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The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault

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

by Mary Renault

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1,287159,191 (4.12)37
Title:The Last of the Wine
Authors:Mary Renault
Info:Vintage (2001), Edition: 2, Paperback, 400 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault (1956)


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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Later edit 29th of Oct, 2018: I said in my review there is no sex in this book, but I have to scratch that. After a 24 hours debate (literally) with Teal and Moony we got to the conclusion this book contains one of the greatest sex scenes ever written in history, you just have to look beyond the symbolism. A Masters thesis could be written from the sentence analysis we did, lol. Thanks to Teal for opening our eyes to see it.

“I saw death come for you, and I had no philosophy.”

If you came for an easy read, I bid you to find some other book. This book will rip your heart apart from the first paragraph, and will continue its sweet, beautiful torture till the end. It will leave an emptiness inside you and a longing for something I still cannot put my finger on what it is.
I can’t remember ever reading a book where grief and death were such a big part of it. At times I couldn’t bear it anymore and had to take a break from reading.

"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."

We see everything through the eyes of Alexias, a man who as a boy would have been killed by his father for being born too early and too small, if not for his mother.

We see him fight under the famous Alkibiades, befriend historical figures like Socrates, Plato, Phedon and Xenophon, almost lose his life in one of the harshest historical defeaths the Athenians have ever endured during the Peloponnesian wars, and suffer under the siege the Spartans lay to Athens in the year before Athens became a vassal state to Sparta. We see him grow into a man and fall in love with Lysis.

“Everything is change; and you cannot step twice into the same river.”

We see him take hard decisions that we can’t even comprehend today.

“Go in peace," I said to him; "bear no ill-will to me, for Necessity yields to no man: and do not complain of me to our mother, for her blood is on your head as well as mine.
If the gods had not forbidden it, my brother, I would put you to sleep before I left you, for night comes on; this is an empty place, and the clouds look dark upon the mountains.
But the blood of kindred is not to be washed away; and when a man has once felt the breath of the Honoured Ones upon his neck, he will not bid them across the threshold. So forgive me, and suffer what must be. The clouds are heavy; if the gods love you, before morning there will be snow.”

"As the gods hear me, Alexias, your good shall be mine, and your honor shall be like my own to me; and I will stand to it with my life."

If you are a lover of Ancient Greece, philosophy, Olympic games, mythology and the Peloponnesian War, if you are a lover of classic literature so well written and documented it gives you the impression the author was an immortal who had lived in that era, if you are a lover of complex characters, honor, and love of the “good and beautiful”, then read this book asap, if you haven't already done so.

Don't read it if you are interested only in M/M love, or hot sex (there is none) because the focus is far beyond that and you will be disappointed. And if I see any reviews with "I'm dropping this because there is no sex" I'm gonna be very heartbroken.

This book has easily entered my top 10 favorite books, right between Henryk Sienkiewicz “Trilogy”& “Qvo Vadis”, Madeline Miller’s “Song of Achilles” and Eiji Yoshikawa’s “Musashi”. For me, this was better than “Qvo Vadis”, “Song of Achilles” and “Musashi”. Nothing still beats the “Trilogy” though.

“It is said, ‘If Fate were moved by tears, men would offer gold to buy them.”

( )
  XiaXiaLake | Jan 16, 2019 |
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 |
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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.
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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