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The past is a foreign country they do things differently thereSummering 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 LoseyHarold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates The Go Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered spellbinding story about past and present naiveté 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


10 thoughts on “The Go-Between

  1. says:

    A sublime novel beautifully written and very evocative It has probably one of the most famous opening lines in literature Do I need to uote it? Probably not but I will because it does sum up the book; The past is a foreign country they do things differently there In the early 1950s Leo Colston looks back on the long hot summer of 1900 when he turned 13 the memory of which he has blanked out He discovers his diary and begins to piece together the events Hartley describes life in an English preparatory school rather well and the relationship between Leo and Marcus Maudsley is believeable throughout Leo is invited to Brandhan Hall to spend part of the holidays including his birthday with Marcus and his family; a home much grander then Leo's Here Leo accidentally falls into the role of go between for Marian Maudsley Marcus's sister supposed to be engaged to Lord Trimingham and a local farmer Ted Burgess The tragedy is played out in the shimmering heat of the summer set around life in the Hall a cricket match and a general sense late VictorianEdwardian sense of progressThe description of a hot English summer is spot on I'm being reminded of that at the momentand there is plenty of symbolism going on beneath Leo becomes obsessed with Mr Maudsley senior's weather station checking the rising Mercury contrast Mercury messenger of the gods Leo's innocence inuisitiveness and naivety perfectly counteract the desires plots and plans of the adults Hartley explores the nature of class and gender at the time; the cricket match is so exactly portrayed Hall vs Village there are also deeper meanings; the scene with the deadly nightshade is remarkable and Leo's interest in the signs of the zodiac all fit neatly together as part of the tapestry Of course when reading and writing about it Pinter's brilliant film starring Alan Bates and Julie Christie is in my mind and has become almost impossible to separate from the book The remembering of repressed memories is very Freudian and the obvious defence mechanisms ring very true; as does the intrusion of adult sexuality into young innocence The restraint and not revealing everything adds to the power of the novel; just a beautifully written novel


  2. says:

    The go between by LPHartley one of my favourite novels is in my mind inseparably connected with the movie directed by Joseph Losey Every time I’m thinking of it I hear great music motif performed by Michel Legrand Having watched lately the recent adaptation of that classic I felt strong need to read it again to know how I would feel about it today In the summer of 1900 just under 13 years old Leo Colston imaginative and sensitive boy receives an invitation to spend part of holidays with his schoolmate Marcus Maudsley in his family country estate impressive Brandham Hall Previous year was a bad one to him first had been seriously ill then orphaned by the father Leo has right to think of this year and the new century with high hopes and expectations as a beginning of something exceptional onset of mythical Golden Age from his dreams And entering Brandham Hall seems to create a real opportunity on that way On the spot Leo meets other members and friends of Maudsley’s family including Marian beautiful Marcus’ sister wooing her Lord Hugh nothing is ever a lady’s fault Trimingham and Ted Burgess tenant of nearby farm Hartley brilliantly captured dreams and dilemmas of a twelve year old caught against own will partly due to own naivety and vanity though mainly because of egoism and callousness of adults in a network of interrelated though conflicting aspirations Enchanted by all participants of the drama boy is trying to please everyone Leo feels almost reverent worship for this world and its inhabitants these ethereal virgins and young men in white weren’t they embodiment of his personal Zodiac ? for this hot summer for that social order that is already crumbling although no one yet can see it His admiration for Marian’s beauty almost animal vitality of Ted and the gallantry of Hugh at last his loneliness makes that having received some interest from them can not deny small favor in return Run Leo run Lovers are waiting for the letters You can’t let them down Do I see little wings at your feet ? Nah it’s likely chiaroscuro only sun plays tricks when you run out of the shadow But you were called Mercury as well the messenger of the gods and you believed at that and lost in adult’s world and also in own half awaken sexuality convinced of own greatness and magic abilities elated by glorious summer you tried to change course of events Oh poor little Mercury even your divine namesake wouldn’t have done that so carelessly That novel is so brilliantly multilayered psychologically nuanced rich and evocative dealing on so many levels speaking of rigid class rules and social inferiority naivety and calculation deception and recognition illicit love and hypocrisy Victorian morality and conventions shackling people like stiff corset finally eclipse of some epoch and loss of grace and innocence If the past is a foreign country what then is a human heart ? Poor Leo half a century later tries to bring back all events that merciful memory had hidden from him Stranger in the world of feelings cindery creature disillusioned with life and dream golden age but also own role in the bygone tragedy like a guest from another world exile from zodiacal Eden returns to the ancient past Go Leo and from the bottom of your dried heart from your reluctant memory for the sake of this memorable summer and all these bigger than life people go and find proper words After all you believe yet that there's no spell or curse except an unloving heart


