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Mary Renault remains best known for the series of novels she wrote set in the ancient world, beginning with The Last of the Wine in From a generation steeped in the Classics , she combined a thoroughgoing but lightly worn knowledge of ancient Greek life with a lively prose style to create bestsellers. It was one thing to depict male couples dressed in chitons, in the safely distant world of Ancient Greece, quite another to put them into British battledress in It is for this reason that The Charioteer still seems bold — particularly as it was published during rising intolerance towards homosexuality sparked by the ferociously repressive regime of Home Secretary David Maxwell Fyfe.

Laurie falls in love with Andrew Raynes, a conscientious objector working as a medical orderly, only to meet Ralph Lanyon, a boy he had worshipped at school, who is now a Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve officer.

It is, however, an idea that Laurie carries with him into adult life, as did many gay men of his and earlier generations. It is from the image in The Phaedrus of the soul as a charioteer trying to steer an ill-matched pair of winged horses, a noble white one and an ignoble dark one, that Renault took her title. Laurie has to decide between the platonic ideal apparently offered by Andrew and a more realistic sexual love offered by Ralph, and his wavering between these options maintains a narrative tension right until the very last page.

Marcel Proust - a savagely funny genius. Same-sex parents 'should be featured in school books'. Back to Back by Julia Franck. The Book of Legendary Lands. Now homosexuality is no longer taboo , it ought to be possible to see beyond The Charioteer as a gay classic.

With its eye for the detail that instantly establishes character and its fine attention to the nuances of feeling, it has a more in common with Elizabeth Taylor and Elizabeth Bowen than Vidal or Baldwin. Emotionally intelligent, beautifully written and deeply moving, it transcends categorisations. The Charioteer by Mary Renault. Follow TelegraphBooks.

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Wednesday 03 June The Charioteer, by Mary Renault, review. Mary Renault, author of The Charioteer. By Peter Parker. Related Articles. Fiction Reviews. Related Partners. In Fiction Reviews. More books news. Culture Galleries. Like Telegraph Books on Facebook. More from the web. More from The Telegraph.


The Charioteer by Mary Renault – review

The Charioteer is the last contemporary novel to be written by Mary Renault , who thereafter shifted to writing historical fiction set in Ancient Greece. The novel was originally published in Britain in by Longman; but Renault's American publisher at the time refused to issue it because of its content [1]. An American edition was not published until Pantheon , at which time the book was cut from some pages to pages in length, mostly from the first half of the story. The Charioteer has been described as "a book of immense and subtle power and almost painful beauty" [2] It combines a philosophical analysis of gay love, a war story, a classic love triangle, and a novel of character. However, it is much more than a "gay novel", and is one of her most popular within Renault fan communities.


The Charioteer

The Charioteer is a war novel by Mary Renault first published in London in Renault's US publisher Morrow refused to publish it until due to its generally positive portrayal of homosexuality. The Charioteer is significant because it features a prominent - and positive - gay theme at an early date and quickly became a bestseller - particularly within the gay community. This romance novel is primarily set in and during the immediate post-Dunkirk period of World War II at a military hospital in England during nightly bomb raids and blackouts. The story's protagonist, Laurie Laurence 'Spud' Odell, is a young soldier wounded at Dunkirk Renault had trained as a nurse and during the war she was posted to an Emergency Hospital in Winford just outside Bristol , who must decide if his affections lie with a younger conscientious objector working at his hospital or a naval officer whom he had 'worshiped' when they had both been pupils at an all-boys boarding school and with whom he has suddenly been reconnected.

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REVIEW: The Charioteer by Mary Renault

Look Inside. There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience. She is as widely known for her forthright treatment of gay relationships as well… More about Mary Renault.

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