Steve Woods's Reviews > The Charioteer

The Charioteer by Mary Renault
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's review
Oct 25, 2011

it was amazing
bookshelves: gay-fiction, great-novels
Read from April 19 to October 02, 2012

I read a lot. Occasionally I come across a stand out author Mary Renault demonstrates the capacity for that in this novel. The depth of characterization and the finesse with which she handles the complexities of "coming out" in the forties is truly a wonder. She has caught the shifting light of the conflicting emotions in two young gay men,one (the protagonist) who is coming to terms with his sexuality and the other (his love focus) who just can't seem to accept the feelings he experiences for what they are, preferring instead to keep it all in at arms length. No translation of those tender stirrings into any action that "should not be spoken".

The difficulties of the gay community then and the lives they led, at least partly as a result of societal hostility, is well sketched. Renault captures crisply that tendency of some gay people to see their identity principally through their sexuality, together with all that it implies for their relationships and their lifestyle, seemingly as pronounced then as it is now. This is an imbalace that has slanted much of how many gay people are perceived; on the same terms! Any person should experience themselves and others should experience them as so much more.

The intensity of yearning for that secial something. experienced by young gay men coming of age (later then than now I think), is here and expressed with a great deal of poignancy. This is in my view a great piece of writing and a masterful exploration if a delicate aspect of the human condition. Well before its time. For the 1950's aa I said a wonder. especially for a woman who was not, I think gay herself.

I really enjoyed this piece of work and will read more.

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