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The Last of the Wine

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,690 ratings  ·  412 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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Jim ahhh, i was afraid of that. thanks for your reply. I think Sweetman also mentioned that some lucky fan got a copy of at least a portion of the deleted…moreahhh, i was afraid of that. thanks for your reply. I think Sweetman also mentioned that some lucky fan got a copy of at least a portion of the deleted pages as a reply to a letter of admiration, so they are probably out there somewhere. hopefully cherished and passed on to a new generation...(less)
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Pauline Montagna
Jul 19, 2013 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
Xia Xia
Mar 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Xia Xia by: Teal, Mymymble
Shelves: masterpieces
Later edit 29th of Oct, 2018: I said in my review there is no sex in this book, but I have to scratch that. After a 24 hours debate (literally) with Teal and Moony we got to the conclusion this book contains one of the greatest sex scenes ever written in history, you just have to look beyond the symbolism. A Masters thesis could be written from the sentence analysis we did, lol. Thanks to Teal for opening our eyes to see it.

“I saw death come for you, and I had no philosophy.”

If you came for an
Jan 14, 2013 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
There are so many things that could be said about Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine and I don't want to turn this review into an essay. I'll try therefore to keep it short and personal.

The first wonderful paragraph of the novel ( When I was a young boy, if I was sick or in trouble, or had been beaten at school, I used to remember that on the day I was born my father had wanted to kill me. ) sets the tone for the narration and for the book's main character, Alexias, a young Athenian living in
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
Oz Barton
Dec 29, 2011 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.
I went through a few phases with this book. At first I was drawn in and hanging on every word. Her recreation of Classical Athens is outstanding and you really do feel like you’re walking the ancient streets and listening to real Greeks. But after a while of this everything started to feel rather like we’ve already seen it all. The plot takes a long while to go anywhere and we spend most of our time wandering the city, listening to Socrates, and practicing for war. The warlike material itself is ...more
Mel Bossa
Splendid. Full of wisdom and grace. The ending was worth the whole book. I loved Phaedo the most...
Leon March
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
Dawn C
Mar 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: media-audible
Awwww man, this hit me right in my classic Greek feels. A tender, thoughtful portrait of male/male love and life in ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian war. Amazing that a novel depicting such an openly bisexual lifestyle was published in 1956 but I guess the history label will allow for a lot, even then.
Feb 11, 2011 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
Feb 14, 2012 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 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
Ellie (faerieontheshelf)
excuse me whilst I cry my entire heart and soul out ;-;

4.5, RTC but MY HEART

Mary Renault paints a beautifully informed painting of Athenian society, reflecting the gender hierarchies, sexual relations and political and philosophical learnings of the time

yes it was great still emotionally distraught
You never learn how much your courage owes to the wish for a good name among men, to the eyes of lover and friends upon you till you are alone among enemies.

This is an extraordinary work of literary fiction, and if I could trust anyone with the knowledge and insight of Ancient Greece, it would be Mary Renault. It’s no surprise this book has an infinite amount of praise for the painfully accurate and disciplined reflection of this era - but wrapped within prose that is enchanting and filled with
K.P. Ambroziak
Jun 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
*a highly recommended read*

Mary Renault seems gifted with metaphor, which she uses to elucidate the most significant moment in a character’s life. Take this passage, for instance, when Alexias’s life has changed forever:

“I felt a sudden rush of the past upon me; for a moment grief pierced me like a winter night; yet it came to me like an old grief, I had suffered it long since and now it was behind me. Everything is changed; and you cannot step twice into the same river.”

This passage sums up t
Mar 12, 2013 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
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
rep: mlm couple

3.5 ☆
(5 ☆ for the first half or so & less and less with every chapter)

first of all! im Very Grateful that the relationship btwn alexias & lysis was described in such a delicate & soft way, not sexualised unnecessarily bc it was already difficult enough for me, as a modern reader, to keep in mind that relationships with an age difference were apparently natural back then

i was enchanted with the book from the very beginning mostly bc of the writing. it's so btfl! true, at times har
The Last of the Wine reminds me much more closely of what I’ve come to expect from Mary Renault than did The Praise-Singer. Here we have a definable hero, the gore and grief of war, and Renault’s perennial themes of euphemistic (and not so euphemistic) male love. I have to wonder if Renault’s coyness can be attributed to writing such a novel in the 1950s – but that is beside the point. What I continue to find admirable is that Renault expresses ancient Greek social dynamics without batting an ey ...more
A difficult to read but instructive of heart and mores word photo placed in ancient Greek. This book surely stands the test of time. Very sad.

3.5 stars but for me- density around voids not spoken nixes the round up.

Others have said it better in review. Total man story of excellent character definitive of friendship, love, civic loyalty, and soul commitment.
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 affair ...more
Adam Dunn
May 22, 2012 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
Jul 07, 2007 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
Feb 02, 2013 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
Nimble Knitter
Jul 29, 2009 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
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. ...more
Brenda Clough
May 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Mary Renault is the very best ancient-Greece historical novelist ever. And this is probably her best work. She is a master at stopping, at not telling you everything, at not letting it all hang out. The Athenians would approve.
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it
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.
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My favorite novel

Words cannot honor the greatness that is within the pages of this book. Life is short. Make it count.

Feb 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
It's been about 30 years since I first read this book. To my surprise, now that I have finished it, I'm tempted to pick it up again and start again from the beginning. I think Renault has done a really remarkable thing, and I have probably only absorbed the half of it.

The adolescent me was attracted by the story of two men who love each other, over many years, and whose devotion to each other is accepted and approved by the people around them. I think I must also have been gripped by the sense o
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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

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