakes that the young Leo initially does. Marian is not a virtuous paragon – she is a flighty, manipulative young lady with an overdeveloped sense of entitlement. Ted is not a hero – he is, as the novel’s older characters hint, a hot-tempered charmer who can't keep his pants on. In fact, if anyone comes out of this well, it’s Viscount Trimington, who shows himself to be a perfect gentleman. He is, tellingly, the only one in the love triangle who shows the slightest bit of self-discipline.

There seems to be no doubt in Hartley’s mind that Marian and Ted are in love, but he does not suggest, as so many bad songs do, that love conquers all or, more importantly, that everything done in the name of love must be forgiven. Love, allowed free rein in Marian and Ted’s hearts, destroys them and everyone connected to them.
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