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The Go-Between (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 29 Jan 2004
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When one long, hot summer, young Leo is staying with a school-friend at Brandham Hall, he begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, the beautiful young woman up at the hall. He becomes drawn deeper and deeper into their dangerous game of deceit and desire, until his role brings him to a shocking and premature revelation. The haunting story of a young boy's awakening into the secrets of the adult world, "The Go-Between" is also an unforgettable evocation of the boundaries of Edwardian society.
About the Author
Leslie Poles Hartley (30 December 1895 - 13 December 1972), known as L. P. Hartley, was a British novelist and short storywriter. His best-known novels are the Eustace and Hilda trilogy (1947) and The Go-Between (1953). His 1957 novel The Hireling was made into a critically acclaimed film of the same title in 1973.
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This is a very evocative novel, which really encapsulates the past well. We begin with Leo’s story at school, where he is bullied and his life made a misery, before somehow a chance event causes him to become something of a hero. This experience gives him a certain confidence, so he is thrilled to visit Marcus in the holidays. There is even a titled guest; a Viscount, who allows him to call him by his first name, as well as the lovely Marian, Marcus’s sister.
Leo’s family life, alone with his widowed mother, is much less grand that that of Marcus, and he is impressed and eager to please. It gradually becomes apparent that Marian is destined to become engaged to the Viscount, whose family seat is Brandon Hall. However, she is attracted to the tenant farmer, Ted Burgess, and, when Leo is asked to take notes between Marian and Ted, it leads to a tragedy which Leo tries to understand as an adult.
Everything about this novel is sublimely beautiful. It seems almost odd now that a boy like Leo, about to reach his thirteenth birthday, is really so unaware of the reasons for his message taking; but, as the author tells us in the beginning – it was a more innocent time and very different. The setting is evocative of those rare, beautiful, English summers. It involves class, cricket, croquet on the lawn and picnics. The small victories, and crushing embarrassments, of childhood and the awareness of adult life on the periphery of Leo’s senses. A wonderful novel and one which encapsulates so much about a certain time so well.
When Leo as an adult visits the now elderly Marian (a plot device I found rather artificial) she says "there is no spell or curse except an unloving heart," and you are left wondering if she is referring to her own mother Mrs Maudesley and the extreme reaction to that affair so long before. A truly memorable book
This book is still as alive and kicking as when it was created in the early 1950s. Must read it again.
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