Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Charioteer” as Want to Read:
The Charioteer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Charioteer

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,745 ratings  ·  470 reviews
After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans’ hospital in England to convalesce. There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance. ...more
Paperback, 347 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Vintage Books (first published 1953)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Charioteer, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Lamont O'Neal LOL. Good point. I suspect they chose this particular painting because it's an image of a pensive innocent looking young man. A dead on description of…moreLOL. Good point. I suspect they chose this particular painting because it's an image of a pensive innocent looking young man. A dead on description of Laurie, despite the hair color.(less)
Lobstergirl I would say it's neither sad and depressing, nor light and refreshing. It's about characters who are coming to terms with their homosexuality and what…moreI would say it's neither sad and depressing, nor light and refreshing. It's about characters who are coming to terms with their homosexuality and what that might mean for their lives, or have already come to terms with it, or may never come to terms with it. It's a look at love between men, two types of love really. The two main characters have war injuries, but have acclimated to them. The more serious injuries and deaths happen to characters on the periphery.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.10  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,745 ratings  ·  470 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Charioteer
My least favorite thing about this book reporting business is choosing the star rating. I seriously get ulcers trying to quantify my personal, subjective response to each book I've read. Was it just "okay"? Did I "like it" or "really like it"? Part of my problem is that I've resolved from the beginning to be incredibly stingy with my five-star ratings. I've only given five stars to books that I feel have affected my sense of self and relation to the world on some profound and fundamental level, ...more
Jan 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Probably the single most influential book I ever read. Beautifully written, evocative, haunting, powerful.
Julio Genao
Oct 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
significantly excellent.

in some passages so stunningly real and identifiable i found myself experiencing things that had happened to me in nearly the same way, as if for the first time.

i feel like i already knew everyone i met in this book.

definitive. absolutely definitive.

discussion with author alexis hall:
★★★★★ 5 stars

“He was filled with a vast sense of the momentous, of unknown mysteries. He did not know what he should demand of himself, nor did it seem to matter, for he had not chosen this music he moved to, it had chosen him.”

This is the fourth time I’ve read The Charioteer and once again I’ve been swept away by it. The Charioteer is quite likely my favourite novel of all time as there are few books that I care as much about.
There is something comforting about The Charioteer, which is strang
Shame on me! When I first heard of Mary Renault and her gay novels, I immediately assumed that because they were written in the 1950’s and by a woman that they were bound to be bad. Shame, shame, shame!

I stand duly chastised. And somewhat in awe of Mary Renault. She really gets the whole living in fear and shame thing, the way it distorts your life, causes you to doubt yourself, the overly sensitive panic that “They” somehow know. She never comes out to hit us on the head with this. She just de
K.M. Soehnlein
Jul 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I knew nothing about this novel when I began reading it. By the time I was done, I was convinced it belonged near the top of the list of the best novels ever written about gay characters.

Mary Renault is known for her historical fiction set in ancient Greece, but The Charioteer takes place during World War II, mostly inside a British hospital where Laurie (Laurence), whose kneecap was blasted away at the Battle of Dunkirk, is recuperating. Laurie becomes enamored with a hospital orderly named An
Raul Bimenyimana
Apr 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I've been meaning to re-read this for sometime now. It's one of those books that feel formative to me and so I wanted to know how it held up after some years. This was one of, if not the first full length gay novel I had ever read. I had read a lot of gay stories online in my late teens, mostly from sites like Gay Authors and Literotica, and they were important in that they showed me that I wasn't as alone as I thought I was and they were also readily accessible. I had known about "The Chariotee ...more
It’s a world record! I’ve got 53 notes and 204 highlights! I had to reread many passages a few times!?!?! And it was not enough.
I’m still in awe, how is this even possible for a ”bookish, suburban woman” in 1953 to write such a complex book about gay men?

story - 10 ⭐️

audio by Joe Jameson - 5 ⭐️
Xia Xia
Feb 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Xia Xia by: Teal; Mymymble
I need to build Mary Renault a worship shrine. And maybe one for Ralph Lanyon as well.
Jul 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: top-20
Mary Renault is one of those authors for whom I was tempted to give 5 stars to all of her books, because I enjoyed them so much. But in the interests of maintaining standards (Hi Betsy!), I will give 5 stars to "The Charioteer", a book probably 50 years ahead of its time, but go ahead and recommend all of her historical fiction anyway. With perhaps "The Mask of Apollo" and "The King must Die" being my favorites among her remaining books. ...more
Anyta Sunday
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How does this not have more ratings and more reviews?

