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Literature: The Go-Between
A novel by LP Hartley, published in 1953.

Leo Colston, an elderly man who has never married, discovers a diary he kept as a schoolboy which recalls a long-ago summer that he has subconsciously blocked from his memory.

In 1900, Leo was invited to spend the summer with his schoolfriend Marcus Maudsley and his family at Brandham Hall the grand Norfolk house they lease from Hugh, Viscount Trimingham, a genial aristocratic war hero with a disfigured face. The socially-ambitious Mrs Maudsley has arranged a marriage between Trimingham and her daughter Marian.

Left to his own devices for an afternoon, Leo wanders into the yard of Ted Burgess, a tenant farmer, who befriends Leo and persuades him to take a message to Marian. Marian sends him back with a reply, and thus the naive Leo is unwittingly entangled as an intermediary in the developing romance between Marian and Ted.

The Go Between has one of the great opening lines:

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

Faithfully filmed in 1970 with Julie Christie as Marian, Alan Bates as Ted, Edward Fox as Trimingham, and a whole battery of British character actors.

Provides examples of:

  • Affably Evil: Mrs Maudsley, possibly, although she is also a control freak.
  • Arc Words: Delenda est belladona. Also, Nothing is ever a lady's fault.
  • Ate His Gun: Ted.
  • Big Fancy House: Brandham Hall.
  • Black Magic: Leo is bullied at school but gains some respect, not least from Marcus, by his interest in the occult and apparent ability to cast a functioning curse. He attempts to brew up a curse at Brandham using parts of the deadly nightshade. It doesn't end well.
  • Blue Blood: Hugh is the latest in a long line of Viscounts Trimingham, whose memorials line the walls of the local church.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Ted shows Leo how to clean his shotgun, and promises to teach him how to shoot. Of course, a Norfolk farmer would be expected to have a shotgun but even so...
  • Color Motif: Marian buys naive Leo a green summer outfit to replace the unsuitable clothes he has brought with him. Later she buys him a green bicycle as a birthday present, which would incidentally help him to carry messages. Lampshaded by Marcus in tormenting Leo.
  • Control Freak: Mrs Maudsley, for sure.
  • Costume Porn: In the film.
  • Cricket: A significant episode is the annual cricket match between the House and the Village. Ted Burgess threatens to build a large score to help the Village beat the House but is caught by Leo off the bowling of Hugh Trimingham in a way that foreshadows coming events. Leo is not in the original team but is brought on as a substitute fielder, so his contribution to the match is recorded anonymously in the scorebook just as he is anonymous to the other guests at Brandham Hall.
  • Diary: Leo's discovery of the old diary triggers the memory he has suppressed and helps him to rebuild it.
  • Downer Ending: Let's just say that nobody comes out of it well.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Events finally come to a head in the thunderstorm which breaks the heatwave.
  • Fish out of Water: Leo is a scholarship boy at his boarding school. He lives modestly with his over-protective widowed mother and knows nothing of the conventions of the upper classes. It's obvious to everybody including himself that Leo doesn't fit in at Brandham. Although the others do their best to treat him kindly, if rather condescendingly, he is very uncomfortable. When Marcus is quarantined with measles Leo is even more isolated.
  • Framing Device: The story is narrated by the elderly Leo as the events come back to him. The ending brings us back to the 1950s as Leo takes a trip to Norfolk where he meets Marian, now elderly herself of course and somewhat dotty, and her grandson the current Viscount Trimingham who bears a strong resemblance to Ted Burgess.
  • Garden of Evil: The deadly nightshade in the old outhouse.
  • Heat Wave: Temperatures at Brandham promise to break all records as the passion of Marian and Ted warms up.
  • Innocence Lost: Leo, who is innocent and then some to begin with.
  • Love Triangle: Hugh, Marian and Ted. Although the relationship between Hugh and Marian is more duty and social expedience, and that between Marian and Ted is lust.
  • Nouveau Riche: The Maudsleys are this. Mr Maudsley is a stockbroker and fairly amiable but Mrs Maudsley is a social climber; she is hell-bent on raising the family status by marrying her daughter into the aristocracy. Both Marcus and his older brother Denys are inveterate snobs.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Marian and Ted. Leo is a Leo and this inspires his interest in the occult. Leo's curse didn't really bring about the downfall of the lovers' but he thought it did at the time.
  • Victorian Britain: The main action takes place in the summer of 1900, so just scrapes in. The feel is more The Edwardian Era though

From Here to EternityLiterature of the 1950sThe Golden Daughter
GlamoramaLit FicThe God of Small Things
The Given DayHistorical Fiction LiteratureGods and Generals

alternative title(s): The Go Between
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