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The Last of the Wine

4.08  ·  Rating Details ·  3,244 Ratings  ·  229 Reviews
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.
Paperback, 400 pages
Published July 10th 2001 by Vintage (first published 1956)
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Community Reviews

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Pauline Montagna
Jul 19, 2013 Pauline Montagna rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 14, 2013 Terry rated it really liked it
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
May 31, 2015 Tiffany Reisz rated it really liked it
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.
Oz Barton
Dec 29, 2011 Oz Barton rated it it was amazing
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.
Feb 14, 2012 Ashley rated it it was amazing
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
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 27, 2012 Noel rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 11, 2011 Karen rated it did not like it
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
Mar 12, 2013 Jon rated it it was amazing
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
Adam Dunn
May 22, 2012 Adam Dunn rated it really liked it
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
Nov 15, 2016 Luke rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
At times, I was completely drawn into it, but other times, it seemed to move a bit slow. However, the end was really, truly tragic, leaving me stunned. Overall, a good read, indeed.
Gary Foss
Sep 10, 2013 Gary Foss rated it it was amazing
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.
Mel Campbell
I stumbled across this in the Book Grocer and was intrigued by cover blurbs from Hilary Mantel and Emma Donoghue. I'd never heard of it but it turns out it's absolutely in my wheelhouse: if you like Socratic philosophy, ancient Greek history and the Captive Prince trilogy, this is highly recommended!

Renault was in a same-sex relationship but I liked that there was no retconning of modern sexuality into this story. On the contrary: the values of ancient Athens are assumed and naturalised, and cus
Nancy McKibben
Nov 18, 2013 Nancy McKibben rated it really liked it
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
Feb 02, 2013 Wigs rated it liked it
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
Feb 03, 2015 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
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
Nimble Knitter
Jul 29, 2009 Nimble Knitter rated it it was amazing
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
[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
Aug 30, 2016 Brie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charlotte Mendelson, the author of the introduction, said that Mary Renault was an Ancient Greek and believed us all to be Ancient Greeks. The power in Renault's prose shows that she truly knew how to convey the commonalities between those living thousands of years ago and those living today; that our emotions, thoughts, and relationships are basically the same.

That's why I was able to read this novel and feel engaged the entire time, because its written in that universal understanding of the th
Nov 19, 2016 Laura rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, classics
I read this as a fan of the modern m/m romance found on-line who is academically curious about the history of the genre. This book is as exactly as circumspect as one would expect for something published in the 1950s. Questions I would love the answer to: was it read by a female audience in its time the same way m/m is consumed today? Is this an antecedent to what is found today, or despite the female author was it always pitched to a primarily gay male audience? (there's definitely a thesis tha ...more
Jul 07, 2007 DoctorM rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 05, 2015 Barbara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Read Pauline Montagna's review. She sums this book up better than I can. Or better yet, just read this book. It is fabulous.

I do want to add that the opening chapter of this book is a masterclass on how to show, not tell. The story's narrator, Alexias, is writing for people in his own time so he doesn't bother explaining anything he takes for granted but the amount of information Mary Renault provides the reader by what Alexias doesn't say, as much as what he does say, is impressive. It opens wi
Lily Andreyeva
Oct 26, 2016 Lily Andreyeva rated it it was amazing
my favourite book))
Mar 06, 2017 hahn rated it really liked it
The disadvantages reading this book without knowledge about Greek history or lack of it; pausing million time to check out Google, confused all the time, missing the point, not fully enjoying myself & fully appreciated this master piece, cannot give this a full 5* which is a shame on me ha

However, I don't regret any seconds I spent on this book. In fact it encouraged me to learn more about ancient Greek. This is not exactly a review. I just want to say that, I'm glad I read this. Though I'm
Oct 27, 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
Daniel Allen
Oct 14, 2016 Daniel Allen rated it really liked it
I bought this book from "Atlantis Books" in Oia, Santorini, Greece- it was in their "so you want to understand Greece" section. I had read a handful of Renault previously, and I knew this one was highly respected. I picked it because we were next headed on a slow ferry to Athens and I wanted context for my surroundings. But I didn't know this book was going to deeply touch me, make my heart ache for the tragedy at the end of the Athens golden age, and consider my own culture's place in the march ...more
Aug 17, 2015 Nigel rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Jan 25, 2013 Holly Lindquist rated it liked it
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
Feb 24, 2013 Jessica rated it it was amazing
"There is no People here. There are twenty thousand bodies, imprisoning each a soul, the centre of a cosmos no other sees. Here they pause, and in each other’s company trifle a little time away, before each takes up again the labour of his solitude, by which alone his soul will live or die, his long journey home to God. Who can do good, without knowing what it is? And how will he find it, except in thought, or prayer, or in talk with a few truth-seeking friends, or with the teacher God has sent ...more
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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.” 16 likes
“Nothing will change, Alexias. No, that is false; there is change whenever there is life, and already we are not the two who met in Taureas' palaestra. But what kind of fool would plant an apple-slip, to cut it down at the season when the fruit is setting? Flowers you can get every year, but only with time the tree that shades your doorway and grows into the house with each year's sun and rain.” 11 likes
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