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Works by
Mary Renault
(Writer)
[September 4, 1905 - December 13, 1983]

Profile created December 21, 2007
Updated July 23, 2009
Historical Fiction
  • Funeral Games (1981)
    After Alexanderís death in 323 B.C. his only direct heirs were two unborn sons and a simpleton half-brother. Every long-simmering faction exploded into the vacuum of power. Wives, distant relatives, and generals all vied for the loyalty of the increasingly undisciplined Macedonian army. Most failed and were killed in the attempt. For no one possessed the leadership to keep the great empire from crumbling. But Alexanderís legend endured to spread into worlds he had seen only in dreams.

  • The Praise Singer (1978)
    In the story of the great lyric poet Simonides, Mary Renault brings alive a time in Greece when tyrants kept an unsteady rule and poetry, music, and royal patronage combined to produce a flowering of the arts.

    Born into a stern farming family on the island of Keos, Simonides escapes his harsh childhood through a lucky apprenticeship with a renowned Ionian singer. As they travel through 5th century B.C. Greece, Simonides learns not only how to play the kithara and compose poetry, but also how to navigate the shifting alliances surrounding his rich patrons. He is witness to the Persian invasion of Ionia, to the decadent reign of the Samian pirate king Polykrates, and to the fall of the Pisistratids in the Athenian court. Along the way, he encounters artists, statesmen, athletes, thinkers, and lovers, including the likes of Pythagoras and Aischylos. Using the singer's unique perspective, Renault combines her vibrant imagination and her formidable knowledge of history to establish a sweeping, resilient vision of a golden century.

  • The Persian Boy (1972)
    The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexanderís life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas was sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but found freedom with Alexander after the Macedon army conquered his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes-mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexanderís mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.

  • Fire from Heaven (1969)
    Alexanderís beauty, strength, and defiance were apparent from birth, but his boyhood honed those gifts into the makings of a king. His mother, Olympias, and his father, King Philip of Macedon, fought each other for their sonís loyalty, teaching Alexander politics and vengeance from the cradle. His love for the youth Hephaistion taught him trust, while Aristotleís tutoring provoked his mind and Homerís Iliad fueled his aspirations. Killing his first man in battle at the age of twelve, he became regent at sixteen and commander of Macedonís cavalry at eighteen, so that by the time his father was murdered, Alexanderís skills had grown to match his fiery ambition.

  • The Mask of Apollo (1966)
    Set in fourth-century B.C. Greece, The Mask of Apollo is narrated by Nikeratos, a tragic actor who takes with him on all his travels a gold mask of Apollo, a relic of the theater's golden age, which is now past. At first his mascot, the mask gradually becomes his conscience, and he refers to it his gravest decisions, when he finds himself at the center of a political crisis in which the philosopher Plato is also involved. Much of the action is set in Syracuse, where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the young tyrant Dionysios the Younger to accept the rule of law. Through Nikeratos' eyes, the reader watches as the clash between the two looses all the pent-up violence in the city.

  • The Bull from the Sea (1962)
    The Bull from the Sea reconstructs the legend of Theseus, the valiant youth who slew the Minotaur, became king, and brought prosperity to Attica. Chief among his heroic exploits is the seduction of Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons, who irrevocably brought about both his greatest joy and his tragic destiny.

  • The King Must Die (1958)
    The story of the mythical hero Theseus, slayer of monsters, abductor of princesses and king of Athens. He emerges from these pages as a clearly defined personality; brave, aggressive and quick. The core of the story is Theseus' Cretan adventure.

  • The Last of the Wine (1956)
    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.

Modern-Day Fiction
  • The Charioteer (1953)
    After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veteransí 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. Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurieís schoolboy days, suddenly reappears in Laurieís life, and draws him into a tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience.

    Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and Christopher Isherwood's  Berlin Stories as a monumental work in gay literature.

  • North Face (1948)

  • Return to Night (1947)

  • The Friendly Young Ladies (1943)
    Set in 1937, The Friendly Young Ladies is a romantic comedy of off-Bloomsbury bohemia. Sheltered, naÔve, and just eighteen, Elsie leaves the stifling environment of her parentsí home in Cornwall to seek out her sister, Leo, who had run away nine years earlier. She finds Leo sharing a houseboat, and a bed, with the beautiful, fair-haired Helen. While Elsieís arrival seems innocent enough, it is the first of a series of events that will turn Helen and Leoís contented life inside out. Soon a randy young doctor is chasing after all three women at once, a neighborly friendship begins to show an erotic tinge, and long-quiet ghosts from Leoís past begin to surface. Before long, no one is sure just who feels what for whom.

    Mary Renault wrote this delightfully provocative novel in the early 1940s, creating characters that are lighthearted, charming, and free-spirited partly in answer to the despair characteristic of Radclyffe Hallís The Well of Loneliness or Lillian Hellmanís The Childrenís Hour. The result is a witty and stylish story that offers exceptional insight into the world of upcoming writers and artists of in 1930s London, chronicling their rejection of societyís established sexual mores and their heroic pursuits of art and life.  Also known as
    Middle Mist.

  • Kind are Her Answers (1940)

  • Purposes of Love (1939)
    Also known as Promise of Love .

Nonfiction

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Mary Renault
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Anne Brooke
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Mark R. Probst

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