  3. says:

    The cruelty of grown ups manipulating children is endless What a strange strange story this is told in a double voice by a single narrator partly reflecting as an old man on the younger self's experience partly slipping into the voice of that younger self to make sense of a highly traumatising experience for which the boy had no explanation but which nevertheless explains later choices in the old man's lifestyle to such an extent that the summer of his 13th birthday in 1900 can be called life defining Unconscious of the grown up world of mixed messages and desires young Leo gets drawn into an intrigue full of passion and sexuality and of ambition and class prejudice Outside his usual social environment as a visitor to Brandham Hall a fashionable mansion in Norfolk and sexually innocent and oblivious he judges what happens to himself from the school boy's logic Bringing business letters to a local farmer from the young beautiful and spoiled daughter of the Hall he becomes a tool a go between who is successfully manipulated to play an involuntary role in a disastrously lopsided affair With his lack of knowledge and experience he manages to put the blame for the following tragedy all on himself and it leaves him scarred for half a century A social and psychological study and a coming of age story this novel reads like a mystery as well as explored inside the head of a boy who got shocked for life by being exposed to ruthless sexual desire and its social implications in class ruled England of 1900 What a bitter disappointment to see fifty years later that he had always shunned emotional life because of such trivial selfishness as his Lady Marian displayed To the boy it looked like a dangerous curseOne is tempted to throw in some what ifsWhat if the affair had been allowed to run its course? Wouldn't Marian have tired of her lover and moved on to something else to occupy her mind? Wouldn't Ted have had a chance to start a genuine relationship or to die in one of the wars on offer as his son and Marian's brothers did?What if Leo had remained at the Hall to see the dénouement? Wouldn't he have calmed down and been able to let it go?But that is the thing with brilliant novels They leave you wondering for days knowing full well that the plot played out the way it did because it had to


  4. says:

    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 uickly simply effortlessly Tóibín Intro p x Hartley in an interview wroteI 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 WarThe Boer War was a local affair and so I was able to set my little private tragedy against a general background of security and happinessOstensibly 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 and remembering back He hints at some dark and irremediable end that casts a shadow through the warm and carefree beginnings of that seminal summerThis 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 keysBut 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 thisA 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


  5. says:

    ‘The Go Between’ is a novel which I have meant to read for a long time It has of course one of the most famous opening lines in literature The past is a foreign country they do things differently there Published in 1953 it is narrated by Leo Colston who is sixty odd when we first meet him but is looking back on events in the hot summer of 1900 when he visited a school friend Marcus Maudsley and his family at Brandham HallThis 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 innocent time and very different The setting is evocative of those rare beautiful English summers It involves class cricket crouet 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


  6. says:

    Look just give me a book by a Brit with two initials whose observance is all the sensual for being somehow repressed and set him aloose on the pre war countryside okay? I'm easyThe climactic action of this book is when a kid rips up a shrub yet I liked it


  7. says:

