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The Last of the wine [Unknown Binding]

Mary Renault
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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  • Unknown Binding
  • ASIN: B0017H8PD4
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The human side of Thucydides 25 May 2006
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Renault takes Thucydides' magisterial account of the Peloponnesian War, the deadly conflict between Athens and Sparta in the second half of the 5th century bc, and shows us what it meant to the ordinary people growing up and coming of age in the middle of the war that lasted over 30 years and broke the power of classical Athens.

Her 'heroes' are young men who study under Socrates, fight against the Spartans and witness the struggles of Alcibiades and Lysander.

If you've read Thucydides, this is a wonderful fictional complement, and if you haven't then if this doesn't make you want to, nothing will!

Steeped in the cruelty, violence and beauty of ancient Greece, this is a beautifully written and subtle novel that really whisks you back 2,500 years so that you can experience the texture of life then for yourself. Brilliant.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By T. D. Welsh TOP 500 REVIEWER
This is a book that dumps you squarely in the agora, the symposium, the trireme and the battlefield. There is not a single wasted syllable, not one sentence that rings false. Like a Mozart symphony, it is exactly right - the Platonic ideal of what a historical novel should be. Being set in the era of Imperial Athens, it naturally incorporates its own tragedy - more than one, in fact. Almost effortlessly, it leaves you understanding just why the Athenians behaved the way they did and how their arrogance led to disaster. Great historical figures spring from the pages, with all their faults and weaknesses as well as their magnificent virtues - Plato, Socrates, Alcibiades, Xenophon, Critias, and many others. Yet alongside the lucid rationality of Socrates, which rings true down the millennia, Alexias and his contemporaries inhabit a world of gods and demons. Zeus, Poseidon, Apollo, Athene and the Furies are just as real to them as the mountains and the sea.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A model for historical novelists 3 Feb 2009
In the slew of wordier, more hyped fiction about the classical world that is engulfing us at the moment, I hope some readers are prompted to go back to Mary Renault. Her books are an object lesson in what you can leave out. It's not about research, it's not about pages of painstaking archaeological description leavened by sword-slashing and peplum-ripping, it's about the kind of imaginitive immersion in an ancient culture that can enable the author to present it in its own terms, without explication, but so that the perennial dilemmas of the soul that were present then as now leap across to the modern reader, defamiliarised and sharpened by their alien setting.
The Last of the Wine is about Athens in the time of Socrates, but is above all an Oedipal tragedy of the starkness that you would expect in a culture where fathers had the power of life and death over their children. Alexias finds out that his father wanted him killed at birth and this knowledge blights their relationship and his whole life, successful and adventurous though it is on the surface. In a bitterly poignant moment, when the father lies dying, he tries to ask forgiveness but Alexias thinks he only wants to be told all over again that he was right; it is symptomatic of how Alexias, unlike his lover Lysis, is too emotionally scarred to escape from the conventions of his doomed society - but Lysis dies (as does Socrates), and Alexias survives, bereft, disillusioned, revealing much more as a narrator than he has understood himself.

For the combination of page-turning narrative brilliance with psychological insight, no one rivals Mary Renault. Read it, read all her other books on ancient Greece, The King Must Die, The Bull from the Sea, The Mask of Apollo, the Alexander trilogy, The Praise Singer. Mouth-watering, stomach-filling writing, the kind of meal one remembers years later.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Historical Novel 19 Aug 2002
By A Customer
Renault demonstrates a true understanding of the classical world and Greek culture (unlike many novelists, who demonstrate only a superficial understanding). In addition, the tale itself is gripping, and exceptionally well written.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 17 Jan 2000
By A Customer
She is a wonderful author, and if anyone is interested in ancient Greek history there is no better way to imagine what life must have been like, but through the eyes of Mary Renault. This book is based at the time of the Peloponnesian war in Greece, where Athens was fighting Sparta in order to retain her Empire. Absolutely brilliant and highly recommended.
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