A video talk
“The past is another country: they do things differently there” – so begins the haunting novel The Go-Between by L.P. Hartley. I think this is a stunning book. It is about class, illicit love, boyhood dreams versus cruel reality, and it movingly depicts growing up and the loss of innocence.
This is a novel about a secret love affair between a man and a woman who come from very different echelons of the English class system. In the middle is a boy from yet another social class, a ‘go-between’ between upper and lower class characters in the story.
“a revelation of the childishness of social hierarchy, of human delusions of power, and of the tragedy inevitable where war or history and innocence meet, Hartley’s novel is a fine disquisition on appearance versus naked truth.”
― Ali Smith
It is the summer of 1900, a new century is beginning and young Leo Colston’s life as an adult is about to begin too. At Bradham Hall school the boy finds himself being used as a go-between, delivering messages from Marian Maudsley to a nearby farmer called Ted Burgess. As he delivers notes written by the lovers, he gradually grows more aware of what is going on and becomes troubled by conflicting loyalties. The summer gets hotter and hotter and storms begin to brew, leading to an explosive climax, a discovery of the pair making love, a suicide and a breakdown for Leo himself.
Hartley was a prolific novelist, but his other books have not really lasted. The Go-Between has remained by far his most popular work, it has been filmed and put on stage, and is as relevant today as it was when first published in 1953.
Join me in an exploration of this modern classic – experience the heat of that summer of 1900, share the excitement of forbidden passion, and sympathise with a boy who is used and abused by those who should know better.
This Video Talk is a real treat! In it, I reveal intriguing stories about the author to help you understand what prompted this book to be written. I identify the main characters and their roles, analyse the themes behind the story, and describe the influence that the era, lifestyle and circumstances have on the book’s setting. It is illustrated with photographs, paintings, scenes from different film versions and book covers – you’ll have plenty to look at while you listen. Buy it now and receive a link to view your video immediately.
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Susannah, it was indeed fabulous. I had just read the book last week too so was right there with everything you said. Thank you.
Loved the session today on The Go-Between. Thank you.
Excellent presentation as always. One of my favourite books – I hadn’t realised that LP Hartley was at Clifton in Bristol; where my father was at school. I saw the play in London in July 2016 with Michael Crawford (then aged 74) as the older Leo.
I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed yesterday’s Tea with a Book Addict. I was lucky enough to be a student at Oxford in the late 1940s and every Friday during each eight week term Lord David Cecil would lecture on Shakespeare. This was in the Examination School, the largest auditorium available, and it was jam-packed with students from every faculty. We listened spellbound as he was a wonderful lecturer.
I’ve just watched your video talk on The Go-Between. Wonderful! I had re-read it about six months ago, so it was lovely to have it fresh in my mind while listening to your talk. I have just finished reading The Hireling – a different but also enjoyable and thought-provoking novel.
I have just watched the video so just had to write and tell you what a
pleasure it was. Looking forward to more.
Thank you Susannah for giving us the opportunity (and the push) to read The Go Between. I so enjoyed this book and I had a wonderful time resading it. It was SO well written. I marvel at how astonishly good this book is. Now we have writers courses – how to write a novel etc – but, I’m guess that L.P. Hartley didn’t have these opportunities. I know he had been a journalist but to write with such ecomical skill where scenes and dialogue are so well enterwined is surely a great talent. Such a pleasure to read such a classic book. I look forward to the rest of the video series.
Thank you for introducing your readers to this absorbing, many layered book. … The tale of a misalliance between social classes and its inevitable disastrous denouement is both very English, and yet a story of the human condition with which we can all identify.