So exceptional it hurts.

Christy B
Sep 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
My heart. Is it still there? Because I feel like someone tore it out and stomped on it.

I stayed up way later than I usually do, last night, to finish this, because I couldn't wait any longer. The intense and emotional turmoil inside of me started with Andrew's letter and followed through to the end.

It wasn't until I finished, and turned off the lights to go to sleep, that I realized what I had been holding in. And I cried for a few minutes: for the story, for the beautiful writing, for the chara
Optimist ♰King's Wench♰
The Charioteer ~ Plato

…Let us say, then, that the soul resembles the joined powers of a pair of winged horses and a charioteer. Now the horses and drivers of the gods are of equal temper and breed, but with men it is otherwise… it sinks down in the midst of heaven, and returns to its own home. And there the charioteer leads his horses to the manger, and puts ambrosia before them, with nectar for their drink. Such is the life of the gods.

*Really helps to have some understanding of this allego
Today, the social justice movement it is ever so chic to belong to is that of same sex marriage. Whether this will continue past the vanilla white male couple with a couple of white male kids, whether success on this front means a tackling of the trans panic (genocide) defense law in 49 of my 50 states, whether this sensationalized narrowing of all the discrimination, the dehumanization, and the murder of all those beyond the pale of hetero/cis/etc-normativity will go the way of eradication of U ...more
Mel Bossa
It's official, I worship Mary Renault.

If there ever was a novel that explored homo-romantic (platonic) love this is it.

Laurie was severely wounded at Dunkirk and is in convalescence, being treated in a military hospital. The setting is one Renault knew well and it is apparent in all of the details and characters that make up the backbone of the story. Laurie knows he's gay but of course back then you wouldn't call it that. He carries with him Plato's Phadrus which has a passage where Socrates
Podga Podga
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
It's impossible for me to rate certain books objectively, because of the life-changing impact they had on me.

I read The Charioteer in 1976, when I was 13. I knew I was different, but not in a way that bore mentioning or even secret acknowledgement in the ulta-macho Greece of that time. The only gay man I was aware of was a guy, who sold feather dusters around the centre of Athens; he was campy, outspoken, mocked, and it scared me that I might be like him.

Even though I didn't understand all the
Oct 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is my all-time favorite book, for many reasons that are hard to explain. In the simplest terms, it's a love story set in England during WWII. I'd recommend it for anybody who a) enjoys literary fiction b) is socially open-minded and c) doesn't need to be hit over the head with plot developments.

Some people have said that Mary Renault is too reserved, or too subtle in her descriptions of a scene. But I think she was a genius at capturing the real, honest essence of people and relationships.
Jan 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay-historical
It’s hard for me to do a review of this book for many reasons. It seems a bit cheeky for me to even try – and it’s been around for so long I would imagine that just about everyone I know has read it, but if this review tempts one person who hasn’t to give it a whirl, then I’ll have achieved something. So perhaps it’s less of a review and more of a personal rave. That I love it, is a given.

It’s a simple enough story on the surface. Laurie, young idealistic, attempts to defend Ralph, the head boy
 photo review audio books_zpstpgogvma.jpg

 photo lots of gold stars_zpsqdswsuvh.jpg

Where do I start with this one?? The prose outdoes Harper Fox herself…and I didn’t think that could be done. Haunting, evocative, brilliant writing, which easily captures the tense atmosphere and gloomy, subdued mood of the early WWII years extremely well. Who to trust, what to say, how to behave…these weren’t just issues for the gay population to think about and concern themselves with at that time, although they obviously had much more to lose should their ‘secret’ see the light of day
Emanuela ~plastic duck~
Jan 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: glbt, classics
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, lgbtq, favorites
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 t
Jan 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I knew I was gonna like this book a lot when I decided to read it, but I didn't know how much it was going to CONSUME MY LIFE for a few days (goodbye work ethic, but also why this is getting five stars rather than four).

