J.R. Tomlin's Reviews > The Charioteer

The Charioteer by Mary Renault
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Feb 13, 11

Read from January 19 to February 13, 2011

This novel is Mary Renault's tour de force. Her writing in it impeccable--understated but the beauty takes my breath away. The characterisation of not just the main characters of Laurie, Ralph and Andrew but the minor characters is amazing. I quickly run out of superlatives.

Yes, if you can't bother to figure out at least a little of what was going on with WWII gays, you might have trouble following some of it, particularly the gay party. The same for people who won't read between the lines. Renault expected the reader to work with her, not be spoon-fed pablum. I feel sorry for people who can't be bothered because they have no idea what they are missing.

But this novel is much less about being gay than it is about love--not a love story but a story ABOUT love. It is about platonic love and sensual love and the sacrifices that love may entail. It's about that (as Ralph says near the end) "right, left, or centre, it is still necessary to make out as a human being".

In the old question, what novel would you take to a desert island if you could only take one. For me, it would be The Charioteer.

If you can get the 1953 British version, it is much better than the later ones in my opinion. Too bad it is so hard to find.
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Reading Progress

01/19/2011 page 50
14.0% "I should say re-reading. This is, of course, a major classic of gay literature. Given the "what book would you take to a desert island" this is the one."
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