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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Childhood's End, 9 Dec 2012
Gregory S. Buzwell "bagpuss007" (London) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Brickfield (Paperback)
If you think of L.P. Hartley then the chances are you'll think of his most famous novel - The Go-Between, a gorgeous bitter-sweet evocation of childhood's end and the moment when realisation strikes that there is a serpent in even the most beautiful of gardens. The Brickfield, written some ten years after its illustrious predecessor, is in many ways a companion piece. Several of the themes are repeated. Indeed the novel even opens in a similar fashion with Richard Mardick, an ageing author with failing health, looking back upon his childhood and one blissful, long hot summer in particular. In The Brickfield however the reflections focus upon an affair in which Mardick himself took part, rather than an affair unwittingly aided but played out amongst the adults. As the tale unfolds Mardick reflects upon a summer spent on his uncle's farm out in the Fens, a landscape of distant horizons and empty skies but with a curious, haunting beauty. Away from his loving but overly-protective mother Mardick explores the world around him; shakes off his morbidly sensitive concerns and discovers desire in the form of Lucy, the only child of a reclusive couple who shun society. Richard and Lucy's romantic liaisons take place in an abandoned brickfield, an isolated world of lush vegetation, deep pools, abandoned kilns and collapsed chimneys and it is here that the adult world forces its way into Richard's life.

To begin with I found The Brickfield rather slow going. Mardick recounts his story to his secretary, the waspish Denys, and much of the attempted humour falls a little flat but as Mardick gets into his stride and other characters are introduced the story takes off. In particular things pick up with the appearance of Aunt Carrie - loved by all, lively and engaging but brittle and ultimately damaged by a failed love affair. As Mardick watches what happens to his much-loved aunt the thought emerges that by placing his entire happiness in the hands of one woman he is setting himself up for a similar fate. Also Hartley is good at describing landscape - whether it be the boundless empty skies or the enclosed overgrown brickfield - and he is good when it comes to describing adolescent desires: lust, love and the queasy ache of youthful longing. It's a slow burner, but when Hartley hits his stride the novel takes flight quite beautifully.

In conclusion while not quite up there with The Go-Between in terms of plot and emotional punch I certainly found The Brickfield an engaging read. It's good to see a few more of Hartley's novels coming back into print. He was a fine writer with an elegant but restrained prose style and he was particularly good at the portrayal of innocence on the cusp of the adult world, whether that be the innocence of a young boy on the verge of adulthood, or the innocence of a landscape or lifestyle on the verge of war or technological and economic change. Recommended, and if you liked The Go-Between you should definitely enjoy this.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read, 23 July 2014
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This review is from: The Brickfield (Kindle Edition)
More guilt / remorse cleansing ones soul. Seems to be what I am drawn to. Excellent read
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The Brickfield
The Brickfield by L. P. Hartley (Paperback - 6 Dec 2012)
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