Sophie's Reviews > The Charioteer

The Charioteer by Mary Renault
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's review
Apr 19, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: lgbt, fiction, favorites
Read from April 17 to 19, 2010 — I own a copy

Oh dear god. I spent the last hour tearing frantically through the last 50 pages of Mary Renault's The Charioteer and now I'm so endlessly relieved, I have no words. I was actually sobbing just now because, god. This book.

This was so, so beautiful.

To think I might never have read it - I don't care how melodramatic it sounds, but I discovered this book by pure accident, because I was looking for stuff on Alexander the Great because I have been interested in Ancient Greek lately because I liked that Achilles/ Patrick Cleese moment in Wonder Woman so much - I was just killing time at work, looking for books at random, remembering Mary Renault's name from way back. There was only a very short description of it in our database - something like A homosexual love story set in WW II or something, but together with a biographical note on the author it was enough to make me curious, so I ordered a cheap used copy online.

I don't think I've ever been this surprised by a book. This is such a piece of beauty - I was in a bit of a daze at work today because I couldn't stop thinking about it, couldn't stop wanting to read more (and trust me when I say there is no crueler place to work than at a bookstore when all you want to do is finish your book). It's a story set at a hospital for the wounded during WW II, and the main character, Laurie, is torn between two very different men. The book was first published in 1959, something I kept having to remind myself about because it didn't feel like it at all. I really do have to catch up on my queer history, because I didn't realize a book like this was possible, then.

Did I mention it's beautiful? Because it is. Even though in some parts homosexuality is discussed rather openly, a lot of it is hidden in this - you can't quite call it subtext, I don't think, it's more like - you always know there is a hidden meaning, and although I was able to decode parts of it, I was left bewildered by others. Even so, the language was beautiful. And the love story was so full of longing and desire and just pure feeling it just about took my breath away.

And it wasn't just that, there were those passages, sentences that make reading the best thing ever - the kind of sentences in which you recognize yourself and it's such great comfort to know you're not the only one, and you're given words and it's just such a treasure.

This book. It's really wonderful.
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Quotes Sophie Liked

Mary Renault
“After some years of muddled thinking on the subject, he suddenly saw quite clearly what it was he had been running away from; why he had refused Sandy's first invitation, and what the trouble had been with Charles. It was also the trouble, he perceived, with nine-tenths or the people here tonight. They were specialists. They had not merely accepted their limitations, as Laurie was ready to accept his, loyal to his humanity if not to his sex, and bringing an extra humility to the hard study of human experience. They had identified themselves with their limitations; they were making a career of them. They had turned from all other reality, and curled up in them snugly, as in a womb.”
Mary Renault, The Charioteer

Mary Renault
“He kept telling me I was queer, and I didn't like it. The word, I mean. Shutting you away, somehow; roping you off with a lot of people you don't feel much in common with, half of whom hate the other half anyway, and just keep together so that they can lean up against each other for support.”
Mary Renault, The Charioteer

Mary Renault
“You mustn't get so upset about what you feel, Spud. No one's a hundred per cent consistent all the time. We might like to be. We can plan our lives along certain lines. But you know, there's no future in screwing down all the pressure valves and smashing in the gauge. You can do it for a bit and then something goes. Sometimes it gets that the only thing is just to say, 'That's what I'd like to feel twenty-four hours a day; but, the hell with it, this is how I feel now.”
Mary Renault, The Charioteer

Reading Progress

04/18 page 112
31.82% "Really loving this so far."
07/11 marked as: read

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