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The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
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The Last of the Wine (original 1956; edition 2001)

by Mary Renault

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1,264146,338 (4.13)36
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Title:The Last of the Wine
Authors:Mary Renault
Info:Vintage (2001), Edition: 2, Paperback, 400 pages
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Tags:historical

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The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault (1956)

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Showing 1-5 of 13 (next | show all)
Picked up on a whim, Mary Renault’s The Last of the Wine was a wonderful revelation. The language is so rich and her descriptions of ancient Athens so vivid and well-realized that I was in thrall to words in a way that I haven’t been in ages and ages. It was a delight just taking my time in drinking in the delicious prose. The story, set in Periclean Athens during the time of the Peloponnesian War is a shining example of historical fiction done right. And I say this as someone who is generally not a big fan of historical fiction.

Athenian society with all its warts and glory is brought to life. The story is told in the first person, with the conceit that it is a written biographical account of one Alexis, a childhood friend of Xenaphon and student of Socrates. The only complaint I suppose is that the book ends when one felt and hoped that it could go on and on. Apparently Renault’s The Mask of Apollo picks up the tale from not long after (though apparently from a different perspective) and that book has, of course, gone on to my ‘Must Buy’ list. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Feb 4, 2018 |
I enjoyed books in this time period. Today these seems a bit slow paced. ( )
  Bruce_Deming | Feb 5, 2016 |
Another first-person narrative from Renault that seems to drip with regret. The tale of a man who happens to be in thick of things and know some famous people (Socrates). A great storytelling epic of historical fiction. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
I had remembered this book vaguely but fondly from reading it many years ago. However, in rereading it now, I did find that it rambled along through time without a very profound story arc. Can't fault the writing or the development of the main character, but, all in all, I found it rather bland. ( )
  gbelik | Nov 11, 2015 |
I've read a few blurbs about this that tried to play up the bruising Athene versus war action, but though the war shapes the course of much of this novel, it is first and foremost a romantic epic with a pair of lovers who find each other while their world is on the brink of falling apart. The two lovers are men, or rather and man and youth, embodiments of Greek ideals in terms of physical prowess, intellectual ability, honour and commitment to the defence of their city. Alexias, the youth entering the first flower of manhood, and Lysis, the older, who held back from approaching young Alexias too soon lest he mold him into something lesser that he would become on his own, heading sage advice from on Sokrates, who is their teacher and friend.

Competing in Games, fighting frontier wars, managing family and friends, learning to think, striving for goodness as the fortunes of war ebb and flow and the politics of their beloved city turn deadly, Alexias and Lysis grow and mature and strive to stay true to themselves and each other. meanwhile women are a bit of an afterthought. It's not even really polite to talk about them at all, so they don't come up often and they certainly aren't romantic figures, let alone influential or significant outside of domestic matters. Even as one reads the beautiful prose, falls in love with the young heroes and their hopes and dreams, their piety, their intellectual strivings, their heroism in battle, their ethical rightness, one has a sense that this is an ideal and egalitarian society for some. Alexias never considers even for a moment that things should be other than they are, but why should he? Sokrates doesn't either.

A brilliant, beautiful, vivid, sweeping epic that will make you fall in love with Anceint Greece all over again, for all its shortcomings. ( )
  Nigel_Quinlan | Oct 21, 2015 |
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First words
When I was a young boy, if I was sick or in trouble, or had been beaten at school, I used to remember that on the day I was born my father had wanted to kill me.
Quotations
When you are man enough to carry a shield, you will learn how it happens that men are sold into slavery, and their children born in it. Till then, it is enough for you to know that Amasis and the rest are slaves, not through any merit of yours, but by the destiny of heaven.
Why do I argue with a man who thinks whatever will earn him his freedom in two years? He can think what he likes then. It seems I can be more just than Midas, not because I am good, but because I am free.
the good must first be wrought with toil out of a man's own self, like the statue from the block.
It is the true teacher's gift, they say, to discover a man to himself.
I would feel my soul climb love as a mountain, which at the foot has wide slopes with rocks and streams and woods, and fields of every kind, but at the top one peak, to which if you go upward all paths lead; and beyond it, the blue ether where the world swims like a fish in its ocean, and the winged soul flies free. And thence returning, for a while I found nothing created that I could not love.
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Book description
Combining the scholarship of a historian with the imagination of a novelist, Mary Renault masterfully brings the ancient world to life in this page-turning drama of the Peloponnesian War.

Athens and Sparta, the mighty city states of ancient Greece, locked together in a quarter century of conflict: the Peloponnesian War.

Alexias the Athenian was born, passed through childhood and grew to manhood in those troubled years, that desperate and dangerous epoch when the golden age of Pericles was declining into uncertainty and fear for the future.

Of good family, he and his friends are brought up and educated in the things of the intellect and in athletic and martial pursuits. They learn to hunt and to love, to wrestle and to question. And all the time his star of destiny is leading him towards the moment when he must stand alongside his greatest friend Lysis in the last great clash of arms between the cities.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375726810, Paperback)

In The Last of the Wine, two young Athenians, Alexias and Lysis, compete in the palaestra, journey to the Olympic games, fight in the wars against Sparta, and study under Socrates. As their relationship develops, Renault expertly conveys Greek culture, showing the impact of this supreme philosopher whose influence spans epochs.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:13:36 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Two young Athenians, Alexias and Lysis compete in the palaestra, take part in the Olympic games, fight in the wars against Sparta, and grow to manhood influenced by the friendship of Alkibiades and the wise guidance of Socrates.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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