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The Go-Between

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3.92  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,067 Ratings  ·  420 Reviews
"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 insp
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Paperback, 326 pages
Published March 31st 2002 by NYRB Classics (first published 1953)
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Maurene Kauter by Leo's attachment and attraction to Marian....by his remaining attached to her..even when he read her unopened letter to Ted and was shocked by its…moreby Leo's attachment and attraction to Marian....by his remaining attached to her..even when he read her unopened letter to Ted and was shocked by its content.....his hurt and pain when Marcus revealed that his sister had used him....(less)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Agnieszka
Apr 05, 2016 Agnieszka rated it it was amazing

The go-between by L.P.Hartley , 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 with 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
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Paul
Jul 17, 2013 Paul rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english-novels
A sublime novel, beautifully written and very evocative. It has, probably one of the most famous opening lines in literature. Do I need to quote 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 E
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Trish
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...Th
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Chris
Oct 01, 2008 Chris rated it really liked it
Look, just give me a book by a Brit with two initials whose observance is all the more sensual for being somehow repressed, and set him aloose on the pre-war countryside, okay? I'm easy.

The climactic action of this book is when a kid rips up a shrub, yet, I liked it.

Tony
Jan 10, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
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 quickly 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 ...more
Sarah
Jan 18, 2016 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is an unusually hot English summer in 1900. Sweltering temperatures echo simmering passions behind a facade of rules, manners and decorum. Twelve year old Leo spends his summer holidays visiting a school friend at his home, Brandham Hall.

Leo is out of his class and out of his depth. He feels unworthy and insecure as he tries to integrate himself into family affections. Intoxicated by their party lifestyle, he is manipulated with charm and his schoolboy innocence is used as a means of deceit.
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Nigeyb
May 20, 2016 Nigeyb rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Thanks to GoodReads friend CQM2 for his review of "The Go-Between" which was a big part of what inspired me to read this.

L.P. Hartley’s "The Go-Between" takes place in the long hot Summer of 1900, and tells of how young Leo, staying with Marcus, a school friend, at the aristocratic Brandham Hall, begins to act as a messenger between Ted, the farmer, and Marian, Marcus's beautiful young sister. Leo narrates the events in 1952, as a mature adult looking back.

"The Go-Between" was an immediate succe
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El
Another coming-of-age, loss-of-innocence novel that will undoubtedly be familiar to and especially appreciated by people who liked Atonement. For whatever reason, Atonement didn't work for me, but this one did.

The majority of the story takes place in England in the summer of 1900, but Hartley brings that alive in a way that makes it familiar to someone like me who has never set foot (yet) in England or lived during the summer of 1900. It's not hard to forget the summers of our own childhoods on
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Vanessa Wu
Nov 13, 2011 Vanessa Wu rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the most perfect novels ever written. It has many layers and levels, thanks to its brilliant narrative structure of an old man recollecting a tragic love story he witnessed in intense close up as a young boy. It is a rare case of a complex narrative structure actually being necessary for the proper exposition of the plot. For the story is not just about what happened when the narrator was a boy, but how it changed his life as a man and how, towards the end of his life, writing abo ...more
Donna
Jul 15, 2011 Donna rated it it was amazing
The household will be happy to have my attention again. It hasn't seen a flicker of it since I started reading this book. I've seen the movie. Liked it very much. Yet even knowing what was going to happen, the story in the book still felt new to me. That's a quality in the writing; it's the kind that makes everything new. And by the end of the book, the crystalline narration , that is never precious, had made his memories, my memories. I haven't had a narrator do that since Nick Carraway. And th ...more
Jeanette
Aug 24, 2014 Jeanette rated it really liked it
The first line of this book brought familiarity, but reading further I realized that I had positively read this book before. Possibly in my late 20's, and no earlier than that, I am sure. And what strikes home the most NOW on reaction to this read, is that I was so much more sympathetic with our go-between then, than I am now in my own age.

It's his older, 60 plus years, self that I find problematic. The child going to man, I can fully understand and sympathize. Especially with the death events
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Antonomasia
[4.5]
Not the chap from the Yellow Pages ad. That was J.R. Hartley.

