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Source: (consider it) Thread: Mary Renault? Others?
Pangolin Guerre
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I posted this in Fair Haven a while ago, and there was a brief exchange with one interlocutor:

This comes to mind because of something I recently wrote to a friend, and Mary Renault was mentioned on the book thread in Heaven.

I, and some of my friends whom I got to know as adults, began reading Mary Renault in high school. Most of them turned out to be gay. I can remember being 15 or 16, and sensing that carrying around one of Renault's novels was almost a coded sign. Guys in high school whom I suspected of being gay, and liked Renault, made me think,"Aaah... yes..."

A much more recent novel, The Song of Achilles, written from Patroclus's perspective, by Madeline Miller, has similar resonance. I can't help wondering whether some 16 year old gay boy in some small remote town is toting that through his school's corridors, hoping to find someone of similar "literary tastes."

Has anyone had a similar experience with Renault, or any another author being gay code?

Thus endeth the original posting. Thoughts?

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Uncle Pete

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I dunno about codes and stuff. I liked Renault because she didn't fake historical research. Back in those long ago days, she was a real eyeopener to this rather naïve boy, though.

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Even more so than I was before

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Brenda Clough
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I read Song of Achilles. Dreadful, not worthy to be spoken of in the same sentence as Renault.

I became a fan of Renault with her The King Must Die. That novel and its sequel did feature an emphatically hetero protagonist, btw. What fascinates me about her work is the depth of worldbuilding. You won't find a better time machine than her work, to take you back to the mindset of the ancients. Their attitude towards sexuality is part and parcel of the authenticity.

Her historical work, even her word choice, never fails and never does that "zap" thing you get when you trip over an anachronism or error. I particularly admire her indirect quality. She doesn't tell you stuff. You have to suss it out. I think it was Roger Zelazny who said that every novel should have a secret scene, something that happens that never appears on the page but that influences all the action -- the black hole at the center of the doughnut. She's really good at that.

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Science fiction and fantasy writer with a Patreon page

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Joan Rasch
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quote:
Originally posted by Pangolin Guerre:
<snip>I, and some of my friends whom I got to know as adults, began reading Mary Renault in high school. Most of them turned out to be gay. I can remember being 15 or 16, and sensing that carrying around one of Renault's novels was almost a coded sign. Guys in high school whom I suspected of being gay, and liked Renault, made me think,"Aaah... yes..."<snip>

A New Yorker piece , by Daniel Mendelsohn, is an account of his correspondence with Renault, starting when he was 15. I think you will enjoy it.

BTW, my favourite Renault is The Mask of Apollo . I'm particularly taken with the account of a production of The Bachae

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* A cyclist on the information bikepath

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basso

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I clicked on this thread, and thought "I haven't read Renault in decades" -- it's probably been 50 years.

So then I started searching - maybe I can find an ebook, or borrow one from the library - and stumbled across a review by Jo Walton.

A favorite writer is a big fan: Walton says it's "one of my favourite books of all time...so engraved in my DNA that I am incapable of evaluating it sensibly. I know it almost by heart and could quote long passages."

I need to revisit Renault now.

ETA - Walton closes her review with "Am I suggesting that everyone ought to read this at seven, and The Lord of the Rings at eight? Only if they want to grow up like me. I think I am at least as much an awful warning as a role model."
Can I be an awful warning when I grow up?

[ 02. December 2017, 03:31: Message edited by: basso ]

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Eigon
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I remember getting The Persian Boy out of the school library when I was 14. I was totally enthralled by it - and also a bit worried that my gran might accidentally read a bit of it over my shoulder!
So I grew up wondering what all the fuss was about with homophobia, because I'd seen the world from Bagoas's point of view, and totally sympathised with him.

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Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.

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Brenda Clough
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That is a dynamite review, Basso. Yes, I too read The King Must Die in junior high school. It was so memorable, I can tell you exactly which school (Hong Kong International, on Repulse Bay Road in Hong Kong) and where the bookshelf was. Yes, that and LOTR.