    Was there a telephone here in your day?No I replied It might have made a great difference if there had been Leo Colston a man in his sixties returns in 1952 to the place where his life began and ended all of it during a brief interlude of glorious summer days such as England and Master Leo has never seen since With the help of the intimate journal he kept during his 1900 journey to Brandham Hall in Norwich County Leo Colston re examines the events that had such a traumatic 'arrested development' anyone? effect on his innocent mind As the introduction notes Hartley wrote the book as a memoir as an act of atonement and as a manifesto against the decay brought by two world wars and a social order turned upside down It allowed him to evoke a past a time half a century earlier a golden age as he saw it of Victorian morals and manners an age of innocence in the short time before its shattering What the introduction is less clear about and what the reader can only discover by jumping right into the text like the young boy dipping into the blue waters of a pond in summertime is how full of beauty and sadness how exuisitely written this trip down memory lane is The past is a foreign country they do things differently there One of the most memorable first lines I have come across in my long years of reading and a moving evocation of a fraught coming of age at the tail end of a pious rigid yet prosperous Victorian society Invited down for the summer to the opulent Brandham Hall by Marcus a friend from his public school Leo feels both enthralled by the prospect of mingling with the rich Maudsley family and anxious about his own social status I was between twelve and thirteen and I wanted to think of myself as a man also I was acutely aware of social inferiority I felt utterly out of place among these smart rich people and a misfit everywhere Leo has managed to find his place among his peers at school escaping the obligatory bullying and even gaining a reputation as an amateur spell caster Yet this new world of immaculate green lawns formal dinners white suits and dresses tennis and cricket and evening dances has him flustered out of his depth enchanted Most of all he is attracted by the older sister of Marcus the beautiful Miss Marian Maudsley who herself seems to be taking an interest in the young boy What did we talk about that has left me with an impression of wings and flashes as of air displaced by the flight of a bird? Of swooping and soaring of a faint iridescence subdued to the enfolding brightness of the day? My spiritual transformation took place in Norwich it was there that like an emerging butterfly I was first conscious of my wings With help from Marian Leo is out of his chrysalis his inappropriate cold weather clothes and heavy boots Leo is now decked in a highly fashionable summer suit in bright green colour and can take his place among the revelers On a trip to an improvised swimming pool he meets another adult that would have a major impact on his summer days Ted Burgess is not a member of the Brandham Hall social circle he is just a farmer out for a uick dip in the water yet his physical presence is arrestingWithout going into one too many plot details Leo ends up visiting Ted at his farm and becomes a bearer of secret messages between him and Miss Marian His innocence fails to spot the obvious reason for the illicit dialogue and Leo revels instead in the attention he is paid by the two people he admires the most Like many a young boy at that age what he doesn't know is replaced by flights of fancy Without knowing it I was crossing the rainbow bridge from reality to dream I now felt that I belonged to the Zodiac not to Southdown Hill School; and that my emotions and my behaviour must illustrate this change My dream had become my reality; my old life was a discarded husk Yet how long can this pretending game continue while real life happens all around Leo? For a moment he is on top of the world – when he saves the day at the annual cricket match between the Hall and the village teams or when he sings a Psalm at the game's afterparty accompanied on piano by Miss Marian But the higher you fly the most painful is the coming back down What an Eden Brandham Hall had been before this serpent entered it Master Colston begins to suspect that Ted and Marian are using him and that they care little about his own feelings either praising or threatening him in order to get what they want from him The Biblical references are intentional with knowledge of the real world being blamed for Leo's expulsion from Paradise and with the connotations of sexual awakening in Leo as puberty hits As older Leo inserts himself into the memoir he even holds an imaginary conversation with his 12 yo self Well it was you who let me down and I will tell you how You flew too near to the sun and you were scorched This cindery creature is what you made me Again I don't want to go into specific plot points about what went down at the end of that atypical spell of sunny days in East England but it must have been the defining moment for the author of this book an admirer of the old class system and a misfit among the trenches of the twentieth century I was a conformist it never occurred to me that because I suffered there was something wrong with the system or with the human heart Leo the conformist to the Victorian values is mostly in evidence on the day of the annual meeting between the Lords and the Peasants with the occasion of the game Cricket is than a game they say or used to say it is an attitude of the mind a point of view I don't know about that You can think of it as a set of ritual movements or as a ballet a ballet in a green field a ballet of summer which you can enjoy without knowing what it's about or what it means Cricket is also a stand in for class warfare with Lord Trimigham the refined war hero on one side and Ted Burgess the animal on the other while Miss Marian standing on the sidelines to reward the winner Dimly I felt that the contrast represented something than the conflict between Hall and village It was that but it was also a struggle between order and lawlessness between obedience to tradition and defiance of it between social stability and revolution between one attitude to life and another Older Leo feels betrayed by the selfishness and the brutality of the new age a brutality he feels he is partly responsible for after poisoning the Eden he remembers Brandham Hall to have been In a book rich in metaphor and foreshadowing Leo is obsessed by a wild weed growing in a shady corner of the Brandham stables Belladona comes to signify for him both passion in its wild secret growing and poison in its effects on other people He is wiser now but he mourns for the enthusiasm and the hope that he lost along the way Knowledge may be power but it is not resilience or resourcefulness or adaptability to life still less is it instinctive sympathy with human nature; and those were ualities I possessed in 1900 in far greater measure than I possess them in 1952 Indeed before he was exiled from Paradise the young boy was putting down in his diary some very thoughtful lines about ethics and religion and politics the Boer War in that period Why should we call ourselves sinners? Life was life and people acted in a certain way which sometimes caused one pain or Wrong was not a word I had much use for; the idea of Right and Wrong as two gigantic eavesdroppers spying on my movements was most distasteful to me But surely something which might end in murder must be wrong This dilemma between his intentions and the results of his go between actions in the summer of 1900 will haunt Leo Colston for the rest of his life until he is ready to revisit the place in 1952 In my eyes the actors in my drama had been immortals inheritors of the summer and of the coming glory of the twentieth centurySo whichever way I looked towards the world of experience or the world of the imagination my gaze returned empty I could make no contact with either and lacking the nourishment that these umbilical cords convey I shrank into myself The tragic vibe of the account of the summer of 1900 is balanced somewhat by the returning visit of 1952 This reader feels that the author was not satisfied with the bitterness of his own failed life of his trampled sensibility and he wanted another voice to give an account of that summer Do you remember what that summer was like? how much beautiful than any since? Well what was the most beautiful thing in it? Wasn't it us and our feelings for each other? We did have sorrows bitter sorrows but they weren't our fault – they were the fault of this hideous century we live in which has denaturated humanity and planted death and hate where love and living were Tell him there's no spell or curse except an unloving heart This epilogue raised the book from a simple five star rating to a place among my favorites Now I'm ready for a re watch of the movie version—«»—«»—«»—I left out a long passage describing the relationship between young Leo and powerful Ted something that has been used in some accounts to justify a homosexual interpretation I don't see it given the stated initial innocence of Leo and the obvious interest they both have in the beautiful Marian but then I may have my own baggage of emotions and experience I am bringing to the lecture To each his own To me the uote serves to paint Ted Burgess as a role model and not as a crush I liked Ted Burgess in a reluctant half admiring half hating way When I was away from him I could think of him objectively as a working farmer whom no one at the Hall thought much of But when I was with him his mere physical presence cast a spell on me; it established an ascendancy that I could not break He was I felt what a man ought to be what I should like to be when I grew up At the same time I was jealous of his power over Marian little as I understood its nature jealous of whatever it was he had that I had not He came between me and my image of her In my thoughts I wanted to humiliate him and sometimes did But I also identified myself with him so that I could not think of his discomfiture without pain; I could not hurt him without hurting myself He fitted into my imaginative life he was my companion of the greenwood a rival an enemy a friend – I couldn't be sure which


