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The Go-Between (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jan 2004

47 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New edition (29 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141187786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141187785
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Inside This Book

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First Sentence
The eighth of July was a Sunday and on the following Monday I left West Hatch, the village where we lived near Salisbury, for Brandham Hall. Read the first page
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER on 1 Aug. 2011
Format: Paperback
First published in 1953, in this book Leo looks back to the summer of 1900 when he turned thirteen and was as full of optimism as the new century. Invited to stay at Brandham Hall by a school friend, he allows himself to get embroiled with the adults whose behaviour he simply isn't equipped to understand. And as the temperature rises, so over-heated emotions turn to a tragedy which will mark Leo's entire life.

This is a brilliant portrayal of a boy's first brush with the complexities of the adult world (we should remember that youth was far younger then than it is now). The blind and youthful confidence of Leo echoes that of the century, certainly the `ruling classes', having a final high-point before the devastation of the first world war sweeps away at least some of the old social certainties.

But at heart this is as much a novel about the clash of innocence and experience as it is about the old and dawning twentieth century worlds. Leo's artless relationships with the beautiful Marian, the scarred and gentlemanly viscount, and the charismatic village farmer Ted Burgess lead him to participate in, and even try to manipulate, a situation which is increasingly out of control.

It is worth recognising that this draws on Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde where Pandarus describes himself as a 'go-between' ('meene' in middle English), an allusion which serves to complicate our reading of Hartley's novel and which poses interesting questions about the characters.

Beautifully-crafted and imagined, this is a fine study of lost innocence and haunting betrayal.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mrs Norris on 17 Feb. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a great novel. Whenever I think of it the first thing that comes to mind is the stultifying summer heat which permeates nearly every page. That oppressive heat helps to create the perfect backdrop for the drama as it unfolds. I agree with the comparisons with Spies and Atonement - as in those novels, the writer portrays aspects of adolescence brilliantly - limited understanding of the world of grown-ups, and powerlessness (up to a point) in the face of their manipulation. The characters leap off the page, convincing if not always likeable, and the story is so well told that it is a page turner from the very start. Really well worth reading.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By booksetc on 7 July 2010
Format: Paperback
The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there ... from the first sentence I was entranced by this masterpiece of a novel, set during an Edwardian summer heatwave - you can feel the tension building as the thermometer rises. This is one of the best novels of adolescence that I have ever read. Leo Colston, now an old man, looks back on a long country house visit in the summer of 1900 which seemed then to be the dawn of a golden age. He becomes embroiled as the messenger-boy in a love triangle between the beautiful daughter of the house, the wounded hero she is expected to marry and a throbbingly-sexy farmer.
A brilliant evocation of an innocent boy groping his way in an adult world that he is ill-equipped to understand. A classic.
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39 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 23 Sept. 2005
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By madaboutbooks on 12 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback
In the exceptionally hot summer of 1900, Leo Colston is invited to spend the holidays with his wealthy classmate Marcus Maudsley and his family at Brandham Hall in Norfolk. Worried he will not fit in (coming from a middle-class family with little wealth), Leo desperately tries to make a good impression and in so doing becomes mixed up in the affair between Marian Maudsley, the daughter of the family, and local farmer Ted Burgess. With his hopeful and innocent outlook on the world and the new century laid out before him, Leo attempts to make sense of the relationship between these two adults, but ultimately assists in bringing about an event that will have a profound effect on him for the rest of his life.

Hartley's languid prose, filled with evocative descriptions of hot summer days spent in idle activity as the temperature steadily rises, reminded me very much of my own childhood. But interspersed with this is an underlying sense of slowly building dread; you know something terrible is going to happen, but you're never sure quite when or what it will be. Hartley's writing is very clever, putting you directly into the shoes of Leo and making you feel as helpless as he does. He knows instinctively that what he is doing - acting as a go-between for two people who should know better - is wrong, but he's too powerless and too innocent to stop it.

Leo is an engaging lead character; I felt for him and the situation he is so unfairly put in, but I also felt immense sadness for the innocence I knew he would lose by the close of summer. Other characters are not so likeable however. Marian is not, as Leo believes, a virtuous Virgin who has fallen from the heavens to live among the mortals on earth.
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