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Mary Renault (1905–1983)

Autor(a) de The King Must Die

20+ Works 17,013 Membros 299 Críticas 101 Favorited

About the Author

Image credit: Mary Renault. (Photo from Wikipedia)


Obras por Mary Renault

The King Must Die (1958) 2,665 exemplares
O jovem persa (1972) 2,313 exemplares
Fire from Heaven (1969) 2,201 exemplares
The Bull from the Sea (1962) — Autor — 1,689 exemplares
The Last of the Wine (1956) 1,666 exemplares
The Mask of Apollo (1966) 1,369 exemplares
Funeral Games (1981) 1,115 exemplares
The Charioteer (1959) 1,113 exemplares
The Praise Singer (1978) — Autor — 860 exemplares
The Nature of Alexander (1975) 759 exemplares
The Friendly Young Ladies (1943) 358 exemplares
The Alexander Trilogy (1984) 300 exemplares
The Lion in the Gateway (1964) 169 exemplares
Purposes of Love (1939) 124 exemplares
Return to Night (1947) 106 exemplares

Associated Works

The Poison Belt (1913) — Introdução, algumas edições448 exemplares
The Best of Both Worlds: An Anthology of Stories for All Ages (1968) — Contribuidor — 25 exemplares
Heroic Adventure Stories: From the Golden Age of Greece and Rome (1996) — Contribuidor — 16 exemplares
The Undying Past (1961) — Contribuidor — 2 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum

Nome canónico
Renault, Mary
Nome legal
Challans, Eileen Mary
Outros nomes
Challans, Mary
Data de nascimento
Data de falecimento
Localização do túmulo
Local de nascimento
London, England, UK
Local de falecimento
Cape Town, South Africa
Causa da morte
Locais de residência
Durban, South Africa
University of Oxford (St. Hugh's College | English | BA | 1928)
University of Oxford (Radcliffe Infirmary)
radio writer
Black Sash Movement
Prémios e menções honrosas
MGM Prize (Return to Night, 1948)
Gordon Wise (Curtis Brown)

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Mary Renault received a degree in English from Oxford University in 1928. In 1933 she began training as a nurse at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. During her training, she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse, with whom she established a lifelong romantic relationship.

Renault worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, publishing her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939. Her historical novels, set in ancient Greece, were popular throughout the English-speaking world. In 1948, after her novel Return to Night won a prize worth $150,000, Renault and Mullard emigrated to South Africa, where they lived together for the rest of their lives. They were critical of apartheid and participated in the Black Sash movement in the 1950s.



British Author Challenge February 2022: Mary Renault & Timothy Mo em 75 Books Challenge for 2022 (Agosto 2022)
Mary Renault's Alexander Trilogy em Folio Society Devotees (Dezembro 2013)
Mary Renault em Book talk (Julho 2013)


I love books that transport me. This sparkling, deed-driven, gestural world, conjured up by Mary Renault, is a world I find profoundly attractive. In part, this is because these stories are so deeply embedded in my unconsciousness that although alien, they are also familiar.

That said, the Minotaur of the The King Must Die is not quite the same as the legendary half-man, half-beast of my childhood. As a character in the weave of this tale it is better and more subtle for Mary Renault's art, I think. But it raises questions about veracity, if that can apply to mythology?

Some books bleed into others and I’ve come to The King Must Die immediately after Sylvia Martin’s Passionate Friends; wherein women writers hide behind assumed names. Mary Renault was the pen name of Eileen Mary Challans who pioneered novels exploring same-sex love and desire. She and her partner, Julie Mullard, emigrated from Britain, to live in a South African community of gay and lesbian expatriates. However, she was wary of identifying herself primarily by sexual orientation and was hostile towards the gay rights movement.

No doubt there are learned texts about the influence of Renault’s sexuality on her writing style, but if a writer’s sexuality has any relevance, then, in my opinion, here, it serves to make the clear air that contributes to the unfamiliar atmosphere and the timelessness of these gripping stories where there are abundant forms of sexuality and sex. Some of the most moving scenes involve love making, but of course, there is much more.

There are as many powerful women as there are men in these stories. I say stories because while the overarching story is of Theseus’s journey from boyhood to kingship, there are many sub-stories several of which: Medea and Phaedra are not contained within the arc of the narrative.

Regardless of the currency of her Greek scholarship, I found Mary Renault’s invocation of the cosmology of the Attic world with its gods and heroes utterly absorbing. So much of the power of this book is in the detail. Nowhere more than where death occurs. Many kings die, as they must in this world where succession needs be god-sanctioned.

The relationships between men, women and gods is both utilitarian and dutiful. But it is humanity that shines through: Men are only men
But I was in no danger of over-eating. It killed ones hunger to see even great lords (some of whom I knew to hate him) fawning upon Asterion, changing their faces in time with his like soldiers drilling. While he cracked coarse jokes, his eyes missed nothing. I saw him watch guess out of hearing as if he could read their lips, and his stewards lingered like spies. p.251.
… (mais)
simonpockley | 54 outras críticas | Feb 25, 2024 |
Really couldn't get into this
Cotswoldreader | 25 outras críticas | Feb 3, 2024 |
I first read this book as a child (who was fascinated by mythology especially the Greek myths) and approached it with some trepidation this time around, remembering very little about it, apart from the fact that I'd been upset by the horse sacrifice near the start of the novel. However, I needn't have worried: for a book first published in 1958 it still holds up very well.

The plot isn't a mystery for anyone who knows something about the mythological story of Theseus, but the interpretation that Renault puts on it is unique. She tells the story from his own viewpoint, looking back over his life, as if it is historical fiction, drawing on all the - then recent - discoveries about Crete such as the Linear B language. For the main meat of the book is formed by Theseus' experiences in Crete.

