Mary Renault

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Renault, Mary,

pseud. of

Mary Challens,

1905–83, English novelist, b. London. After receiving her nursing degree in 1936, she emigrated to South Africa. She was best-known for her historical novels about ancient Greece and Rome, including The King Must Die (1958), The Mask of Apollo (1966), Fire from Heaven (1970), and The Persian Boy (1973). Renault's works often revolve around homosexuality and the struggles of men and women to forge a sexual identity; this struggle is the central focus of The Charioteer (1955), a study of soldiers in World War II, widely regarded as her finest novel.


See studies by P. Wolfe (1969) and B. F. Dick (1972).

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If Mary Renault had written Porius, the narration would have been more graceful, more mythic, and shorn of philosophical debates about good and evil and the deities that stand guard at each terminus.
But, as the author points out, in classical Greece, it was quite normal for an adolescent male to have a deep relationship with an older man - it is, in fact, the theme which occupies Mary Renault in her superb novel, The Last of the Wine.
Avrom Fleishman, who considers Mary Renault to be one of the finest historical novelists of the century, thinks that her skill at recreating an ancient sense of the sacred is such that readers are enabled 'to recognize the ritual drama of the Cretan bull dance in the way we recognize our own myths and communal passions'.
David Sweetman was a BBC television producer who interviewed the novelist, Mary Renault, in 1982.
In eight novels and one history (a definitive biography of Alexander the Great), Mary Renault recreated the world of ancient Greece with an intensity and an authenticity unmatched by any of the writers who have attempted it, including some of greater critical acclaim.
Arguably, Mary Renault remains the undisputed queen of the genre, her reputation resting securely on such loving re-creations of Ancient Greece as her trilogy on the life of Alexander the Great or her account of the life of the poet Simonides of Ceos, Th e Praise Singer.
My favourite authors include Mary Renault, Rosemary Sutcliff, James Fenimore Cooper, Neil Gaiman, Hilary Mantel and Alan Garner.
Neither the work nor the writer features very much in modern bestseller lists but it gave me a first taste of the historical novel that led to Mary Renault and Dorothy Dunnett.
Mary Renault performed a singular service bringing classical Greek culture alive.
Lately, I've been reading the classical novels of Mary Renault.