The book is beautifully written, gives us an insight into the Edvardian period and shows very cleary how important it is to become aware of one’s feelings in order to come to grips with them and that knowledge alone is just not enough! It can, of course, be read in simpliyfied versions, according to your level.
Level from B2 onward English
Leo Colston who lives with his mother, a widow, is invited by his friend Marcus Maudsley to Brandham Hall for a summer holiday. At that time, in the hot summer of 1900, Leo is almost 13 years old. At Branham estate he comes into contact with a completely new world ; there are many picnics and guests come and go. Above all, there is, however, Marian, the beautiful daughter of the house, with whom Leo falls immediately in love in the adolescence and this awakens his sexuality. Marian takes care of him, buys new and more appropriate clothes for him and seems to like him very much.
There is Ted Burgess, a good looking farmer . Marian and Ted start asking Leo to carry messages to each other, for business reasons, as they say. Leo feels more and more uncomfortable in his situation.
Another very important character is Viscount Trimingham, whose face was badly injured in the krimean war between 1899-1902.
He, the owner of Branham is a real gentleman and, in fact, very nice to Leo, and is also supposed to get married to Marian. Leo holds Trimingham in great esteem and would like Marian to marry him, but he would like Ted and his team to win the cricket match. These ambivalent feelings provoke conflicts in the boy, because of divided sense of loyality. Leo feels less and less at ease with his situation and would like to return home, despite the fact that Marcus confides in him that Marian promised to give him a bicycle for his birthday. He understands only later that the bicycle was intended to make his letter deliveries quicker and not to give him something he really enjoyed. On the special day Marian doesn’t appear for tea and cake so her mother goes to look for her in the garden and takes Leo with her, because she is convinced that he knows where she is. By making Leo go with Mrs Maudsley she is also taking revenge on Leo for his not having shown her a message intended for Marian.
They find Marian and Ted having sex together and this provokes a nervous breakdown in Marian’s mother. Leo doesn’t remember what happened for approximately 50 years until he finally finds some letters, which make him recall the past.
When Leo returns to Brandham for a visit he is a lonly person with a boring job. He finds out that Marian is still alive and that there is a grandson, who does not visit her frequently and that Marian’s son is in fact Ted’s son and that Marian is convinced that their experience was so exceptional and positive also for him! Unfortunately she doesn’t realize the totally different experiences and memories she and Leo have of the same episode in the past.