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The Charioteer (1959)

by Mary Renault

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1243518,121 (4.1)44
Fiction. Literature. HTML:A WWII soldier embarks on affairs with two very different men in a landmark novel that "transcends categorizations" (The Telegraph).
After being wounded at Dunkirk in World War II, Laurie Odell is sent back home to a rural British hospital. Standing out among the orderlies is Andrew, a bright conscientious objector raised as a Quaker. The unspoken romance between the two men is tested when Ralph, a friend of Laurie's from school, re-enters his life, introducing him into a milieu of jaded, experienced gay men. Will Laurie reconcile himself to Ralph's embrace, or can he offer Andrew the idealized, Platonic intimacy he yearns for?
This novel has been called one of the foundation stones of gay literary fiction, ranking alongside James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room and Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar. Celebrated for its literary brilliance and sincere depiction of complex human emotions, The Charioteer is a stirring and beautifully rendered portrayal of love.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary Renault including rare images of the author.
… (more)
  1. 40
    Maurice by E. M. Forster (emanate28)
    emanate28: Understated, loving, and in a way heartbreaking depiction of love between two men in repressive British society.
  2. 10
    Despised and Rejected by A. T. Fitzroy (mambo_taxi)
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» See also 44 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Simply beautiful. A great part of this book's magic stems from Renault's mastery of dialogue. Her characters' speech is lively, rich in undertones, and couched in the context of their relationships and historical space. A great deal is left unsaid, giving one the sense that each presented dialogue just skims the surface of the speakers' inner lives. The more introspective passages of the novel are stylistically distinct but just as well-crafted, replete with striking metaphors and beautiful lines. Psychoanalytic and Classicist influences are strong. It's not an easy book to read, but it is a reflective one--the reader is rewarded for rereading a sentence or section two or three times with a glimpse of understanding into a complex emotional landscape, and maybe something larger. It's not just a book about one man's experience with love, but about the nature of love itself--not a topic that ought to be approached in simple terms, especially at a time when gay love is not even supposed to be a topic of conversation at all. ( )
  Sammelsurium | Jun 9, 2024 |
I have no idea what happened in the last paragraph, which is to say how it ends. Renault skillfully evokes Ralph's louche social set; Andrew seemed less convincing, and again, with that part of the story, I'm not entirely sure what was supposed to have happened, especially during Laurie's final interview with David. ( )
  gtross | Jul 5, 2022 |
Mary Renault is best known for her fictional evocations of the culture of ancient Greece in books like The Bull from the Sea and The Persian Boy. However in this beautiful novel she creates a romance with a gay theme set in the early 1940s. Nevertheless she demonstrates the same skills as an author that shines in her other novels. Her positive portrayal of homosexual love is at once admirable and inspiring. ( )
  jwhenderson | Jan 19, 2022 |
Read, favourite. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 8, 2020 |
First and foremost, I think this book is so important. I can't believe that I didn't know of its existence until I was in my twenties; especially since I've been out since I was 13. I think it's a must-read for queer folks of all sorts, especially gay men, as it explains a lot about issues of substance abuse and promiscuity in the queer community. I also think it's a must-read for anyone interested in WWII, as it provides some very interesting dynamic insights, particularly with regard to its portrayals of homosexuality in the armed forces.

Now, as for the book itself:

The writing is phenomenal, and the prose is beautiful. I really enjoyed sinking my teeth into the writing in a way that I usually don't in realistic/historical fiction (i.e. I prefer reading for plot in these genres). My only complaint is that sometimes it's so dense you actually lose the plot a little bit, or miss important events that are only alluded to in the actual prose.

The characters are (for the most part), fantastic. I love Laurie, and even though I frequently disagreed with his decisions, I sympathise with his struggles and experiences greatly, and I think he's an incredibly well-written and human character. Also, Andrew is everything good in the world bundled up as a character and I love him so much. Even the minor character of Alec is well-characterised, and I really enjoyed his final scene with Laurie in the hospital, as is Bunny. The only character I well and truly despise is Ralph. As I said in one of my updates, Ralph can go get fucked. He basically manipulates and pressures Laurie throughout the entirety of the book, and he represents every gay man I've ever loathed, who has pressured younger gays into sex or alcohol or drugs or some combination thereof. Gurl bye.

Finally, the plot: I really did enjoy the plot, though I think it's fair to say it's a slow-paced book, but the buildup of Laurie and Andrew's relationship in particular is well-paced and delivered well. My only complaint about the plot is that they didn't end up together!! Ralph is trash, Laurie! Pick Andrew!

All in all, though, a really great book which, if a bit dense at times, is so important for any variety of reasons, and I would highly recommend. I would even go so far as to say it's something which should be taught in schools.

P.S. Not one, but two dogs' deaths are mentioned in the second half of the books, and one of the scenes is really emotional. Please beware if you've not read it, and if you have, please contact me so we can form a support group because I am not over Gyp. ( )
2 vote Bran_Pap | Dec 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
 

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Renault, Maryprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Beale, Simon RussellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rodellar, María JoséTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
It was the first time he had ever heard the clock strike ten at night.
Quotations
"I'm not prepared to accept a standard which puts the whole of my emotional life on the plane of immorality. I've never involved a normal person or a minor or anyone who wasn't in a position to exercise a free choice. I'm not prepared to let myself be classified with dope-peddlers and prostitutes. Criminals are blackmailed. I'm not a criminal. I'm ready to go to some degree of trouble, if necessary, to make that point."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
The Charioteer was edited for the 1959 US publication (the 1959 text is slightly shorter and lacks some, mostly descriptive, passages of the 1953 text). Most reprints after 1959 are based on the 1959 text although Longman in the UK brought new issues of the 1953 text at least until the 1970s.
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Fiction. Literature. HTML:A WWII soldier embarks on affairs with two very different men in a landmark novel that "transcends categorizations" (The Telegraph).
After being wounded at Dunkirk in World War II, Laurie Odell is sent back home to a rural British hospital. Standing out among the orderlies is Andrew, a bright conscientious objector raised as a Quaker. The unspoken romance between the two men is tested when Ralph, a friend of Laurie's from school, re-enters his life, introducing him into a milieu of jaded, experienced gay men. Will Laurie reconcile himself to Ralph's embrace, or can he offer Andrew the idealized, Platonic intimacy he yearns for?
This novel has been called one of the foundation stones of gay literary fiction, ranking alongside James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room and Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar. Celebrated for its literary brilliance and sincere depiction of complex human emotions, The Charioteer is a stirring and beautifully rendered portrayal of love.
This ebook features an illustrated biography of Mary Renault including rare images of the author.

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Book description
VMC EDITION:
Injured at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell, a young corporal, is recovering in hospital. There he meets Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly, and the men find solace in their covert friendship. Through him, Laurie is drawn into a circle of gay men for whom liaisons are fleeting and he is forced ton choose between the ideals of a perfect friendship and the pleasures of experience.
Haiku summary
In the charged silence,

Something of significance.

We must re-read it.

(1Owlette)

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