Mary Renault entry: Overview screen.
Writing and Life
Works By
Mary Renault, who published her first book in 1939, is best known for her historical novels, and is also noted for her strong interest in same-sex love. In her present-day novels, a large proportion of characters have sexually-ambiguous names which reflect the ambivalence of their orientations. Biographer David Sweetman claims that her historical novels helped many people to come to terms with their sexuality, giving lesbians and male homosexuals a historical past "while offering non-homosexuals a sympathetic world where heterosexuality was neither the only, nor the dominant, sexual type." Bibliographic Citation link. Mary Renault's writing has been acclaimed by critics past and present: Bernard Dick has called her "one of the most creative historical novelists of our era and the only bona fide Hellenist in twentieth-century fiction." Bibliographic Citation link. Aside from her fiction, Mary Renault wrote several short stories, articles, and introductions.
4 September 1905 MR was born at Dacre Lodge, Plashet Road, Forest Gate, London. Bibliographic Citation link.
May 1927 MR had a poem published in the Oxford undergraduate magazine Fritillary. Bibliographic Citation link.
February 1939 MR's first novel, Purposes of Love, has been called by critic David Sweetman "the first novel dealing with bisexuality to reach a large and appreciative public." Bibliographic Citation link. It treats the lives of hospital nurses. Bibliographic Citation link.
5 October 1953 MR published the last of her six contemporary novels, The Charioteer, which portrays homosexual love in England during the First World War. Bibliographic Citation link.
July 1958 MR published in the US her second historical novel, The King Must Die, depicting the early life of the legendary Greek hero Theseus. Bibliographic Citation link.
1959 MR's novel The Charioteer was published in New York by Pantheon, six years after its appearance in Britain. Bibliographic Citation link.
13 December 1983 MR died in a nursing home in Cape Town, South Africa, of lung cancer. Bibliographic Citation link.
Back to Top