Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A 1950s reading list for Anglophiles

Simon Ball picked "his 1950s reading list" for the London Times.

Anglophiles of a certain age may want to click here to read about all six titles. The one book that might appeal to everyone else as well:
The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley

“The past is a foreign country . . .” is one of the best opening lines in English literature.
Michael Dirda reviewed the reissued novel in 2002 for the Atlantic:

The story takes place in 1900, and is told fifty years later by the elderly Leo Colston, a lonesome man who has spent his life cataloguing books. The wheat fields glisten in the English sunshine and the temperature burns in the 80s and 90s when the nearly thirteen-year-old Leo is invited by a classmate to spend part of the summer at Brandham Hall. There, a poor boy among the wealthy, he is put at his ease by his friend Marcus's older sister, Marian, with whom he quietly falls in love. As the days go by, Leo comes to feel increasingly wary of the intimidating lady of the house, Mrs. Maudsley; to admire the kindly and easygoing Viscount Trimingham, who was wounded in the Boer War; and to identify with a muscular young tenant farmer named Ted Burgess. Above all, he rejoices with almost pagan delight in the hot weather and the fertile landscape. Then, one afternoon, Ted Burgess cautiously asks Leo to take a letter—without telling anyone — to Marian. The reader, of course, guesses the truth immediately. But Leo does not. Slowly the sensitive boy finds himself increasingly confused by complex emotions and conflicting obligations. As he carries messages back and forth between the illicit lovers, the summer advances: croquet on the lawn, visits to the local church, the big Hall-versus-Town cricket match, a concert, roughhousing with Marcus, the prospect of a ball, the announcement of Marian's engagement to Trimingham.

From the beginning we know that disaster awaits. But whom will it strike, and how?
[Click here to read the entire review.]

--Marshal Zeringue