The go-between in L.P. Hartley’s novel “The Go-Between” is Leo, a 12-year-old who has been invited by his friend Marcus to spend some of their vacation at Marcus’s home. The home is elegant, a treat for Leo, who is used to a much plainer environment.
One day when Marcus is in bed with some ailment, Leo goes on a strolling tour to the next property. When he slides down a haystack, he infuriates the farmer, Ted Burgess. However, as soon as the farmer realizes that Leo has come from the next-door “Hall” he becomes friendly. He wants Leo to carry a note to Marian, the older sister of Marcus.
Marian is engaged to Lord Hugh Viscount Trimingham, who owns the mansion that Marcus’s family is renting. The reader guesses correctly that Marian is conducting an affair with the farmer. The illicit lovers lie to Leo about it and encourage him to continue as the go-between although it becomes more difficult when Marcus is no longer bedridden but free to accompany Leo.
Leo then takes up lying. Although he thinks that Marian will give up her wicked ways when her engagement is announced, he is mistaken. Leo becomes so uncomfortable that he writes his mother, begging her to summon him home. She won’t do it; he’s stuck. His birthday approaches, and Marcus tells a secret: Marian is buying a bicycle for Leo, perhaps to facilitate his message-carrying.
You cannot guess how this tangled web comes untied, but you will enjoy trying to.
Kate Atkinson’s “When Will There Be Good News?” puzzled me at first because I thought it might be a collection of short stories, but the jacket calls it a novel, so I persevered. Sure enough, by the end of the book, all the stories and all the characters come together.
I read in the New York Times Book Review that Atkinson features a detective named Jackson Brodie, but in this novel, he is an ex-detective and not the main character. The detecting is done by Regina Chase, a 16-year-old, who is smart, curious, persistent, and observant. She is a “mother’s help” for Dr. Joanna Hunter. Neither of them likes the term “nanny.” Regina has had a rough life, with her mother dead from cancer, a wild juvenile delinquent brother, and an odd employer. But when she hires on with Dr. Hunter, she is in clover.
The novel is not really a murder mystery because we see the murder in the first chapter. Mysteries follow with regard to relationships. Dr. Hunter was the little girl who escaped when the murderer killed her mother, sister, and baby brother. When she grows up and learns her history, she decides to become a physician to keep others from suffering like her.
Truth be Told
In the Young Adult book for this month, “Liar,” by Justine Larbalestier, Micah is a high school senior in a school in New York City. On the first day of school, the teacher calls her Mr. Wilkins, thinking she is a boy. Micah thinks this is fun and proceeds to pretend she is till someone decides that she laughs like a girl.
This starts her on her career as a liar and as a loner because she is different. Her fellow students distrust her, since she tells unbelievable lies whenever asked a personal question.
Micah has a boyfriend, Zach. What they do together is run. Already faster than most boys, she learns new techniques from him. They run miles in Central Park, working up to the 26 of a marathon.
In Part 2 we learn that Micah has a horrible secret, she is a werewolf, really different from others. She inherited it from her father’s parents, though her father is normal. Micah’s parents want her to live with the grandparents, where she can be a wolf without embarrassment.
But Micah wants to win a track scholarship and study biology in college to find out what she really is. Her biology teacher is the only person who understands her and sympathizes with her.
The author uses a clever structure, naming chapters “Before” or “After,” like flashbacks. You may enjoy this sympathetic story of a loner, harassed by her peers and her parents.