Whitaker's Reviews > The Charioteer

The Charioteer by Mary Renault
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Jul 16, 14

bookshelves: gay, recommended-unreservedly, 2010-read, united-kingdom, 3965p-box1
Read from November 30 to December 12, 2010

Shame on me! When I first heard of Mary Renault and her gay novels, I immediately assumed that because they were written in the 1950’s and by a woman that they were bound to be bad. Shame, shame, shame!

I stand duly chastised. And somewhat in awe of Mary Renault. She really gets the whole living in fear and shame thing, the way it distorts your life, causes you to doubt yourself, the overly sensitive panic that “They” somehow know. She never comes out to hit us on the head with this. She just describes Laurie’s emotions and thoughts, often indirectly. She’s discreet and restrained, and it’s a stellar example of how less can be more.

There were some parts that gave me pause. In one scene, Laurie says to an exhausted friend, “You’ll be all right because you’re more a doctor than you are a queer.” One reading would see it as encapsulating all that 50’s homosexual self-loathing that we are so familiar with. On another reading--the one I prefer--it's a statement that gay men and women are not just their sexuality, in the same way that straight men and women are not just their sexuality. The trouble comes when it’s all that you define about yourself when we are all so much more than that. And I would like to believe that that is what she meant, because in so many other ways, she really nailed it.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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DoctorM It is a lovely novel--- a powerful love story, a coming-of-age story, and one that does incorporate Renault's own Hellenic views. It really needs to be filmed.


Whitaker Oh, I so agree. It'd be fantastic filmed.


message 3: by Brad (new)

Brad Thanks for that, Whitaker.


message 4: by Scribble (last edited Dec 29, 2010 04:29AM) (new)

Scribble Orca Whitaker wrote: "On another reading--the one I prefer--it's a statement that gay men and women are not just their sexuality, in the same way that straight men and women are not just their sexuality."

Yes! Oh how I hate having to be gender identified with all the surrounding baggage about sexuality. There is so much more to being a person than whether I like to curl up with someone of the same sex or otherwise.

And the same goes for metaphysical affiliation or lack thereof. I do not wish to know whether you believe in Allah, because you insist on demonstrating your piety by wearing a decoration on your head - the origin of which is climate based, nor whether you believe in God, by dangling chains and crosses from your appendages), nor your belief in the all-seeing eye marked in the centre of your forehead as a red dot.

Although I'm all for freedom of expression.


Whitaker G N wrote: "And the same goes for metaphysical affiliation or lack thereof... Although I'm all for freedom of expression. "

Ah, the contradictions of being human. Which really is exactly why labels don't mean a thing. :-)


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