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The Last of the Wine

4.08  ·  Rating details ·  3,573 Ratings  ·  270 Reviews
The Last of the Wine is Renault's 1st novel set in ancient Greece, the setting that would become her primary arena. Published in '56, it's the 2nd of her works to feature male homosexuality as a major theme. It's a convincing portrait of Athens at the Golden Age's close, the end of the Peloponnesian War with Sparta.
The narrator is Alexias, a noble Athenian youth, a noted
Paperback, 335 pages
Published 1960 by New English Library (first published 1956)
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Mymymble I think Michael Sweetman, her biographer, said Renault's partner Julie unwillingly destroyed all her papers as requested in her will. So no.
Some of…more
I think Michael Sweetman, her biographer, said Renault's partner Julie unwillingly destroyed all her papers as requested in her will. So no.
Some of the deleted stuff was allegedly about Alexis' campaign with Alcibiades.(less)
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Pauline Montagna
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mel Bossa
Splendid. Full of wisdom and grace. The ending was worth the whole book. I loved Phaedo the most...
Oz Barton
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Leon March
Jul 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Xia Xia Lake
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: masterpieces
“I saw death come for you, and I had no philosophy.”

If you came for an easy read, I bid you to find some other book. This book will rip your heart apart from the first paragraph, and will continue its sweet, beautiful torture till the end. It will leave an emptiness inside you and a longing for something I still cannot put my finger on what it is.
I can’t remember ever reading a book where grief and death were such a big part of it. At times I couldn’t bear it anymore and had to take a break fro
Feb 11, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's funny that I decided to read this now, not knowing anything about the plot other than it is set in Ancient Greece. I'd read some of Renault's other books and enjoyed them very much when I was a kid and thought I'd revisit her work. I found this one very contemplative; I was surprised to find her meditations on the nature of democracy and authoritarianism so relevant to the present day.
Eddie Clarke
Nov 18, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, lgbt
I regard myself as pretty knowledgeable & interested in classical Greece, so was surprised to find myself flailing at the beginning of this historical novel. Renault really throws her readers in at the deep end and her setting, Athens towards the end of the Peloponnesian War, feels exceptionally alien and confusing to negotiate at first. Renault just piles on all the quirks and mores of the culture with no explanation or excuse - you have to work it all out for yourself. However, the love af ...more
Adam Dunn
May 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
[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
Nancy McKibben
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Nimble Knitter
Jul 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Blaine DeSantis
Not quite sure what to think of this book. Some list had it mentioned as the 2nd best Historical Fiction book of all time. Not that good. Solid work by the author, but I leave with a feeling that all those old Greek males did nothing but sit around looking for young men to fall in love with, as homosexuality is a huge part of this story. As is friendship and the Peloponnesian War. It seems very thoroughly researched but it is a very slow book. Not tedious but the style is such that any dialogue ...more
I read this novel when I was twelve and at the time what most impressed me was the homo-erotcism which was taken for granted in the story while all around me the social ideal of the "wife and two veg" were held up as that of all "normal" and socially well adjusted persons to follow. Reading "The Last of the Wine" again nearly half a century later, I am amazed that I recall so little of the accounts of hardship, devestation, brutality and cruelty which features very strongly in the novel, much mo ...more
Daniel Allen
Oct 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 30, 2016 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
Sep 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 3-stars
“Shall I sing now? Singing is easy. I saw you dead, and beyond it nothing. Only toil for a burned harvest, with spring and summer lost. And now I have told you, though I never let wine loosen my tongue before. Have you heard enough?'”

Actually, 3,5 stars.

For all those who thought depictions of gay-like relationships in Ancient Greece started with the Song of Achilles, think again. This one dates back to the 1950s, which is both tremendously progressive but also definitely the reason for so man
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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.” 18 likes
“I saw death come for you, and I had no philosophy.” 11 likes
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