Reviews of Charioteer, the (1953)
Review by mojosmom (2004-04-23)
Laurie Odell, a young Englishman coming of age during WWII, is also coming to terms with his homosexuality. Wounded at Dunkirk, he is evacuated in a ship commanded by Ralph Lanyon, who was a prefect at his public school. There had been a mutual attraction then; Lanyon knew it for what it was, Laurie did not. Too delirious to recognize Ralph on ship, Laurie encounters him again when he is in hospital for therapy for his injury.
In the meantime, he has met, and fallen in love with Andrew, a young Quaker, who is performing alternate service as a conscientious objector, at the hospital where he has had his surgery. This time, it is Laurie who understands the nature of his feelings, and Andrew who does not.
Worlds collide. This is an extraordinarily well-written, well-thought out novel. Renault is a scholar of classical Greek philosophy and history, and it is from Plato's "Phaedrus" that she takes her title and her theme, the conflict between flesh and spirit, desire and hope. A beautiful book.