I read The Charioteer a number of years ago and thought it was wonderful. I always meant to read more Mary Renault, but instead I’ve read The Charioteer again—when I’m not much of a rereader.
I think there’s a couple of things going on. First off, Renault is not available in digital. I can of course buy print books, but it takes more effort, and I’m less likely to get around to it. Also, the other Renaults that get significant attention seem to be set in ancient Greece. I’m not against such a setting, but because I loved The Charioteer so much, I’d be more likely to pick up another book in that era. (Basically contemporary for her, I know.)
Anyway, the book itself. I can cast it as a romance, as the major throughline is the relationship between two men. But as a genre, it’s more gay fiction than romance. (Not that romance existed as a genre back then.) It’s also a love triangle.
The book opens with a powerful and sensitively written scene about a boy (five-year-old Laurie) who understands, if not that clearly, that his family life is about to change irrevocably. His father leaves that night, and he never sees him again. It then jumps forward to his teen years and his saying goodbye to Ralph (known at that point as Lanyon) who’s been booted out of school because of a scandal.
The final time jump is to Laurie recovering from a very serious leg wound in a hospital, or hospital-like facility. (I’ll admit to some fuzziness about both boarding school and medical institution terms.)
Spoilers follow. Continue reading