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The Last of the Wine

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  4,373 ratings  ·  360 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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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 th…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
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
Oct 23, 2018 marked it as wish-list
Shelves: added-2018-tbr
$1.99 again on US Kindle: January 30, 2019

$1.99 on US Kindle: October 23, 2018
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.
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
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
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
Mel Bossa
Splendid. Full of wisdom and grace. The ending was worth the whole book. I loved Phaedo the most...
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Sep 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
2/12/19 Currently on sale for $1.99 via Amazon: ...more
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 history ...more
Nancy McKibben
Nov 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
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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Goodreads Librari...: Book cover change 5 28 Dec 18, 2018 02:39AM  

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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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