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Publisher's Summary

After surviving the Dunkirk retreat, Laurie Odell, a young homosexual, critically examines his unorthodox lifestyle and personal relationships, as he falls in love with a young conscientious objector and becomes involved with a circle of world-weary gay men.

©1955 Mary Renault (P)2014 Audible Studios

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Almost.....

With such a well-written story as this, full of insight, of compassion, of understanding and of critical observation, it come hard to have reservations. But I do. First of all, that unnecessary over-didactic first chapter explaining that this is in some way, a novel with a Cause. The novel stands by itself, in its own right, and perhaps those who support "the Cause" should read it again and take note of its pertinent observations.

Secondly, the narration leaves much to be desired. As a narrator, the reader does well, but the register of the voices that he uses to depict the main characters – especially those of Laurie and of Ralph, and to a degree, of Andrew – ultimately irritate because of the curious strained tone that is apparent in all of them.

However, at the end, it remains a Mary Renaud novel: elegantly written, astutely observed and insightfully critical - surely a significant novel of the 20th century.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Awful. Just awful.

An unforgivable mangling of a truly remarkable work. Agree with the reviewer below- the bit at the beginning, a completely inappropriate co-option of Renault's work to fit a contemporary 'Gay Rights' narrative, is insufferable and unnecessary, and contradicts completely the core messages of the book (I can only imagine they were too subtle for the writer of the foreword). The Charioteer is first and foremost a good novel, not even so much a Gay(!) novel, still less a didactic political screed.

The voices the narrator adopts for the different characters are stilted and overdone (not to mention badly done); bizarre, actually. They're like caricatures: the masculine voices are exaggeratedly deep and dense-sounding; the feminine (for which he adopts a falsetto), mean and shrill. It's excruciating to listen to. Laurie, Ralph and Andrew (who the narrator distinguishes by making him speak in a barely-audible whisper) deserve better. Mary Renault deserves better. Her peerless and singular style (of which the narrator has no discernible appreciation) deserves better. Renault's descriptions and especially dialogue perfectly and effortlessly evoke the period, but this narrator doesn't really seem to know how people in the first half of the 20th century talked. A more experienced reader would have been much better. My personal choice would be an older woman, perhaps a distinguished (theatre?) actress; someone literate enough to understand the beauty and power of what they are reading.

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  • Christopher
  • 05-02-2016

A Gay Classic!

The story is timeless in it's depiction of coming out and finding your own niche. Set in WWII the story of Laurie, a young man out of the army, wounded and coming to terms with his new physical body impairment as well as his sexuality. He breezes from the hospital to a party where he finds another group of like-minded men who round up the characters to be in Laurie's life. I found it interesting that different "types" of men still exist in gay society today. I really enjoyed the narrator who handled each voice well; never too over the top. This novel is a great representation of first loves and lasting loves. Highly recommend this book to young and old gay men of today for a bit of history on how it was like for us back in an earlier time and how some feelings stay the same when it comes to love.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Clinton Kippley
  • 03-04-2015

A struggle at first. But then it pulls you in.

Amazingly well done. Psychologically comparable to Gone w/the Wind in many ways. Truly exceptional!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Ben
  • 08-02-2018

I think I’ve seen this episode

An enjoyable book, the WWII spin on a love triangle. Nail biter happy ending. Not a war story. It gets a little soapy by the 3/4 mark but still a worthwhile read/listen

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Alex Zimmer
  • 27-07-2018

Emotionally Sharp

This is one of those works that sneaks up to leave a reader almost shaken by it's humanity as the last words play out. The first half so thoroughly intertwines the reader in the routine of bruised souls, that as the story picks up velocity in it's closing chapters you become as emotionally wrenched as the characters. Great story and top notch narration!

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  • Daniel
  • 06-05-2018

Heartrending History Lesson

This is basically the intellectual missing link between the modern gay identity and the it's the-old cultural heritage which is the subject of so much debate both within the gay community and in academia. It's also the sort of timeless, intimate human story that, in its universality, reflects parts of yourself that seldom see the light of day.. or maybe it was just super relevant to my own life in weirdly specific ways.. but either way, it's beautiful and deeply informative, in true Renault fashion.