Renault had two phases in her fiction. She actually made her name with Return to Night, a book about a (hetero) doctor-patient relationship set in Britain in the early 1940s. She then explored gay/lesbian issues for several books (The Middle Mist, The Charioteer) before her big artistic breakout in the Last of the Wine. Wow, that was a great novel. And after that she never looked back, and write ancient-Greek historicals.

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leo
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I first read her because she set a book in Bristol and mentions places within a mile of where I live.

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My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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Sparrow
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I was introduced to her ancient Greece novels after a visit to Knossos. The King Must Die remains in my top five novels of all time, thirty years later! The section set in the Bull Court is absolutely brilliant.

Second favourite must be The Persian Boy - it sparked my life long love for Alexander the Great!

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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basso

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I said:
quote:

...I started searching - maybe I can find an ebook, or borrow one from the library...

And just a few days later, I received an email a pusher of online books (don't let these people have your email address, unless your resistance is higher than mine!), offering The King Must Die for $1.99.

If you think I resisted that, you don't know me yet.

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Sparrow
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When I first read this thread I thought it was going to be for recommendations of similar authors in the genre. I immediately thought of Mary Stewart's Merlin quartet (though the first two, the Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills) are far superior.

Then Gillian Bradshaw's Beacon at Alexandria, about a young Roman woman who becomes a doctor, having to disguise herself as a eunuch because women couldn't be doctors.

And then another ... Burning Sappho by Martha Rofhart. Funny how so many of them are by female authors!

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Augustine the Aleut
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quote:
Originally posted by Sparrow:
When I first read this thread I thought it was going to be for recommendations of similar authors in the genre. I immediately thought of Mary Stewart's Merlin quartet (though the first two, the Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills) are far superior.

Then Gillian Bradshaw's Beacon at Alexandria, about a young Roman woman who becomes a doctor, having to disguise herself as a eunuch because women couldn't be doctors.

And then another ... Burning Sappho by Martha Rofhart. Funny how so many of them are by female authors!

One of my teaching contacts who is at one of the last schools in eastern Ontario teaching Latin tells me that the majority of young classicists are female. Apparently the Grade XII toga parties are not what they once were.

But I second the general approval of Mary Renault-- her books give the reader an idea of what the ancient world must have tasted like. And I have passed on a copy of the Persian Boy to a friend's offspring, who I thought might find the perspective helpful.

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MaryLouise
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quote:
Originally posted by Sparrow:
When I first read this thread I thought it was going to be for recommendations of similar authors in the genre. I immediately thought of Mary Stewart's Merlin quartet (though the first two, the Crystal Cave and The Hollow Hills) are far superior.

Then Gillian Bradshaw's Beacon at Alexandria, about a young Roman woman who becomes a doctor, having to disguise herself as a eunuch because women couldn't be doctors.

And then another ... Burning Sappho by Martha Rofhart. Funny how so many of them are by female authors!

I read Mary Stewart's Arthurian fantasies at about the same time as Mary Renault, along with Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalon.

Then I came across Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian and Robert Graves' I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

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-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Gee D
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Thanks for that - I've been trying to think of Marguerite Yourcenar's name for days. It must be 30 years since I last read anything she wrote. Don't forget both King Jesus and Count Belisarius by Robert Graves, and also Julian by Gore Vidal.

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Not every Anglican in Sydney is Sydney Anglican

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MaryLouise
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Yes, GeeD, more Robert Graves. I might reread some of his historical fiction next year and see how it has stood up to the passage of time.

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“As regards plots I find real life no help at all. Real life seems to have no plots.”

-- Ivy Compton-Burnett

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Sparrow
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I should have added Rosemary Sutcliffe to my list - her children's novels about Roman Britain sparked my life long interest in classical history.

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For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life,nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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Brenda Clough
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I've found a more modern and entirely fun novel about ancient Greece, Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley. She has kept all the cultural material (the gods, the Panatheneia, etc.) but updated the language and inserted fun advertisements and such. Quite amusing!

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Huia
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If I have read any of Mary Renault's books it must have been years ago. Thanks to everyone who has posted on this thread I now have a new author yo explore [Yipee] [Yipee]

Huia

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Charity gives food from the table, Justice gives a place at the table.

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