Nancy McKibben's Reviews > The Last of the Wine

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
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really liked it
bookshelves: historical-fiction, reviewed
Recommended 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 with his father, and goes to war when his city calls upon him. He meets Lysis, a man somewhat older than he is, and they become lovers.
Lysis confided to me that though he had first known a woman when he was seventeen years old, he had never been in love with a youth at all, until he met me. He said it used to disturb him sometimes, when he read the poets, that he seemed incapable of that love which they praised as the noblest, and the inspirer of so many glorious deeds. “I did not know,” he said, “what I was waiting for. But the god knew.”
It was news to me that the custom was for Greek men to have male lovers until - and many times after - they married. But the relationship of Alexias and Lysis is central to the book, and in the author’s capable hands, the reader accepts it as the cultural norm. (I should add that the novel was published in 1956 and contains nothing that could be construed as a sex scene, although of course the sexual relationship is stated.) Although women appear in the book, it is very much about the lives of men. With this book, that did not bother me.

The Last of the Wine has a plot, but the vivid characters and the day-to-day experiencing of ancient Greece with Alexias as our guide are what makes the book so enjoyable and so well worth reading.

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Reading Progress

October 9, 2013 – Started Reading
October 10, 2013 – Finished Reading
November 18, 2013 – Shelved
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 18, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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message 1: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat This is a great review. I read this in my teens (and later read her other books) would love to read them again but sadly they are not on Kindle which is my format of choice these days.


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