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The Charioteer Paperback – 1 Apr 1980
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Phenomenal. . . . Renault is one of the major novelists of our time. "New York Herald Tribune Book Review
" Miss Renault masters a lyrical style, meticulous and probing, and introduces us into a world of emotions so delicate and private that the reader often feels like an intruder. "The New York Times
" Tribute must be paid Miss Renault for remarkable literary talents. Her prose, at its best, is dazzling, her perceptions sharp and original, her dialogue natural to the ear. "Saturday Review
"Phenomenal. . . . Renault is one of the major novelists of our time." --New York Herald Tribune Book Review
"Miss Renault masters a lyrical style, meticulous and probing, and introduces us into a world of emotions so delicate and private that the reader often feels like an intruder." --The New York Times
"Tribute must be paid Miss Renault for remarkable literary talents. Her prose, at its best, is dazzling, her perceptions sharp and original, her dialogue natural to the ear." --Saturday Review
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Inside Flap
After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans' hospital in England to convalesce. 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. Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurie's schoolboy days, suddenly reappears in Laurie's life, and draws him into a tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience.
Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories as a monumental work in gay literature. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The title refers to the metaphor that which the soul is a charioteer in charge of two horses, one beautiful and well-behaved, the other wild and wilful. The charioteer has to keep peace between them and ensure that they don't drag the chariot off-course.
Mary Renault is respected for being so adept at creating believable male characters. Although some of the denizens of this novel are types, the naïve pretty youth, the camp and dramatic queen, the manipulative, predatory homosexual, they never become stereotypes thanks to Renault's gift for characterization.
At the time this novel was written, during the 1950's, the subject of homosexuality was still contentious, and using it as the theme of a novel was a brave decision. There is nothing exploitive or prurient about the story, nor is there any kind of plea for tolerance; this is simply a story with well-drawn, consistent characters going about their daily lives. At the same time, there is a strong sense of the time and place in which the novel is set: the war goes on in the background, people try to get on with their lives in the shadow of constant threat, people are kind or selfish according to character. Mary Renault is a superb creator of real people, and anyone who enjoys an engrossing story will find much to enjoy within the pages of this engrossing novel.
I borrowed Mary Renault's historical novels from the school library and enjoyed them very much. This one, possibly her greatest work, was not in the collection. I wish it had been, this is a masterpiece novel which must have been mind-changing for those who read it on first release. Did this novel help bring about the legalisation of male homosexuality? It would have done if enough people read it.
There are no descriptions of sex in this novel. The reader knows when it happens, the omittance is not prudish. The only other concession to the public morality of the time is that characters are given childhood traumas as 'reasons' for their homosexuality. Mary Renault had studied Ancient Greece and knew the real world as well, she knew some people are just born 'that way', but this novel HAD to be published.
It would help if the reader had a passing aquaintance with the works of Plato to understand the significance of that particular book and the various quotes, but it is not essential. The story of the charioteer soul is explained very well for the uninitiated. If any reader of "The Lord of the Flies" finds the choice of the name Ralph significant, it might also add to the understanding of this multi-layered magnificent novel.
Wow! This book almost makes me want to remove a star from every other review I have written.