• Current Reads

      Life after Life Jill McCorkle
      This Is Your Captain Speaking Jon Methven
      The Starboard Sea Amber Dermont
      Snark David Denby
      Bring Up the Bodies Hilary Mantel
  • Popular Tags

  • Recent Reflections

  • Categories

  • Moleskine’s All-Time Favorites

  • Echoes

    Minnie on [367] The Rouge of the North 怨…
    travellinpenguin on [841] The Price of Salt (Carol…
    travellinpenguin on Libreria Acqua Alta in Ve…
    Malissa Greenwood on Libreria Acqua Alta in Ve…
    Matthew on [839] Eileen – Ottessa…
    Matthew on Back from Hiatus
  • Reminiscences

  • Blog Stats

    • 1,014,283 hits
  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,741 other followers

[105] The Go-Between – L.P. Hartley

hartley.jpgNYRB Classics series.
A beautifully written novel that explores naiveté and knowledge, and the mysteries of the human heart.

“All the time at Brandham I had been another little boy, and the grown-ups had aided and abetted me in this; it was a great deal their fault. They liked to think of a little boy as a little boy, corresponding to their idea of what a little boy should be–as a representative of little boyhood–not a Leo or a Marcus. They even had a special language designed for little boys–at least some of them had, some of the visitors…” (p.285)

Leo Colston, the 13-year-old narrator, arrives at Brandham Hall in the scorching summer of 1900 to stay with his school friend Marcus. The novel intimately follows events that ominously unveil the next three weeks after the daughter of the house, Marian Maudsley, who has a secret love affair with the farmer Ted Burgess, entrusts him to be bearer of messages between the lovers. What at first seems to be a sense of self-importance, the pride of being trusted for such missives, and the thrill of secrecy and risk, becomes ghastly disappointment that leads to emotional collapse. Not only does the class difference between the lovers forbid the relationship, but also to Leo’s utmost disquiet, is by Mrs. Maudsley’s will Marian is engaged to the Viscount Trimingham.

In a sense the engagement is a personal triumph for the innocent boy as he will no longer be obligated to deliver letters. Totally ignorant as he is of love affairs and little as he knows about their conventions, he feels more than a sense of responsibility his postman job  as he cannot undo the secret. As he has noted that “he carries something dangerous in him,” he fears the surfacing of truth will cost the lives of the lovers and bring disgrace to Brandham Hall. Too innocent and ignorant to pass judgment on the whole affair, the young keeper of secret only fears for the viscount, weeps with Marian, and grieves for the farmer.

As the novel unfolds, the love affair imperceptibly shifts to the backdrop, revealing Hartley’s real intention for the book: Class and social stature only justify the doomed affair between an aristocrat lady and a farmer. But written between the lines of the book, one might perceive that it is not really about class or English society, or a lost world mourned by Hartley (The Go-Between has obvious autobiographical origins as Hartley had studiously avoided intimacy almost all his life), instead it’s about the boy’s own sensuous nature going blindly amiss toward some emotional collapse impelled by his intensity of feeling and innocence.

Aside from the affair which attracts initial attention, aside from Leo’s jealousy of men’s power over Marian, Leo is caught in his own struggle between order and lawlessness, between obedience to tradition and defiance of it, between social stability and rebellion. That he is being part of the secret intensifies his longing for liberation and transfiguration. The book’s power arises from his keen way of noticing, and his alertness to the prospect of humiliation, on the lookout for mockery.

This novel has become a favorite that it might challenge the seats of Moleskine All-Time Favorite on the left.

Advertisements

16 Responses

  1. Thank you for writing such a great, thorough review–one that does L.P. Hartley justice! I’m glad he has resurfaced! He had led a very secluded life, avoided intimacy and didn’t have a partner. While he admitted his homosexuality, he tended his sickly mother, spent a lot of time in Venice, where he researched and wrote this novel. I’ll have to re-read this one.

  2. That really sounds great and I’ve never heard of it. One to add to the list.

  3. We just got this at my house via bookmooch. I was only mildly interested before, but you’ve made me really want to read it now!

  4. […] [105] The Go-Between – L.P. Hartley […]

  5. I love this book, I’ve read it twice.

  6. John:
    Thank you! Hartley did lead a very quiet life with such forbidding veneer. I’ve got to look for his other works.

    Ted:
    You’ll love it!

    Stefanie:
    It takes a bit to get into it, especially at the beginning, when the narrator talks about astrology. But once you get to the part when the boy arrived at the grand Brandham Hall for summer vacation, you won’t be able to put the book down. 🙂

    Crafty Green Poet:
    I thoroughly enjoyed it too!

  7. I found you from A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore. You both gave this one such a good review. I’m definitely going to check it out.

  8. This book was recommended to me by JRSM, and now I find it’s included in your list of All-Time Favourite! Undoubtedly a very significant title – I’d better check this one out quick 🙂

  9. […] 7. Blindness, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. […]

  10. […] 7. Blindness, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley 11. Beloved, Toni […]

  11. […] 7. Blindness, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley 11. Beloved, Toni […]

  12. I’ve just finished The Shrimp and the Anemone by Hartley, and found it a wonderfully layered read. Have you read the sequels? Nick Hornby pointed me to this book, but wrote that he was disappointed by the next in the trilogy.

    I read The Go-Between after a friend said it reminded her of Ian McEwan’s Atonement, which I loved.

  13. […] Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley 11. Beloved, Toni Morrison 12. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf 13. East of Eden, […]

  14. […] Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley 11. Beloved, Toni Morrison 12. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf 13. East of Eden, […]

  15. A great film version in 1970 with Julie Christy as Marian and Alan Bates as Ted. Margaret Leighton played Mrs. Maudsley and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress and won the BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress. Harold Pinter and Joseph Losey also won BAFTA’s for their screenplay collaboration.

  16. […] Interruptions, Jose Saramago 8. The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham 9. Maurice, E.M. Forster 10. The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley 11. Beloved, Toni Morrison 12. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf 13. East of Eden, […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: