Reading Hartley: Delicious Sentences from The Go-Between (1953)

During a flurry of text messages about Alan Hollinghurst, a friend of mine suggested that we read L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel The Go-Between (he suspects that it was a significant influence for The Stranger’s Child [2011]). I’m only about one-third of the way through Hartley’s novel, but I just can’t help but record and share some of its delicious sentences.

  1. “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there” (17).
  2. “Last year, the year 1899, had been a disastrous year. In January, my father died after a brief illness, and in the summer I had diphtheria, with complications; almost all July and August I had spent in bed. They were phenomenally hot months, but what I recollected of the heat was my own fever, of which the heat in my room seemed only another aggravating aspect; heat was my enemy, the sun something to be kept out. . . . I only thought of my aching throat and the desperate search of my fretful limbs for a cool place in the bedclothes. I had good reason to wish the century over” (41).
  3. ” . . . it was almost the first time I had felt myself real to somebody who didn’t know me” (42).
  4. “‘Perhaps you’ll get measles after all,’ she told me hopefully” (43).
  5. “‘But try not to get hot,’ she said. ‘Getting hot is always a risk. You needn’t do anything violent, need you?’ We looked at each other in perplexity, and dismissed the idea that I should have to do anything violent” (43).
  6. “There are things I know, though I don’t know how I know them, and things I remember. Certain things are established in my mind as facts, but no picture attaches to them; on the other hand there are pictures unverified by any fact which recur obsessively, like the landscape of a dream” (45).
  7. “It all began with the weather defying me” (53).
  8. “From being my enemy the summer had become my friend: . . . I felt I had been given the freedom of the heat, and I roamed about in it as if I was exploring a new element. I liked to watch it rise shimmering from the ground and hang heavy on the tops of the darkening July trees. . . . I liked to touch it with my hand and feel it on my throat and round my knees, which were bare to its embrace. I yearned to travel far, even farther into it, and achieve a close approximation with it; for I felt that my experience of it would somehow be cumulative, and that if it would only get hotter and hotter there was a heart of heat I should attain to” (65).
  9. “Believing himself to be unseen by the other bathers, he gave himself up to being alone with his body” (73).
  10. “While we were sitting, Mr. Maudsley read a lesson; while we were kneeling he read prayers; he read in a secular voice without inflections but not without reverence; his personality was so subdued that it seemed to fit in with anything he did” (76).
  11. “I decided it would be impossible to like him, and immediately liked him better” (78).
  12. “I was relieved at being in church at last; it was like having caught a train. The first thing I did was to examine the Psalms for the Day and add up the number of verses, for I knew that if there were over fifty I might feel faint and have to sit down, a thing I dreaded, for it made people turn and look at me; and once or twice I had been taken out and made to rest in the church porch till I felt better. I enjoyed the importance that this gave me, but I dreaded the preliminaries—the cold sweat, the wobbling knees, and the wondering how long I could hold out. Perhaps they were a sign that religion didn’t agree with me” (83).
  13. “The thermometer stood at eighty-four: that was satisfactory, but I was confident it could do better” (93).

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