The Charioteer, by Mary Renault, is a prominent early work of gay literature about a wounded soldier who must come to terms with his attraction to two very different men in World War 2 era England. It was published in 1953 in England and 1959 in America and quickly became a bestseller in the LGBT community. The Charioteer was Renault's sixth novel and the last set in modern times. After its publication, she turned to historical novels set in Ancient Greece. The Charioteer remains popular today.
After enduring an injury at Dunkirk during World War II, Laurie Odell is sent to a rural veterans’ hospital in England to convalesce. There he befriends the young, bright Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly. As they find solace and companionship together in the idyllic surroundings of the hospital, their friendship blooms into a discreet, chaste romance. Then one day, Ralph Lanyon, a mentor from Laurie’s schoolboy days, suddenly reappears in Laurie’s life, and draws him into a tight-knit social circle of world-weary gay men. Laurie is forced to choose between the sweet ideals of innocence and the distinct pleasures of experience.
Originally published in the United States in 1959, The Charioteer is a bold, unapologetic portrayal of male homosexuality during World War II that stands with Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories as a monumental work in gay literature.
The Charioteer Fandom
Renault's novels, including The Charioteer, have a small but enthusiastic fandom.
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