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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

What listeners say about The Charioteer

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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.

8 people found this helpful

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Magnificent performance of a wonderful book

I was totally gripped by this story and the characters. Some may find the attitudes a bit dated, but they are true to their time. Mary Renault's ability to understand human nature and get inside the heads of different characters is quite breathtaking. I only wish there was a sequel. But regardless, these characters will live with me for a long time.

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent recording of Renault classic

One of my favourite books that I came to decades ago via her Greek novels.
It was fascinating listening to a book I’ve read so many times and picking up so much more nuance from the language - wonder if it’s because your eyes skim with the natural reading process but with listening you do literally hear every word.?
I love the myth of The Charioteer and for me the book is about reconciling ideals with the harsher reality of real life.
Narration and voices were perfect.
Her writing beautiful as ever and evocations of an English autumn of 1940 crisp and clear - perhaps enthused with nostalgia as she actually wrote the novel in South Africa.

2 people found this helpful

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Brilliant

A superb reading by an expert and extremely talented reader of this classic story of love and redemption. A must listen.

2 people found this helpful

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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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Compelling

Well crafted novel from an able writer. A sensitively treated subject that keeps you guessing.

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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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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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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 person found this helpful

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  • Christopher
  • 05-02-16

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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Clinton Kippley
  • 03-04-15

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!

7 people found this helpful

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  • Daniel
  • 06-05-18

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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  • Paul
  • 02-07-21

Excellent.

The narration is wonderful! This is a beautiful and well-crafted story well worth the investment of several hours.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Carl
  • 09-06-21

Requires quite attentive listening

For me at least the story was at times difficult to track or absorb at my usual listening pace. Some readers may find it helpful to slow down the narration speed to better understand some dialogue and character interactions or to put it plainly for some instances - what the hell is going on!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-01-21

Beautifully written and narrated

This is a beautiful book and the narration is heartbreakingly good. Joe Jameson is an incredible actor. Highly recommend!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Alex Zimmer
  • 27-07-18

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!

1 person found this helpful

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  • Satisfied Customer
  • 19-07-22

Amazing narration, refreshing novel

I don’t know how best to describe the appeal of this novel. But it was so interesting to hear this story, mostly centered on 3 main characters, during World War II. Despite the time period, there was a surprising number of observations about being gay that sounded very modern. The characters really come to life, especially with the help of the narrator who puts on a slightly different accent for each character, and their definite personalities come through.

In the end it really is their personalities that make the story, because well, not a lot happens. This is a book that examines all kinds of tiny nuances of and in between each character. Sometimes the details of their inner-workings feel a little overwhelming, especially as things become more tense in the second half. I ended it feeling I probably should read it again, knowing what I learned about these characters at the end. That being said, although it’s a bittersweet book, I’m glad I found it and I’m glad this narrator recorded it.

I found this book while looking for “classic” LGBT novels, and I would say it deserves the title of “classic.” I feel that the author really put thought and heart into the writing and the characters. I now would like to read some of her other books.

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  • Dz
  • 30-04-22

Perhaps my favorite novel

Wonderfully full of longing and of a misguided desire to protect. The reader’s performance was a little stiff - Ralph’s voice not quite believable. Still, I’d listen to it all over again

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  • WBart
  • 08-04-22

One of the best day romances of the 1950s.

I have read this book many times, but hearing it performed give me insights I did not have before. The reader was exceptional the acting was precise, and the book itself is extremely well done. Mary Renault is one of the best writers of the 20th century. I had read this book when I was a teenager, and now hearing it again in my 60s, it means more than I’ve ever did.