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The Last of the Wine

4.09  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,810 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
The Last of the Wine is Renault's 1st novel set in ancient Greece, the setting that would become her primary arena. Published in '56, it's the 2nd of her works to feature male homosexuality as a major theme. It's a convincing portrait of Athens at the Golden Age's close, the end of the Peloponnesian War with Sparta.
The narrator is Alexias, a noble Athenian youth, a noted
Paperback, 335 pages
Published 1960 by New English Library (first published 1956)
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Pauline Montagna
I cannot remember how I discovered Mary Renault’s novels, but most likely at my local library which I haunted. Although I read them all as a teenager, many years ago, their beauty and humanity are still a strong influence. While The King Must Die and the Alexandrian books may have had a stronger impact, it is the delicacy of the relationship between the young lovers portrayed in The Last of the Wine that remains with me.

Because of her empathetic portrayal of love between men, many of Mary Renau
Jun 17, 2015 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Renault once again does a stellar job bringing Classical Greece to life with the story of Alexias, scion of a minor patrician family in Athens during the era when the city felt turmoil both from within and from without as they experienced not only the aggression of Sparta during Peloponnesian War, but also the existence of philosopher and iconoclast Sokrates. At its core this is a tale about love, primarily the love of Alexias for his best friend and lover Lysis; though it is also about the diff ...more
The Last of the Wine, although set in the ancient Greek world, like the Fire from Heaven trilogy, it's a very different work. Even though the three works of the trilogy have some fabulous characters, and some fabulous character development, the action and the spectacle of Alexander's life is just as much as big a part of the book. The Last of the Wine is very different. Although it takes place in Greece in the fifth century BC, the time of the great upheaval caused by the Peloponnesian Wars, and ...more
Tiffany Reisz
Jun 04, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another gorgeous historical novel from Mary Renault. I love how casually bisexual she paints Ancient Anthenian society. It's entirely normal for two men to be lovers while having female mistresses and wives. Only complaint is that I wanted to see more of the love/relationship between Lysis/Alexias. It was more telling than showing. I realize, however, that showing a healthy loving sexual relationship between two men in a book written in 1958, wasn't quite do-able. Still excellent.
Jun 22, 2012 Ashley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for the first time in high school in 1999 when we were studying World History. I re-read it in 2010 and it is still one of my favorite books of all time. It's very historical and beautifully written. Overall it is incredibly brilliant.

I love ancient history, specifically Greece, so this book was a dream for me. The book is set in Athens, Greece during the time of the Peloponnesian Wars and follows the life of Alexias, a young Greek boy. We are able to experience Alexias' life,
Oct 24, 2007 Jaimie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This books relates the story of the Peloponesian wars and the decline of Athens from the perspective of a young boy growing into a man. This in itself held my attention, but I found it even more compelling because of the historically relevent same-sex relationship between the protagonist and his best friend and lover. It was an eye-opening experience because it is the first and only book I've read with this type of relationship central to a story. It is never graphic, just tender and thoughtful. ...more
Jul 30, 2012 Noel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
From the first sentence this novel has easily become my favourite. I made it a tradition to read it each year and have done so now for the 15th time. Some may call it obsessive, but I have to say that each time I read it I found something new in it that made me reflect on life in a different way. You can not read a book and expect it to change your life, it will change your life at precisely the moment you need it. "The Last of the Wine" has done that for me over and over again.
First of all it i
Mar 12, 2013 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The best evocation of the ancient world I've ever read--or at least a small part of the ancient world for a particular 25 years. The story is told by Alexias, who grows from a small boy in Athens to a very mature and experienced man of about 30, who at the close of the book is about to see his well-loved Socrates put to death. As far as I can tell, Renault gets everything right, every prejudice, every detail of geography, every detail of history. She has reconstructed Athenian life, reflecting o ...more
Feb 11, 2011 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I tried to like this book. I really did. After all, I remember being thoroughly engrossed in author's "Persian Boy" years ago. But I gave up on Wine after 50 pages. the problems for me were:

1. Had to stop and look up too many things: which characters existed in history, what some customs were (like the Herms placed in front of homes), words such as Helots, Demos.

2. Had to read slowly in order to decode sentences. In dialogues between two people, Renault would write the conversation in one paragr
Oz Barton
Feb 20, 2012 Oz Barton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Short review: This is one of the best books I've ever had the privilege of reading.

Long review:
I put off finishing this book for a long time — years — but only because I love the characters so deeply, and based on the book's sad opening, I was afraid of a sad ending. Normally this wouldn't cause me to hesitate, as I like sad endings, but in this case, I was so incredibly attached to the characters, I couldn't bear the thought of it.

And the characters are, for me, the absolute heart of this book.
Adam Dunn
Jun 27, 2012 Adam Dunn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: glbt
This book was a lot of work, the most challenging book I've read, but it ended up being worth it.
I read this for a book club and if I had of been reading it on my own I probably wouldn't have finished it. I'm glad I did.
Before reading, I was advised to brush up on my Greek history. I have no idea where one would do this. I've never studied Greek history and knew nothing, nothing, going in.
I've never before read a book where you have to take notes, I've always kind of believed reading to be for p
Nancy McKibben
Nov 18, 2013 Nancy McKibben rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like good prose and ancient Greece
The Last of the Wine
By Mary Renault

This novel by Mary Renault is one of those stories that make you wonder whether she didn’t somehow actually live in Greece of the fifth century B. C., because she makes that time come so alive to the reader.

The story revolves around Alexias, a noble Athenian youth growing into adulthood during the Peloponnesian War. Although he spends much of his time at the feet of various philosophers, including Plato and Sokrates, he also works out at the gymnasium, argues
Gary Foss
This is an extraordinary piece of work. Renault has a command of the era she writes about that is as strong if not stronger than any period author I have encountered, and in her case that accomplishment is all the more powerful as the period and culture that she is portraying is further afield than that of the vast majority of other authors, even those who tackle period pieces as their major area of effort.

In Renault's case, that expertise is clearly from a deep and extensive reading of history.
Nimble Knitter
Jul 29, 2009 Nimble Knitter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this book when I was in high school and it had a tremendous impact on my life. I was already interested in history and this really focused my attention on the Hellenistic period of Greek history. I moved on to the Alexander trilogy immediately after as well as several others. I even talked my western civilization prof in college into accepting a book report of this book because it was listed in the suggested reading of our textbook.

Her writings led me to a lifelong fascination with ancien
I assigned this book to Western Civ 101 students all through my teaching career. It's a clear personal favourite. Renault looks at the end of the great war between Athens and Sparta and the collapse of Athenian democracy and Athenian power. Beautiful, spare, austere writing, finely-crafted characters, and a heartbreaking love story as well. Renault wasn't afraid a generation ago to see that the love story would have to be same-sex, and to depict a world where her young hero would find an older, ...more
Oct 10, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: summer-2015
Rating this book is so difficult. For right now I'm going to be on the conservative side. Seeing that my "conservative side" is four stars, that still means I loved this book a lot.

Edit: I've had this book percolating in my brain awhile and I really wish goodreads let you do .5 stars, because this is a strong 4.5 for me. But as always, I round down. I think a book that you randomly think about during the day and enters you into a WORLD OF PAIN each time you do (and in a good way, as good as a w
Apr 29, 2015 Wigs rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt
2.5 stars, really. Rounding up because I can't give it a half.

It's not what I expected or wanted, it's more of a history lesson of sorts, more than anything, with a bit of philosophy. If you're looking into it because you're interested in m/m romance like I was, this is not the book for you. Instead of depicting a homosexual relationship as the genres may imply, you could say it's better defined as biromantic heterosexuality, if we're getting technical, seeing as the narrator Alexias suggests t
Dec 09, 2015 Luana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mary Renault ci trasporta nella Grecia del V secolo a.C., un mondo dilaniato dal conflitto costante tra Atene e Sparta, guerra che finisce per coinvolgere tutte le altre città dell'Ellade che, in base alla situazione e al proprio interesse, prendono le parti prima dell'una, poi dell'altra. L'autrice riporta alla luce la vita nella città di Atene, in particolare le dispute politiche tra oligarchi e democratici: sono davvero interessanti le discussioni circa la vera natura del potere democratico, ...more
Nov 12, 2015 Nigel rated it it was amazing
I've read a few blurbs about this that tried to play up the bruising Athene versus Sparta 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 ...more
Holly Lindquist
As historical novels go, it doesn't get too much better than this adroit little tale. If that's the case, why did I give it three stars?
Well, I find Renault's dry language a bit off-putting at times, but I know that others will find her style much more agreeable. It depends on personal taste. I find it slightly stuffy, others will see it as rich and evocative.
Anyway, this book takes place during a particularly fascinating era in Ancient Greek history, the time of the Peloponnesian War. The city
[These notes were made in 1992:]. A homophile friend of mine long ago recommended Mary Renault, and I picked up one of her books - The Praise Singer, I think - and did not greatly enjoy it. But this one fully justified my friend's praises. If the reading of it had one drawback (and it was my failure, not Renault's), it was that my background in Greek literature & history is not strong enough to experience the full deliciousness of her reinvention of the characters of Athenian and Spartan his ...more
Feb 03, 2016 Kirsten rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sweet-2016, tomes
Who knew Ancient Civ could be so boring? #trust when I say that I didn't. I went through a real classic-historical-fiction-want-to-read binge a couple of years ago, and somehow this one slipped through the cracks. It was one huge yawn after another; instead of describing battles and ambushes and huge historical events with dramatic detail, Renault decided to do the following: "oh look, some people grabbed me and I do not like it. I will talk to them about Sokrates and they will let me go." #para ...more
Maybe because my knowledge of the Peloponnesian War is quite sketchy (most of it comes from, um, this book) but the thing about The Last of the Wine that sticks with me most is how much of his time period Alexias is. Although he's something of a rebel compared to his fellow Athenians, he never feels like a modern transplant. I admire this, because historical fiction often has trouble navigating the waters where the Sea of Anachronism meets the Ocean of Sympathetic Characters. This being a book c ...more
Feb 11, 2011 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Any adult interested in ancient Greece.
This historical novel follows the life of Alexias, a young man who has the unenviable fortune to be born during the declining years of Athens. Lots of tragedy, but on the other hand, he does get to be a student of Socrates. On the other hand still, we all know how that ended.

Some of the events in this novel are extremely heart wrenching. What drives the dagger further into the chest is the knowledge that Mary Renault did her research, and you can have some confidence that it really happened the
Jo Barton
Ancient Greek history has never been something that I have felt comfortable with, due, I suppose to my education in this area of history being sorely lacking. My high school wasn't the sort of place where the classics sat comfortably, so perhaps the fault is that I never grew to understand the pull of ancient mythology at an age where I might have soaked up it with rather more interest.

So, when offered the chance to read this reissued book by Mary Renault, originally published in 1956, I started
Mar 28, 2015 Nina rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ath-stacks
Raggedy original faded brick buckram, Pantheon (sic!) publisher, boy with horse like black figure pottery on cover, and with annoying tape on the spine.

I'm beginning to wonder if we should reread all of the books which blew our minds when we were young. Especially books that include sex, when this is a subject you're most curious about.

Having a 19th century education, I cut my teeth on Greek myths, Greek plays, historical fiction featuring Greeks, and even a bit of Greek language. I recall readi
Nov 20, 2014 M. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the few Mary Renault books I had not read, and indeed it had been quite a while since I picked up something by her, although I have always enjoyed her books. An interesting profile by Daniel Mendelsohn in The New Yorker prompted me to read "The Last of the Wine."

This account of a friendship between two young men, Alexias and Lysis, during the Peloponnesian War, is a serious book. One might call it "scholarly," if such a word could be applied to historical fiction. Renault is inte
I read Song of Achilles and fell in love with the novel rather deeply. I thought I'd try my hand at more gay historical fiction and found this novel highly recommended. I was sorely disappointed. I found it tedious, dry, and boring to be honest. I finished it only because I hate to stop halfway through a book. I kept reading hoping for some of the passion and excitement I enjoyed in Song of Achilles. It's certainly not in this novel. Many people seem to enjoy it, but it really was not for me.
Really good book with a vivid picture of Hellenic culture. Only I wish there was more about Socrates...well, well. It also got me thinking - in this whole book most of the relationships amongst men were depicted as romantic relationships. I wonder whether this is a bit overdone because this way somehow disappeared comradery altogether. The archaic language in original sources might be a bit misleading with this respect... Just a thought.
Jackie Law
The Last of the Wine, by Mary Renault, was hard work to read, although not without some reward. The writing style brought to mind the classics, the ancient texts of Homer, of Plato and his contemporaries, several of whom are name checked within these pages. Although I noted certain wisdoms it was not on a par with these venerated teachers. This was a story, but not one that held my attention sufficiently to enjoy.

The protagonist is Alexias, a young Athenian of good family whose fortunes are unde
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Mary Renault was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.

Her historical novels are all set in ancient Greece. They include a pair of novels about the mythological hero Theseus and a trilogy about the career of Alexander
More about Mary Renault...

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“Everything is change; and you cannot step twice into the same river.” 14 likes
“I saw death come for you, and I had no philosophy.” 8 likes
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