Customer Reviews for

The Charioteer

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  • Posted January 10, 2014

    Love in a Cold Climate

    This is Mary Renault's classic novel, which is based on a theme from Plato' 'Phaedarus'. The two horses of the chariot, one black the other white, have to discover for themselves that they are meant for one another. It is a difficult journey, set in austere, wartime Britain, in an around hospitals. Readers have to be patient, because the novel takes a while to 'warm up', but the wait is worthwhile. Fate, the Charioteer, takes his two characters through encounters and many situations until they realize the direction that is meant for them. Unlike modern novels, Mary Renault's book has a literary quality about it which makes it a more enriching read. The final section almost gallops, and was most touching. The two protagonists discover their true natures in the cold climate of wartime and hostile attitudes.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    honest and passionate....

    The Charioteer is the story of Laurence "Laurie" Odell and his plight as a soldier and gay man in WWII Britain. Beautifully written in 1959 this book is heartfelt and truly a classic.<BR/><BR/>Laurie Odell is a wounded soldier sent to a veterans' hospital when his leg is nearly blown off at Dunkirk. The hospital is short on nursing staff so a group of conscientious objectors are sent to fill in.....one of them being Andrew Raynes. Laurie falls for Andrew almost immediately and they become fast friends and spend as much time together as possible...even though some of the other soldiers begin to talk. At about the same time, Laurie is reunited with an old schoolmate named Ralph. At the beginning of the book, Ralph was expelled from school for "immoral" behavior. Ralph is now a naval admiral who is also recovering from wounds....and happily getting reacquainted with Laurie. Laurie is young and still in the process of accepting himself for who he is. He is in love with both Andrew and Ralph and is struggling to come to terms.<BR/><BR/>Mary Renault writes this book with honesty and passion. Her characters are laid bare by their very human emotions; jealousy, love, fear and loneliness. At it's core is a love story but it's descriptions of blackouts, bombings and air raids reminds us that it takes place during a brutal war. At the hospital, bringing pacifists and soldiers together, Renault sets the stage for a secondary thematic. The Charioteer is a book to be savored, and to get the most out of the characters, to be read again and again

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2001

    A book that goes deep to your heart

    ¿The Charioteer¿ is one of the most beautiful love stories I have ever read, I hadn¿t felt such intense emotions reading a book since my adolescence. Before and much more than being a gay story, this is first of all a novel about love, showing in a most powerful way how all life is a struggle to love and to be loved, because only by giving and receving love one can feel alive and life is meaningful and worth being lived. The three main characters, each of them absolutely fascinating and superbly portrayed, discover and are confronted with their own true nature when falling in love, but they also have to make choices and take on responsibilities which often seem unbearable. Love is shown through all its sweetness and romance but also in all its terribly dramatic implications: love always means suffering and none of the characters is spared his share of pain and defeat. But the force of life triumphs despite everyone¿s conflicts, limitations and mistakes, which must be coped with and accepted in mutual respect and forgiveness. The young protagonists are brought to life in an amazingly effective way and they are so vivid and forceful that they outlive the end of the book itself. The reader can share their most intimate thoughts and the decisive turns of their lives and is therefore bound to feel strong compassion. I am not surprised that a lot of readers wish there had a been a sequel of the novel, but I believe the author did the right thing not writing one. The end of the story leaves very open prospects and, especially considering the circular structure the novel acquires at its conclusion, all the characters are liable to being again together in their maturity and it is better to let the reader imagine possible evolutions. Yet, I perfectly agree with one of the reviewers that it¿s very hard to part from Laurie, Andrew and Ralph after finishing the novel. The narrative scheme is very solid and well balanced, all parts of the book contribute to light up the whole plot; the text flows slowly but continuously and once you adapt yourself to the inner rhythm of the story you are fully involved and almost become a part of it, each line adding a relevant detail or setting the suitable atmosphere to lead you deeper into the characters¿ inner thoughts and feelings; the language is rich though never mannered and the style is often very poetic but never in a cheap way. ¿The Charioteer¿ certainly stands also as a great gay story and is very effective in demonstrating the universality of love, which transcends lovers¿ genders and social barriers. Its explict homosexual theme is all the more surprising if one thinks the book was written almost fifty years ago, when to state that love between two men has the same dignity as heterosexual love was certainly a hard challenge, and that it was written by a woman, as the protagonists are absolutely and coherently credible and masculine in their appearance and psychology. Reading ¿The Charioteer¿ can be a heart-wrenching experience and cause to shed more than one tear, especially if one is in love, but it also makes one feel more attached to the beauty of life and long for youth and pure, noble, authentic love, the most important of all things. This novel and its appealing characters, Laurie, Andrew and Ralph, will always remain in my mind and heart as wonderful companions of my youth, revealers of the complexity and fragility of the human soul and of myself, an important landmark in the search for my identity of adult gay man.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2001

    GREAT BOOK!!!!!!!

    This book is so awesome because the character is so well expressed that we can identify him and understand him. Read this book and you will learn to have more compassion and feeling for people who are different than the norm. Laurie is so real to me and I love the fact that he doesn't give up his beliefs to satisfy society and his friends. He sticks up for his personal beliefs and feelings and that is inspiring!!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2000

    A Revelation

    I finished this book last night and felt as if I couldn't bear the thought of leaving Laurie and Ralph and Andrew. The book brings to life Plato's famous allegory of the soul as the charioteer, and because it is one of Renault's few contemporary novels, brings it home (somewhat) for the modern reader. Reading this book has changed me.

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