"... had it not been for the diary, or what the diary stood for, everything would be different. I should not be sitting in this drab, flowerless room, where the curtains were not even drawn to hide the cold rain beating on the windows, or contemplating the accumulation of the past and the duty it imposed on me to sort it out. I should be sitting in another room, rainbow-hued, looking not into the past but into the future: and I should not be sitting alone."
There speaks Leo Colston of the events of July 1900 when, as a boy of twelve, he was a guest of the Maudsley family at Brandham Hall in Norfolk. His stay coincided with a heatwave, the mercury rising to new heights each day as Leo assumed the rôle of Mercury, messenger to the gods - but in Leo's case he was messenger to ill-fated lovers.
L.P. Hartley's The Go-Between is a very finely wrought book, an acute psychological study rooted in the fertile soil of class, propriety and social divisions - sometimes slight and subtle ones, but brutally divisive nonetheless. Here the child is agent or pawn of the adults, and innocence and inexperience play against manipulative, self-serving will. This happens in an intense and stifling hot-house atmosphere, and that heat - both literal and metaphorical - although labelled by Leo "a liberating power", is as pressure to the narrative, supporting it, confining it, and then building to a point at which it cannot be contained.
Leo's memories of the time and place, and the devastating conclusion to his visit to the Hall are initially ones of loneliness and isolation - uncomfortably not quite fitting in - then of an "afflatus of spirit" where "to be in tune with all that Brandham Hall meant, I must increase my stature, I must act on a grander scale." As he worships Marian Maudsley, the daughter of the house, and willingly carries messages between her and Ted, the tenant farmer, so he becomes party to deception and disloyalty and a player in a dangerous game, but Leo 'belongs' then, he has a position, an importance and he believes "luck was in love with me, like everyone else."
The novel's conclusion sees Leo back at Brandham in adulthood, embarking on a final "errand of love", still the go-between, bringing people together in an effort to make them happy and in an attempt to make himself whole.
What did you think of the book?