  8. says:

    There is of course the great opening line The past is a foreign country they do things differently there And there is the magnificent cover with just the perfect adolescent male face; even the green color is important it turns out There is also the very useful if unfortunately positioned 'Author's Introduction' Hartley uickly and explicitly expresses his debt to Proust and posits that an author though wedded to the present writes better when reflecting on the past where impressions formed are 'most fertile for literary creation' He tells us also that The Go Between 'is pregnant with symbols' naming a few and then somewhat incongruously saying 'But I have never deliberately introduced a symbol into any of my books' Let me say here that I don't disbelieve him Symbols they grow as weeds they bubble in the stew; the wind and the stillness bring them in turn The artist can't escape them And the reader can tell when he's trying too hardBut it is the Epilogue which made this book for me Until then the narrator's voice was that adolescent seeing things with open eyes but not yet understanding No one will tell him what 'spooning' is and conversations splinter when one says 'Hugh' and the other hears 'you' Such is the confusion when a boy turns thirteen What to make of lessons of 'right' and 'wrong' and what is proper and what is not when Life's joys and tragedies yet remain unexplained But Proustians the Epilogue begins with this line When I put down my pen I meant to put away my memories with itAnd then this I was like a train going through a series of tunnels; sometimes in the daylight; sometimes in the dark sometimes knowing who and where I was sometimes not knowing Little by little the periods of daylight grew continuous and at last I was running in the open; by the middle of September I was considered fit to go back to schoolIt was not the denouement but the old man's voice that pulled the curtain away for me I had struggled with the Britishness of the story; the notions of class seem silly to me There is a vignette a cricket match which was defining It was the day not a day when the servants got to play and party with the viscounts and landed gentry Our young narrator observes I remember how class distinctions melted away and how the butler the footman the coachman the gardener and the pantry boy seemed completely on an euality with us and I remember having a sixth sense that enabled me to foretell with some accuracy how each of them would shape And yet the boy did not believe you could succeed at a game unless you were dressed properly for it It was like trained soldiers fighting natives It was the time of The Boer War Much would happen in the fifty years from the time our narrator 'put down' his pen and when in the Epilogue he took it up again Whose fault was it? All the sorrows the bitter sorrows? All the deaths? What we do to each other?The woman at the center of this story says But they weren't our fault they were the fault of this hideous century we live in which has denatured humanity and planted death and hate where love and living were Tell him this Leo make him see it and feel it; it will be the best day's work you ever didAnd so it was