The Go-Between is a book of high summer, set in a hot July (in the year 1900) - but which I was prompted to read now, a little late in the season, after noticing a basic similarity with The Line of Beauty. (Also having decided to read some of the unread 1001 Books novels I own.) I loved the Hollinghurst so much I wanted to read bits of it again straight away, but knowing this is usually just a good way of making myself bored of a
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Lobstergirl
Jun 11, 2011 Lobstergirl rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Julian Assange
Shelves: own, nyrb, fiction
The novel opens with the narrator, Leo Colston, now in his 60s, reminiscing about the summer of 1900 when at age twelve he spent a month at a large country estate with his wealthy school chum, Marcus Maudsley, and Marcus's sophisticated and pretty older sister Marian. Marian is having a very illicit affair with a local tenant farmer, Ted Burgess. Leo becomes complicit in the affair as Marian and Ted use him to ferry messages between them. Also present is the young facially disfigured war veteran ...more
MJ Nicholls
Note: This review is from October 2nd 2007 when the reviewer was a spotty man-boy of twenty. Excuse the gaucheness herein.

Hugh Might Enjoy This

Lord up on high, save me from the woeful sound of old people having sex.

It was March 4th 1996 and the occasion was a brief stopover in a B&B during an enthralling coach trip from Dunbartonshire and Clydebank. Those are cities in Scotland, kind reader—of little import to this brief introduction—so we need not trouble ourselves with them at this junctur
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Doug H
May 16, 2016 Doug H rated it it was amazing
A beautiful punch in the stomach.
Helle
This novel seemed to have all the ingredients of a perfect novel for me: set in pre-World War 1 England at a country house with some dubious, arrogant characters and one or two likeable ones, with a hint of a small pending disaster - like a good mix of Forster and Waugh with a bit of Atonement thrown it. And it was a good story, well told, interestingly developed, but not of the five-star quality for me that it apparently was for a lot of people in here.

The story builds slowly, which on the one
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Karl
Nov 04, 2007 Karl rated it it was amazing
This has been my second reading of "The Go-Between," my first having been probably some fifteen years ago. I was a little nervous that the book itself might not live up to my memory of it. I needn't have been. It is one of a handful of books that gets a childhood/adolescent point of view spot on. Andre Aciman's "Call Me By Your Name," Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," Truman Capote's "Other Voices, Other Rooms," Haven Kimmel's "A Girl Named Zippy," Ann Marie McDonald's "The Way the Crow Flie ...more
Jason
Jan 13, 2015 Jason rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
Easily now one of my favorite novels. Hartley's ability to write children is amazing. This is a must-read, heartbreakingly good.
Cphe
Wasn't too sure what to expect with this but it ended up far exceeding my expectations. The story of the twelve year old (going on thirteen) Leo Colston, who finds himself ill equipped to deal with a situation far beyond his years.

This is a beautifully written, evocative novel. There is more here then first appears to the reader and I found myself thinking about the novel long after I'd finished.
CQM
Jul 25, 2016 CQM rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has shot into my top ten of all time. Why this has drifted out of fashion I don't know, most people will know the opening line, many judging by other reviews on here now the movie too but the book... Oh my the book...
The mood is one of melancholy as a man in his 60's looks back on the summer of 1900, the summer of his 13th birthday. Leo is staying a Norfolk country house with his school friend Marcus and Marcus' family.
Essentially it is a story of a life wasted and the reasons why Leo
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Dan Smith
Oct 23, 2009 Dan Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
'The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.' I love this book - from the opening line to the closing line.

Going to stay with his more wealthy friend (who remains ill and bed-ridden for the better part of the story), 12 year old Leo becomes the go-between, delivering notes between society girl Marian and her lover Ted Burgess, a man of more lowly means. Of course, all ends in brilliant, horrible, tragedy.