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  • ahumph292
  • 10-03-2017

Beautiful story, excellent narration

I loved this book. I found myself rewinding several passages to experience again the depth of feeling. It's a classic of gay literature.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • JillB
  • 22-07-2016

Magnificent story magnificently narrated

I had forgotten how much I love 'The Charioteer ' by Mary Renault.
The story itself is excellent; the depiction of Laurie and Ralph and their struggle to be themselves within the constraints of their society wrenching at times. The characterisation is excellent and I always find myself rooting for Ralph and Laurie, even though I've read it a number of times over the years..
The narration was excellent. I could 'see' the characters as they spoke; their differences were apparent through changes in tone and pitch and I had no problems identifying who was speaking (I shall probably bookmark all my favourite bits so that I can revisit particular sections but I will be listening to this again (& again) as I've thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
The language, setting and characters are immersive to the point where you resent being interrupted reading or listening to go and do something else. It's a book I want to wrap myself up in whether I'm reading or listening and if you like WWII set novels with gay characters figuring themselves out in a restrictive society then I recommend giving 'The Charioteer' a go.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • ryan dargue
  • 14-02-2018

Brilliant

Dialogue is brilliant, very gripping story and insightfully real I felt myself entirely emerged and at times lost in this novel. I will have to reread this book and probably do so by reading the paperback or hardback because of how much detail and inner reflection could potentially be gleamed by repeated reads. This is easily one of my new favourite novels and makes me eager to read the rest of Mary Renault works. Although the notion fills me with a sense of apprehension of being disappointed that a work as poignant and meaningful to me could be repeated or lived up to.

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  • BevS
  • 27-01-2018

Haunting, evocative brilliant prose....

Where do I start with this one?? The prose outdoes Harper Fox herself…and I didn’t think that could be done. Haunting, evocative, brilliant writing, which captures the tense atmosphere and downbeat mood of the early WWII years extremely well. Who to trust, what to say, how to behave…these weren’t just issues for the gay population to think about and concern themselves with at that time, although they obviously had much more to lose should their ‘secret’ see the light of day.

Yes, it is a love story of sorts, although there is no HEA. It was fairly obvious to me that Ralph was aware of [and was keen on] Laurie even when they were at school, and although Laurie probably wasn’t that aware of it himself then, he idolised Ralph. After Ralph is ‘sent down’ in disgrace from school, they meet again 7 years later under very different circumstances….Ralph is in charge of the Merchant Navy vessel that has picked up several injured survivors from the Battle of Dunkirk in 1940, and Laurie just happens to be one of those survivors.

I’m not going into too much detail. There were characters I really liked, and there were a few I actually despised [Bunny, Sandy, Laurie’s mum and future step father in law, take a bow], but the main thrust of the story is about Laurie…his hopes and ideals, his 'innocence', his reluctance to accept himself for what he is AND his meeting a young man, Andrew, who knew even less about himself than Laurie did. Andrew was a CO [conscientious objector] who was being forced to help out as an orderly in the hospital that Laurie was convalescing in. Laurie was smitten, and up until meeting Ralph again at a party, was perfectly happy to drift along in an almost dreamlike state imagining how the future could be. Andrew's character was almost too good to be true really, and Ralph who made mistakes, drank like a fish and smoked like a chimney was his complete opposite really, but oh…so much more fleshed out as a ‘real’ person.

As far as Joe Jameson’s performance as narrator is concerned, I was very impressed. He’s really good at accents, at female voices and at voicing numerous characters [as in this particular story] with ease. Yes, I’m aware that Joe Jameson is Hamish Long of Brothers of the Wild North Sea and Rusty Coles of The Lost Prince, and to be honest, the problem I had with him in Brothers of the Wild North Sea was evident in this one too, but it was a minor niggle and I was much too involved in the story to bother about it.

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  • Richard
  • 21-07-2017

A most compelling listening experience

The novel's philosophical ambiguity, rich language, & subtle,touching, complete characterisation are quite wonderfully caught by a narrator whose variety, emotional conviction and pace are superb, I have never heard narration like this: it is like having a dramatisation with a first rate, perfectly differentiated cast of greats with the story itself rendered with unmatched elan and at the same time astonishingly intelligent restraint. Absolutely wonderful. If you are like me, you will find it incredible that all this is coming through one voice.

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  • Mrs. Terrie Rintoul
  • 12-09-2016

A complex and poignant love story far ahead of its time

Wonderful to see Mary Renault's marvellous work now available on Audible. I hope that it will open it up to a wider audience.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful