The Friendly Young Ladies
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Friendly Young Ladies

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  184 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Set in 1937, The Friendly Young Ladies is a romantic comedy of off-Bloomsbury bohemia. Sheltered, naïve, and just eighteen, Elsie leaves the stifling environment of her parents’ home in Cornwall to seek out her sister, Leo, who had run away nine years earlier. She finds Leo sharing a houseboat, and a bed, with the beautiful, fair-haired Helen. While Elsie’s arrival seems i...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Vintage (first published 1943)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Friendly Young Ladies, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Friendly Young Ladies

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 454)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
I think this is Renault's only contemporary novel (it's set in 1937; she wrote it during WWII) and (maybe?) her only one with a lesbian couple.

The Vintage edition includes an afterword Renault wrote in 1983, which is interesting but rather annoying because she mostly uses it as a soapbox to tell the younger LGB to stop marching around demanding that everyone respect their differences. She frames this as an explanation of why she wrote The Friendly Young Ladies -- she wanted to show that people i...more
Though this novel begins with the story of an unattractive and unintelligent girl who lives with her family in Cornwall, fairly early on it switches to the more interesting lives of two women who share a houseboat on the Thames in the late 1930s, and the impact on their (lesbian) relationship brought about by the men they interact with. The novel would not pass muster with the politically correct crowd, but is honest and interesting in its way, and certainly readable. I believe it includes the b...more
I accept the author's preference for a more fluid depiction of sexual identity (evident in both this book's lesbian characters' sexual relationships with men and apparently in Renault's own life and that of her partner, upon which the aforementioned characters are apparently arguably based); and I can appreciate to some degree the author's critical reaction to Radclyffe Hall's rather more dismal and didactic lesbian novel (the infamous 'The Well of Loneliness') of a few decades earlier, given Ha...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jadi Campbell
I've reread this over and over again through the years. The Friendly Young Ladies may be read as a comedy of manners, a meditation on what it means to relate to others as sexual and intellectual equals, as an exploration of what identifies inner freedom (and the consequences thereof), and finally, as an absorbing tale of people who live very differently. Renault's delicate writing is perfect for this tale. In other hands the story would have been heavy-handed; the way she writes, it's very funny...more
V.T. Davy
I found this book annoying. It was written in response to the downbeat, seriousness of “The Well of Loneliness”, which the author derides. However, it fails in its attempt to be upbeat and, at points, leaves one with a nasty taste in the mouth regarding the friendly young ladies’ behaviour. Peter’s male arrogance is nicely done and he deserves all he gets, but neither Joe or Leo deserved their unkind fate, which provided a very downbeat ending. Much is made in the novel of “how things like that...more
This is Renault's third novel, written during the war but set in the time period just prior. It deals with a sheltered young woman, who flees her dysfunctional family to search for her black sheep older sister, who fled the family a number of years earlier, following a disgrace about which no one will talk. She finally finds her sister living on a houseboat on the Thames with another woman in what is clearly a Lesbian relationship. The sister supports herself writing cowboy romances, for which s...more
Victoria (Eve's Alexandria)
Read and adored The Charioteer last year and so was eager to read Renault's only lesbian novel. On the whole it's a success - emotionally taut, generous to all its characters - but the ending is compromised by the implication that homosexuality is an expression of past hetero trauma. There is hyperbole in the writing too, with Renault's signature fixation on the meeting of souls and hearts and fate. Still I admired it, especially the subplot of Elsie and Peter.
Ronald Wise
I enjoyed this book immensely and had trouble putting it down at times — not due to action-packed drama, but from a keen personal interest in the nuanced interactions of its characters. The two "Afterwards" at the end of the book — one by Renault just before her death, and a later one by Lillian Faderman — were very useful in helping me to understand the author and encapsulate my reactions to this book. Though this novel is noted as an autobiographical story regarding the issue of heterosexualit...more
Since Renault is my favorite author, I've been trying to track down and read all of her earlier works, including this one. To say it was a disappointment is unfair, since I hold her on such a pedestal. And this book actually has in it the ingredients that would become some of her later, better books, including The Charioteer. But FYL sort of falls apart otherwise. The characters and setting are interesting as usual, but the story is really unfulfilling. And it's odd that the novel starts with so...more

I am MAYBE 10 pages in and already I'm thinking, "hmm, they won't notice if I read for a few hours in my office right?"

I wanted a book that will last me through the weekend but not be too heavy. I might be in trouble.
Finished. Yeah, I'm a little disappointed in the ending, if Leo is meant to have left but that's not how I read it. I read it as her standing at the crossroads and we are left to fill in the rest with our own imaginations.
I read this in 2005 and found it to be incredibly frustrating. For one thing, don't believe any of the blurbs on the back of the book - this book is neither a romance nor a comedy. It doesn't really have much at all to say about artists communities in the '30s. And for that matter, it doesn't really have that much to say about lesbian relationships either. The characters are mostly either dispicable or tragic.

After reading this, I wrote a long exposition of my problems with this book here: http...more
Diane Walters
I had the audio book version. The narrator had a strong English accent and a melodic range to her voice. I couldn't get into the book. Every time I turned it on--I blanked out.
Alex Hogan
I read this when I was about 15. LOL, unaware, of course, that this was THE Mary Renault, whom I discovered later as the writer of beautiful Ancient Greet stories.

It is a Lesbian story, altho that passed me by at the time.
Anywavewilldo Anywavewilldo
sad she had to put a heterosexual ending on this book - when she was queer by writing about gay men in ancient contexts she did so much better - so I can't say I liked the story but it was important she wrote it...
Katie M.
Gay characters who TURN STRAIGHT. FAIL. (Slight win for writing an afterword many years later in which you express regret at having written such a lame turn of events.)
Claire Haeg
A wartime psychological novel, and a very interesting timepiece with, as usual, great characters. Her usual interest in and sympathy for homosexuality is evident.
Arturo Misael
Muy lento, con un concepto no del todo muy bueno, una temática muy real y con problemas psicológicos acercas de las relaciones inter-humanas,aburrido en su mayoría.
Interesting Characters. I imagine it must have been quite scandalous for it's time. Not sure what to make of the ending though. It was good summer read.
One of the first books I came across that talked about lesbians, and quite an eye opener to a rather naïve young woman
Elizabeth Bradley
Why didn't anyone tell me about Mary Renault sooner??
Mary Ellen
Would love to read it again.
Jadelynn Wikkid
Jadelynn Wikkid marked it as to-read
Sep 17, 2014
Sushisushi marked it as to-read
Sep 10, 2014
Emma marked it as to-read
Sep 09, 2014
Ashley marked it as to-read
Sep 04, 2014
Aleksandra marked it as to-read
Sep 03, 2014
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 15 16 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Olivia: A Novel
  • Les Guérillères
  • A View of the Harbour
  • One Fine Day
  • Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall
  • The Weather in the Streets
  • Two Serious Ladies
  • Lessons
  • The Cottage
  • La Bâtarde [The Bastard]
  • Afterimage
  • The Land of Spices
  • Rat Bohemia
  • Mrs. Stevens Hears the Mermaids Singing
  • Other Women
  • A Visitation of Spirits: A Novel
  • Eustace Chisholm and the Works
  • The Gallery
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
More about Mary Renault...
The Persian Boy (Alexander the Great, #2) The King Must Die (Theseus, #1) Fire from Heaven (Alexander the Great, #1) The Last of the Wine The Charioteer

Share This Book