The writing is absolutely exquisite. There were times when I put the book down and thought how much I loved the line I had just read. I had forgotten how much I miss this style of writing, that early 20th century British novelist writing that I read so much of in my adolescence
Aug 01, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fans of romance, esp. male/male romance; people interested in pre-Stonewall gay life
Shelves: fiction, 20th-century
Laurie O'Dell is seriously wounded during the early days of World War II. While recuperating in an English hospital, he is entangled in a love triangle. On one side is Andrew, a pious, naive young conscientious objector who works in the hospital as an orderly; on the other is Ralph, an old school friend who, despite having many affairs with men and women while traveling the world in the navy, still harbors strong feelings for Laurie. Laurie is paralyzed with indecision. He can have a passionate ...more
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Nabokov fans
Recommended to Aitziber by: Fatima
I'm not sure that my review can ever do The Charioteer justice. One look at other people's reviews and it'll be immediately apparent that Renault has touched her readers deeply, and I'm no less than everyone else.

The Charioteer is a novel to be savored. It works on more than one level, and in fact it's one of those books that can be re-read to discover what you missed the first, second, third time around. When you have finally extracted all the meanings you are able to, it is time to read The P
Sep 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
"Conquest is intoxicating, but a gift makes you think." But what does thinking lead to anyway? Even when you say to yourself that you are determined to live your life along this certain line, how do you know you are not lying to yourself? "Some things can’t be thought about. The more you try to be honest with them, the more they lie to you."Only when thinking (the restless charioteer) falls silent, can love triumph, and our weary souls can finally be reconciled for a night in sleep?

4.5 stars. T
So far my favourite Mary Renault novel (and I really liked the Persian Boy a lot, too!). There's just something about the 'contemporary' setting - contemporary for her time - that works even better for me then the historic settings. You can really tell she knew what she was writing about, working as a nurse post world war II herself. I really felt like getting a glimpse into lives I'd otherwise never have read about.

On the surface, this could be seen as a classical love triangle: Laurie Odell,
Stephen Groenewegen
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Novels, like films and other art forms, date. The best works of art tap into something universal, and timeless, and can be read and enjoyed across the decades. Some novels are so full of contemporary mood and feeling, they quickly become period pieces and snapshots of a particular time and place.

The Charioteer is about a love triangle between three men in England during the Second World War. It was written in the 1950s and covers gay love as you’d expect a British novel of the 1950s to: discreet
Oct 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
wow, what a find... being a fan of somerset maugham and oscar wilde, I found a lot of similarities, perhaps because of relationships that need to be read between the lines

this is a WWII gay love story triangle of three protagonist, laurie odell, ralph lanyon, and andrew raynes
in prep school laurie is given Plato's Phadrus by his superior, ralph, 3 years his senior, as a gift upon ralph's departure
mr. lanyon is being expelled because of an indiscretion with a younger student
by chapter three we f
John Wiltshire
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent novel sent almost to perdition by one of the worst covers ever. Am I the only one who thinks this looks like Wesley Crusher in a Star Trek uniform?
Anyway, you can't go wrong with any novel from this author. She can write masterpieces. This is a great story. It just needs a decent cover.
Charles Edwards-Freshwater
Sep 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
First read of September and it was a good one!

Set among war torn Britain during the blitz, the story centers around a gay soldier (Laurie, or Spud/Spuddy to those who know him) and his struggle with his affections for a sweet, mild conchie man who works at the hospital and his ex school fellow whom he runs into while recovering from a nasty leg injury incurred at Dunkirk.

There's a lot to absolutely love here - beautifully woven relationships, gorgeous prose, characters with a great psychological
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Reading Chall...: LGBT buddy-read - The Charioteer by Mary Renault (Dec. 2014) 154 113 Dec 22, 2014 01:54AM  
Chapter 2 1 36 Jun 30, 2014 10:35AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • As Meat Loves Salt
  • The City and the Pillar
  • Maurice
  • At Swim, Two Boys
  • While England Sleeps
  • The Lost Language of Cranes
  • Dancer from the Dance
  • Swimming in the Dark
  • The Swimming-Pool Library
  • Lie With Me
  • The Line of Beauty
  • A Boy's Own Story (The Edmund Trilogy, #1)
  • The Front Runner (Harlan's Story, #1)
  • Whistling in the Dark
  • A Single Man
  • Against The Law
  • A Place Called Winter
  • Giovanni's Room
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
56 likes · 15 comments
“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.” 105 likes
“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.” 36 likes
More quotes…