  9. says:

    “Do you remember what that summer was like? – how much beautiful than any since?” This made for perfect heatwave reading over the past couple of weeks very English and very much of the historical period that it evokes it is a nostalgic work remembering one summer when everything changedSummer 1900 Norfolk Twelve year old Leo Colston is invited to spend the several July weeks leading up to his birthday at his school friend Marcus Maudsley’s home Brandham Hall Although the fatherless boy is keenly aware of the class difference between their families in a year of learning to evade bullies he’s developed some confidence in his skills and pluck fancying himself an amateur magician and gifted singer Being useful makes him feel less like a charity case so he eagerly agrees to act as “postman” for Marcus’s older sister Marian who exchanges freuent letters with their tenant farmer Ted Burgess Marian engaged to Hugh a viscount and injured Boer War veteran insists the correspondence is purely business related but Leo suspects he’s abetting trysts the family would disapprove ofLeo is right on the cusp of adolescence a moment of transition that mirrors the crossing into a new century As he glories in the summer’s mounting heat “a liberating power with its own laws” and mentally goads the weather into hitting ever greater extremes he pushes against the limits of his innocence begging Ted to tell him about “spooning” that is the facts of life The heat becomes a character in its own right gloweringly presiding over the emotional tension caused by secrets spells and betrayals And yet this is also a very funny novel I loved Leo’s Franglais conversations with Marcus and the confusion over mispronouncing “Hugh” as “you” In places the tone even reminded me of Cold Comfort FarmLike A Month in the Country this autobiographical story is an old man’s reminiscences going back half a century in memory – but here Leo gets the chance to go back in person as well seeing what has become of Brandham Hall and meeting one of the major players from that summer drama that branded him for life I thought this masterfully done in every way the class divide the picture of childhood tipping over into the teenage years the oppressive atmosphere the comical touches You know from the famous first line onwards “The past is a foreign country they do things differently there” that this will juxtapose past and present – which of course has now become past and further past – in a powerful way similar to Moon Tiger my favorite fiction read of last year I’ll be exploring of Hartley’s workNote Although I am a firm advocate of DNFing if a book is not working for you I would also like to put in a good word for trying a book again another time Ironically this had been a DNF for me last summer I found the prologue with all its talk of the zodiac utterly dull I had the same problem with Cold Comfort Farm literally trying about three times to get through the prologue and failing So for both I eventually let myself skip the prologue read the whole novel and then go back to the prologue Worked a treatOriginally published on my blog Bookish Beck


  10. says:

    “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” There can be no other uote to open my review with but the famous first line of The Go BetweenThis is a very beautiful little book in which a man reminisces about his youth and one summer in particular when he went to stay at his schoolmate’s manor house Brandham Hall It's filled with a bittersweet nostalgia and Hartley really captures youthful enthusiasm innocence and naivete through Leo There's a sense of both longing and misery in him He wants so very much to be a part of this group of dazzling upper class people but he is never uite part of their world no matter how much they humour himLeo is a wide eyed boy who believes in spells and curses and that adults are always right He gets caught up in this world one that seems somehow separate from the rest of reality I love books that capture those intense little bubbles of people time and place where it feels like a separate universe has been created with its own set of rules In this universe Leo becomes as the title suggests a go between for forbidden lovers Marian and Ted The Go Between also explores the relationship between class and sexuality Marian is a wealthy upper class woman and Ted is a tenant farmer Having a relationship with a woman above his social class view spoilerhas disastrous conseuences for Ted hide spoiler