The Go-Between (NYRB Classics)

The Go-Between (NYRB Classics)

4.4 10
by L. P. Hartley

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“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair,…  See more details below


“The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.”

Summering with a fellow schoolboy on a great English estate, Leo, the hero of L. P. Hartley’s finest novel, encounters a world of unimagined luxury. But when his friend’s beautiful older sister enlists him as the unwitting messenger in her illicit love affair, the aftershocks will be felt for years. The inspiration for the brilliant Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naïveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart. This volume includes, for the first time ever in North America, Hartley’s own introduction to the novel.

Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
Mr. Hartley is amazingly good, and no reader of serious fiction should miss this book.
Atlantic Monthly
A beautifully written and absorbing book.
Jay Parini
Like Henry James, his most obvious literary forebear, Hartley examines the nuances of morality with a shimmering exactness, focusing on characters like Leo, the narrator of The Go-Between, caught between natural impulses and the social conventions that would thwart them.
New York Times
Washington Star
It is always a pleasure to watch a conscious literary artist at work. L. P. Hartley is such a one. All his effects are deliberately sought and brilliantly brought off. Yet a thread of shining lyricism runs is a beautiful and controlled feat of story-telling.
From the Publisher
"Exuding such a sense of summer the pages might be warm to touch, Hartley's coming-of-age tale is set during the heatwave of 1900. It all ends in tears, but not before there have been plenty of cucumber sandwiches on the lawn." —The Observer

“The first time I read it, it cleared a haunting little spot in my memory, sort of like an embassy to my own foreign country…. I don't want to spoil the suspense of a well-made plot, because you must read this, but let's just say it goes really badly and the messenger (shockingly) gets blamed. Or he blames himself anyway. And here the mirror cracks; the boy who leaves Brandham is not the one who came. Indeed the narrator converses with his old self as though he were two people. That was the powerful gonging left by my first read: What, if anything, bundles us through time into a single person?” – Ann Brashares, “All Things Considered”, NPR
“I can't stop recommending to anyone in earshot L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between…. One of the fabled opening lines in modern literature: ‘The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.’ The NYRB paperback has a superb new introduction by Colm Tóibín, but don't read it until after you've read the book itself.” – Frank Rich, New York

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New York Review Books
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New York Review Books Classics Series
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The Go-Between 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
TheReadingWriter More than 1 year ago
Hartley has taken my breath away with the sweep of his story and the majesty of his writing. This book was published when he was fifty-eight, in 1953, and evokes England before the wars "quickly, simply, effortlessly" (Tóibín, Intro p. x). Hartley, in an interview, wrote: "I wanted to evoke the feeling of that summer [in 1900], the long stretch of fine weather, and also the confidence in life, the belief that all's well with the world, which everyone seemed to enjoy before the First World War...The Boer War was a local affair, and so I was able to set my little private tragedy against a general background of security and happiness." Ostensibly this is a story about a thirteen-year-old private-school boy, Leo, at the turn of the twentieth century spending a month in the summer at the house of a wealthier school chum, Marcus. It is told from the perspective of that same boy, years later remembering back, and he hints at some dark and irremediable end that casts a shadow through the warm and carefree beginnings of that seminal summer. This is a slow slide, told through innumerable details, into the deep end of the pool, but we hardly even struggle as the dim end comes. We are watching the process, the progress of our descent. Our boy Leo got a new set of clothes, fell helplessly in love with distant Marian, the older sister of Marcus, and had days of discovery on his own when Marcus came down sick and had to stay in bed. Leo never does get to wear his new swim suit, though I waited for that moment almost as anxiously as I did the larger dénouement that loomed on the horizon that steamy summer. Somehow I thought that nakedness and bathing and water and the thrill of danger would be intertwined with the finish, but that was just another beautifully executed feint where ordinary things take on the weight of portent. The gentle, teasing story of that languid summer is that moment in a life when mysteries are revealed, truths are uncovered, futures are altered, and no one is ever the same again. The miracle is that Hartley captured it so completely, the sensual detail caught with the enthusiasm and wonder of a boy's eye: the rippling muscle of the farmer, the shock of cold steel and weight of the gun stock, the smell of Marian's perfume and the rustle of her satins as her white arms stretched over recalcitrant piano keys... But the best, the very best, is the way Hartley brings his story to a close. We hold on through the summer with stomach clenched: when the crisis comes, we are ready, but Hartley teases us on with another suspense, and then another, until we are slowly sated, satisfied, and feel older, wiser, wistful. I adored character Marian at the end, while I hated her throughout much of the story. It was the older man's eyes and her own words that make this transformation, but it made her life and his a celebration, rather than a tragedy. Only time and distance bestows that grace, and Hartley was wise enough to tweek our emotions that one last time. This is the cusp of manhood story that school children should read, but aspiring authors could do worse than study how Hartley did this. A final word: Hartley was a book reviewer foremost, and "often read as many as five novels a week and reckoned that in all he must have read well over six thousand books."(Tóibín, Intro p. vi). Would that our man were alive and writing today, we would be ever the richer.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Really wonderfully done story about 12-year-old schoolboy and first person narrator Leo's summer spent with his wealthier school pal, Marcus, at Brandham Hall. From the prologue, the narrator as a grown man coming upon his childhood diary 'lying at the bottom of a rather battered, red cardboard collar-box, in which as a small boy I kept my Eton collars' the narrative voice carried me so comfortably along that it was pure pleasure to read.
D_MacGowan More than 1 year ago
A haunting tale about the loss of childhood innocence that avoids the clichés of that genre. The movie is great, too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eatsleepread1 More than 1 year ago
Just completed the book. The tension the author builds toward the end is amazing. You know it's coming - just not how and when. Then, he brings it all together in such a surprising, yet satisfying way. The details of life on a British estate prior to the wars take you right into that setting. Great read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read the book and it's amazing you should read it 2!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is wonderful that this magnificent book is again available. Perhaps best known as the source of Joseph Losey's brilliant but near-forgotten film of the same name from the early 70s, the book is an even more detailed examination of the finely-wrought plot. 'The past is a far country. They do things differently there' is the haunting beginning of the book that shows just how differently they do things in the past, from the point of view of a pre-adolescent boy who is befriended by two lovers who use him to take their messages to one another. Still an astonishing work, and one which richly rewards repeated readings. I will always see the faces of Julie Christie and Alan Bates as the lovers from different levels of the strictly structured English society of the turn of the century, and Margaret Leighton as her appallled mother. But the wonderfully subtle details of the book itself are what make it memorable.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book rules! The Go-Between is alot like the book written by Charles Dickens; Great Expectations. This book is great with all those twists and you won't be able to put it down. The setting is in Oxford, England, and the boy, Leo is visiting a family for the summer and than he turns out to become a deliverer for two people having an affair. It's a great book and is Highly Recommended.