The story begins in his childhood when he learns how to be a king from his grandfather, but always smarts under the stigma of not knowing his father's identity. He is the sole child of the king's daughter and sole surviving child - and comes to believe the story put around that the god Poseidon is his father. This seems confirmed when he starts to experience the kind of 'aura' that animals and birds receive as a warning of earthquakes - to the ancient peoples a sign of Poseidon's anger. But he remains small and light, outgrown by his contemporaries, unlike in the myth, because - more realistically - Renault takes the fact that Theseus later excels at bull leaping to indicate he must have been agile and shorter than average.

Then comes the revelation about his real father and the circumstances around his conception - plus the need to shift a massive stone and take the sword concealed underneath it to his father to claim his birthright. And so the tale gathers momentum. En route, Theseus learns skills and gains experiences that will later serve him well, plus changing for ever the nature of the goddess worship in an intervening town where the old practice of sacrificing the king annually has survived. And his experiences on Crete will change and inform his maturing character for the rest of his life.

I liked the way Renault came up with realistic explanations for all the oddities which myths take for granted, and made Theseus likeable despite the - to our age outrageous - treatment of women, something in which he was following societal norms. The goddess worship had been subsumed into the worship of male gods such as Zeus and Poseidon by this time, apart from in pockets where it survived less transformed, and was regarded with suspicion by men in general. Yet Theseus does gain an awareness while on Crete that the women who have to face the bulls - despite their being labelled always as 'girls' - are just as brave and capable as the men, and that the flighty behaviour of so many women is due to their conforming to what is expected of them in a male dominated society.

The one point which I didn't think Renault quite managed to make convincing was Theseus reason for not painting his sail on his return journey - unlike the myth, he doesn't just forget. But that is such a minor point that the book still deserves a 5-star rating.
… (mais)
kitsune_reader | 54 outras críticas | Nov 23, 2023 |
Book 2 of this retelling and interpretation of the Theseus myth carries on immediately after his return from Crete and the suicide of his father, who thought he had been killed. Theseus has to get to grips with the various problems inherent on taking over as king, some of which have been caused by his father's reluctance to deal with a powerful sadistic local chieftain (the mythological Procrustes). Theseus soon proves to the doubting barons that he is a strong and decisive ruler and he goes on to lead a successful war against his father's brothers and their kin who had previously attacked Athens on a number of occasions.

On the personal side things do not run so smoothly. He is aware that he should marry and produce legitimate sons to succeed him, yet he is reluctant to commit himself. Eventually he settles on Phaedra, whom he met when she was a child while he was a bulldancer on Crete. The younger sister of Ariadne, whom he left on Nexos when it became clear she had the 'bad blood' that full-out worship of the Goddess represents - she had taken part in the Maened frenzy in which the local King was sacrificed - Phaedra is now a sedate young Cretan matron. He puts off the marriage even though he has arranged that she stay on Crete, because she would lose her royal status there if she left. Instead, driven by a restless spirit, he goes roving on ships with his friend Prince Pirithoos and indulges in piracy.

On one of his trips he meets and eventually defeats in a fight Hippolyta, King of the Moon Maidens of Artemis, for whom he forms a deep and instant devotion. Despite her upbringing she reciprocates his love, and eventually they have a son, Hippolytus But he also has to marry Phaedra. He has a son by her also, Acamus, a typically Cretan boy, rather than the tall Helene young man that Hippolytus grows into. He intends Hippolytus, despite his illegitimacy, to inherit his rule of Athens and the other countries now under Athens' rule, apart from Crete, which could go to Acamus who is rather easy going and not much of a warrior. But things don't turn out according to plan.

This book is rather more bitty and disjointed than volume one. Certain characters are sketched, such as Hippolyta, their son, his wife and other son, and his friend Pirrithoos. Theseus contends with various difficulties such as the hostility to Hippolyta who continues to dress in "men's clothing" and ride and hunt - he has a beautiful sword made for her too. The prevailing attitudes to women mean that the senior nobles and the serving women both view her with suspicion - the men because her reverence of the goddess Artemis reminds them of Medea who was the close companion of his father and whom they suspected of wanting to bring back the Mother worship complete with king-sacrifice, and the women because Theseus has elevated her to his soul companion and common law wife and no longer sleeps around, plus he favours her son above theirs. As foreshadowed, from as far back as a couple of mentions in passing in volume 1, things end in tragedy as usually happens in Greek mythology.

As before, Renault has a different slant on the mythical elements. For example, the Kentaurs as they are called here are not half horse and half man but a type of wild man - possibly Neanderthals - who have a close bond with horses and live a basic outdoor existence. As in book 1, various other myths are worked in, including mentions of Jason, and a cameo appearance by Achilles. Because there are quite long periods when nothing basically happens in the myth, these are summarised briefly and, as they consist mostly of Theseus going on pirate expeditions, that is no bad thing.

The attitudes to women continue to be problematic but this follows the cultural norms of the time. To some extent, Theseus overcomes these in his relationship with Hippolyta but he continues to treat other women, including his wife, as people whose opinions don't matter - to his undoing and that of his elder son. His likeable characteristic is his championing of underdogs and belief that a king is a protector of his people and stands between them and the god - mainly Poseidon, but others - with the ultimate role, if required, of self-sacrifice.

Because of the more episodic character of this book which perhaps suffered from such a large stretch of Theseus life being packed into one novel I didn't enjoy this as much as book 1. I also found it not altogether credible that Hippolyta so quickly falls for Theseus and renounces her old life. For those reasons, I rate it at 3 stars overall.
… (mais)
kitsune_reader | 27 outras críticas | Nov 23, 2023 |



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