Introduction

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Renault, Mary 1905–

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Renault is a British novelist. Her work often deals with the historical and political events of ancient Greece. Critics note her ability to render a historical epoch with clarity and credibility. (See also CLC, Vol. 3, and Contemporary Authors, Vols. 81-84.)

W. C. McWILLIAMS

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[The Charioteer] is the most sensitive and accurate treatment of homosexuality I know of; modern in setting, it has all the sense for a real issue that one looks for in Renault's historical fiction. (It is also a useful antidote to her The Persian Boy, which is far below her usual standard; admirers should stick to … her earlier books.) (pp. 271-72)

W. C. McWilliams, in Commonweal (copyright © 1973 Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.; reprinted by permission of Commonweal Publishing Co., Inc.), December 7, 1973.

Hugh Kenner

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Despite her bibliographies and factual afterwords, Miss Renault setting out to re-create a Greek reality isn't your ordinary taxidermist, intent on matching the colors of the glass eyes. No, she's a male impersonator….

Classical Greece, where homoerotic relations were unencumbered by moral disesteem, has set her imagination free repeatedly….

Part of [the] secret [of "The King Must Die"] is that Miss Renault varied the formula. Dispensing with [her main persona], she made her Ralph-figure, Theseus, the protagonist and first-person reminiscer…. Part of it is the fructive ambiguity of legend. Theseus … doesn't hamper with historicity the way Plato or Alcibiades do, and it's possible for the novelist to enchant with guesses at the kind of real events that might have turned into the legends we have.

But the book's chief secret is the way the author's feelings have responded to the opportunities of a world so strange she feels free in it….

She has written no other such book…. To be firm about that is not to reproach her with failure, but to insist on the credit she deserves for her transcendent book. The god, she tells us in it many times, spoke repeatedly to Theseus. Not only to Theseus.

Hugh Kenner, "Mary Renault and Her Various Personas," in The New York Times Book Review (© 1974 by The New York Times Company; reprinted by permission), February 10, 1974, p. 15.

With sympathetic imagination and masterful scholarly poise, the author sifts fact and legend [in The Nature of Alexander] to give this forthright account of the enigmatic genius of the 4th century B.C., Alexander the Great. Drawing on sources as primary as one can find, and combining both admirable historical perspective and disarming common sense, this biography is also an engrossing narrative…. Not only is this first-rate scholarship, it is also a brilliant, handsome, and moving work. (p. 75)

Virginia Quarterly Review (copyright, 1976, by the Virginia Quarterly Review, The University of Virginia), Vol. 52, No. 3 (Summer, 1976).

Our tour-guide for Renault's seventh foray into Ancient Greece [The Praise Singer] is reminiscing Simonides of Keos, master poet of that era…. Renault makes [the time period] familiar with her usual, effective you-are-there approach—a great deal of casual shoptalk and reference to odd customs. Simonides goes everywhere, meets everyone, and is always at the scene of major events…. Though afflicted with the regulation nasty daddy, he is an unusual narrator for Renault, being both ugly and heterosexual, but his narrative tone of voice is just like that of her other heroes—a bit fey, a bit coy, but as strangely readable as ever. Another for Renault's host of fans, and if not her best, far from her worst. (p. 1089)

Kirkus Reviews (copyright © 1978 The Kirkus Service, Inc.), October 1, 1978.

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