The concept of the man looking back at his childhood, able now to unde
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Kristen
Aug 01, 2013 Kristen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2010, reread, 2013
Upon second reading, this is definitely a five star book for me. The first great thing about it is that Hartley offers some really wonderful descriptions of the natural world. The novel is set at an English country house in the summer of 1900, a record heatwave, and the atmosphere is filled with wheat fields, swimming holes, and cricket pitches. In many ways, it's an idyllic vision of an English summer, but I also liked that one of the central metaphors of the book is a poisonous plant growing o ...more
Catherine
Apr 25, 2008 Catherine rated it really liked it
The New York Review of Books catalog is such a great place to look for a new book, especially when you're in a reading slump; they have such a varied, interesting collection. I usually cruise through it when I can't find something, but my sister was the one who recommended the Go-Between.

It's set in the year 1900, and the narrator, now in his 60's relates a tragedy which took place then, when he was 12. L.P Hartley does such a terrific job of giving the mind of this child, the whole book rides i
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Martha
May 11, 2015 Martha rated it liked it
Shelves: classics
"Are you vanquished, Gonzalez, are you vanquished?" Yes! If I had to endure even another page of this stuffy narrator’s mental wrangling I would have attacked him like an Atropa Belladonna! I exaggerate but not overly much: the last thirty or forty pages made the novel worthwhile, but beware that the heat of this Norfolk countryside is a languid, listless kind of hot. The narrator specializes in a verbose kind of contemplation which, charming at first, grew trying for me, especially as I began t ...more
Cleo Bannister
I’m going to start with my overriding feeling – what a wonderful book, multi-layered, very English and an absolute delight to read! I really don’t know how I’ve got to this grand old age without anyone ever telling me that I should read, I don’t understand how I missed it but I’m very grateful for having tuned into part of the recent television adaptation which led me to its pages.

Of course I’d heard the opening line quoted and what a line it is! ‘The past is a foreign country: they do things di
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JacquiWine
Jul 23, 2016 JacquiWine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley was made for the summer. First published in 1953, it is a compelling story of secrets, betrayals and the power of persuasion, all set against the heady backdrop of the English countryside in July. It’s one of the highlights of my reading year so far.

As the novel opens, Leo Colston (a man in his sixties) finds an old diary from 1900 among a box of mementos from his childhood. The diary triggers a series of memories of a month spent at Brandham Hall – the Norfolk ho
...more
Lizzie
Aug 15, 2009 Lizzie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, read-in-2009
I never wanted this book to end. Its measured pace and slow reveal of the protagonist's a young boy’s initiation into adult matters was perfect. It’s about class and self image, rules and what they mean, and innocence and blindness. I loved it.

I was glad I read this edition which has an introduction by the author in which he discusses the moral of the story, as he saw it, and that he learned many readers did not interpret it that way.
Robert
Jul 26, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it
I was hooked all the way through. Lived ending which came suddenly. Loved descriptions of the end of Victorian Britain.
qtasha
Spooky, this book deserves to be read more than once. All the haunting, dialogue doesn't jumps at you all at once. The oddness is quiet and toward's the end where everything comes together,but as I wrote before reread this book. Watch The 1960's Harold Pinter film adaption is film excellent.
Lynne King
Mar 12, 2013 Lynne King rated it really liked it
I thought the book was excellent and I also liked the film with Julie Christie and Alan Bates. I must write a review at some stage. This was a real trip down memory lane.
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NYRB Classics: The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley 2 23 Oct 23, 2013 04:33PM  
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“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” 487 likes
“If my twelve-year-old self, of whom I had grown rather fond, thinking about him, were to reproach me: 'Why have you grown up such a dull dog, when I gave you such a good start? Why have you spent your time in dusty libraries, catologuing other people's books instead of writing your own? What had become of the Ram, the Bull and the Lion, the example I gave you to emulate? Where above all is the Virgin, with her shining face and curling tresses, whom I entrusted to you'- what should I say?

I should have an answer ready. '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.'

To which he might reply: 'But you have had half a century to get over it! Half a century, half the twentieth century, that glorious epoch, that golden age that I bequeathed to you!'

'Has the twentieth century,' I should ask, 'done so much better than I have? When you leave this room, which I admit is dull and cheerless, and take the last bus to your home in the past, if you haven't missed it - ask yourself whether you found everything so radiant as you imagined it. Ask yourself whether it has fulfilled your hopes. You were vanquished, Colston, you were vanquished, and so was your century, your precious century that you hoped so much of.”
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