Rarely does a novel match the weather that you’re reading it in.
Is there anything stranger than reading about Christmas, for example, in a heatwave like we’re having? I entirely forget what Christmas even IS for 10 months of the year, and find the mention of gold-sprayed pinecones, mulled wine and reindeer jumpers positively unnerving in summertime. You can’t get stuck into the pathetic fallacy of a Brontë moorland when you’re stretched out on a beach somewhere – and that’s why mediocre holiday reads set on the coast proliferate like roaches in the hot weather. Everywhere you look the same covers multiply in stale imitation.
But, readers, I have found you a novel for a heatwave, set in a heatwave! However, that is perhaps the end of the good news. I’m not short of an opinion or four, but I must admit that for days I’ve been trying to summon up an opinion about LP Hartley’s The Go Between, with its iconic first line: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” That may say more about my sun-addled mind than this Penguin Modern Classic. But I can’t shake the feeling that it’s not me – it’s it. Even when charging through this very readable book with its heady heatwave environment, I found myself pausing to wonder – why is this enjoyable? The plot isn’t that fascinating, the writing’s not that beautiful, the characters aren’t that beguiling. And yet it slips down like your third daiquiri on a balmy sunlit evening. It’s light enough to race through with enough brains to be worth your valuable lounger time. And you’ll look respectable around the pool, which frankly is what it’s all about.