“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.
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.
“I should not have cared to see it as an act of self-sacrifice even if it had been one; for there is nothing clever in self-sacrifice, nothing to pride oneself on.”
― L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between
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.
At just $5 this Literary Readers’ Guide 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. Included are 8 thought-provoking discussion points, perfect for books clubs or just to get you thinking a bit harder yourself.
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