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Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Classics
ISBN: 9780940322998
Pages: 344
Publication Date: March 31, 2002

The Go-Between

by L.P. Hartley, introduction by Colm Tóibín

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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 inspiration for the brilliant Joseph Losey/Harold Pinter film starring Julie Christie and Alan Bates, The Go-Between is a masterpiece—a richly layered, spellbinding story about past and present, naïveté 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.

Download the Reading Group Guide for The Go-Between. by L.P. Hartley, introduction by Colm Tóibín colm toibin


The first time I read it, it cleared a haunting little spot in my memory, sort of like an embassy to my own foreign country.... I don't want to spoil the suspense of a well-made plot, because you must read this, but let's just say it goes really badly and the messenger (shockingly) gets blamed. Or he blames himself anyway. And here the mirror cracks; the boy who leaves Brandham is not the one who came. Indeed the narrator converses with his old self as though he were two people. That was the powerful gonging left by my first read: What, if anything, bundles us through time into a single person?
—Ann Brashares, "All Things Considered", NPR

I can't stop recommending to anyone in earshot L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between.... One of the fabled opening lines in modern literature: 'The past is a foreign country: They do things differently there.' The NYRB paperback has a superb new introduction by Colm Toibin, but don't read it until after you've read the book itself.
—Frank Rich, New York Magazine.com

Like Henry James, his most obvious literary forebear, Hartley examines the nuances of morality with a shimmering exactness, focusing on characters like Leo, the narrator of The Go-Between, caught between natural impulses and the social conventions that would thwart them.
— Jay Parini, The New York Times

A beautifully written and absorbing book.
Atlantic Monthly

Mr. Hartley is amazingly good, and no reader of serious fiction should miss this book.
Los Angeles Times

Its famous formulation about the past sets the tone: this is a strange and beautiful book. I first read it in my early teens, and its atmosphere of yearning for lost times and of childish innocence challenged has haunted me ever since.
— Ian McEwan

Exuding such a sense of summer the pages might be warm to touch, Hartley's coming-of-age tale is set during the heatwave of 1900. It all ends in tears, but not before there have been plenty of cucumber sandwiches on the lawn.
The Observer

If you yearn for the stillness of an English summer while baking in foreign heat, then pack L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between. Told through the eyes of a boy on the edge of puberty, this story of an illicit love affair across class in a ripe Edwardian summer has the emotions rising with the mercury. Love, the pain of adolescence and the lure of the forbidden. Without it, Ian McEwan could never have written Atonement.
— Sarah Dunant, The Daily Telegraph