Mary Renault - The Mask of Apollo - Little, Brown Book Group

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    • ISBN:9781405526197
    • Publication date:06 Aug 2015
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The Mask of Apollo

A Virago Modern Classic

By Mary Renault

  • Paperback
  • £8.99

Combining the scholarship of a historian with the imagination of a novelist, Mary Renault brings the ancient Greek stage thrillingly to life.

'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' HILARY MANTEL

'Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours' MADELINE MILLER


Combining the scholarship of a historian with the imagination of a novelist, Mary Renault brings the ancient Greek stage thrillingly to life.

Set in fourth-century B.C. Greece, The Mask of Apollo is narrated by Nikeratos, a tragic actor who takes with him on all his travels a gold mask of Apollo, a relic of the theatre's golden age, which is now past. At first his mascot, the mask gradually becomes his conscience, and he refers to it his gravest decisions, when he finds himself at the centre of a political crisis in which the philosopher Plato is also involved. Much of the action is set in Syracuse, where Plato's friend Dion is trying to persuade the young tyrant Dionysios the Younger to accept the rule of law. Through Nikeratos' eyes, the reader watches as the clash between the two unleashes all the pent-up violence in the city.

'All my sense of the ancient world - its values, its style, the scent of its wars and passions - comes from Mary Renault. I turned to writing historical fiction because of something I learned from Renault: that it lets you shake off the mental shackles of your own era, all the categories and labels, and write freely about what really matters to you' EMMA DONOGHUE

'There's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' - Sam Jordison, Guardian

Biographical Notes

Mary Renault (1905-1983) was born in London and educated at St Hughs, Oxford. She trained as a nurse at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary, where she met her lifelong partner, Julie Mullard. Her first novel, Purposes of Love, was published in 1937. In 1948, after North Face won a MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard emigrated to South Africa. There, Renault was able to write forthrightly about homosexual relationships for the first time - in her masterpiece, The Charioteer (1953), and then in her first historical novel, The Last of the Wine (1956). Renault's vivid novels set in the ancient world brought her worldwide fame. In 2010 Fire From Heaven was shortlisted for the Lost Booker of 1970.

  • Other details

  • ISBN: 9781844089567
  • Publication date: 06 Aug 2015
  • Page count: 416
  • Imprint: Virago
Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us. — Hilary Mantel
I never learned Latin or Greek; I wasn't raised on the classics, even in translation. So all my sense of the ancient world - its values, its style, the scent of its wars and passions - comes from Mary Renault. I turned to writing historical fiction because of something I learned from Renault: that it lets you shake off the mental shackles of your own era, all the categories and labels, and write freely about what really matters to you — Emma Donoghue
Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours — Madeline Miller
There's much to say about her interweaving of myth and history and, just as interestingly, there's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' — Sam Jordison, The Guardian
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The Bull from the Sea

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'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' HILARY MANTEL'Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours' MADELINE MILLERThe sequel to The King Must Die. The Bull from the Sea continues the story of the hero Theseus after his return from Crete.Having freed the city of Athens from the onerous tribute demanded by the ruler of Knossos - the sacrifice of noble youths and maidens to the appetite of the Labyrinth's monster - Theseus has returned home to find his father dead and himself the new king. But his adventures have only just begun: he still must confront the Amazons, capture their queen, Hippolyta, and face the tragic results of Phaedra's jealous rage. Piecing together the fragments of myth and using her deep understanding of the cultures reflected in these legends, Mary Renault has constructed an enthralling narrative of a time when heroes battled monsters and gods strode the earth.'There's much to say about her interweaving of myth and history and, just as interestingly, there's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' Sam Jordison, Guardian

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'Mary Renault's portraits of the ancient world are fierce, complex and eloquent, infused at every turn with her life-long passion for the Classics. Her characters live vividly both in their own time, and in ours' MADELINE MILLER'I never learned Latin or Greek; I wasn't raised on the classics, even in translation. All my sense of the ancient world - its values, its style, the scent of its wars and passions - comes from Mary Renault. Her Theseus novels are perhaps the most exciting of her Greek fictions. I think I turned to writing historical fiction because of something I learned from Renault: that it lets you shake off the mental shackles of your own era, all the categories and labels, and write freely about what really matters to you' EMMA DONOGHUEThe King Must Die retells the story of Theseus, bringing Greek mythology vividly to life. The story is continued in the sequel, The Bull From the Sea.Theseus is the grandson of the King of Troizen, but his paternity is shrouded in mystery - can he really be the son of the god Poseidon? When he discovers his father's sword beneath a rock, his mother must reveal his true identity: Theseus is the son of Aegeus, King of Athens, and is his only heir. So begins Theseus's perilous journey to his father's palace to claim his birth right, escaping bandits and ritual king sacrifice in Eleusis, to slaying the Minotaur in Crete. Renault reimagines the Theseus myth, creating an original, exciting story.'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' Hilary Mantel'There's much to say about her interweaving of myth and history and, just as interestingly, there's much to wonder at in the way she fills in the large dark spaces where we know next to nothing about the times she describes . . . an important and wonderful writer . . . she set a course into serious-minded, psychologically intense historical fiction that today seems more important than ever' - Sam Jordison, Guardian

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The Friendly Young Ladies

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Elsie, sheltered and naive, is seventeen and unhappy. Stifled by life with her bickering parents in a bleak Cornish village, she falls in love with the first presentable young man she meets - Peter, an ambitious London doctor. On his advice she runs away from home and goes to live with her sister Leonora, who escaped eight years earlier. But there are surprises in store for conventional Elsie as her sister has a rather bohemian lifestyle: not only does Leo live in a houseboat on the Thames where she writes Westerns for a living, she shares her boat - and her bed - with Helen. When Peter pays a visit, turning his attention from one 'friendly young lady' to the next, he disturbs the calm for each of them - with results unforeseen by all . . .Mary Renault wrote this delightfully provocative novel in 1943 partly in answer to the despair characteristic of Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness. The result is this witty and stylish social comedy.

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Kind Are Her Answers

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Kit Anderson is married to Janet, a beautiful but narcissistic woman who seems more shallow to him as time goes by. Their relationship has become strained and cold. Immersing himself in his work as a doctor, Anderson takes consolation in his career. Then, one night he is called out to a dying patient, and meets Christie, who is taking care of her aunt. Warm and vivacious, Christie stands in stark contrast to Janet, providing the passion and intimacy that has been missing from his life.How long can their affair be kept secret and does Kit want what is best for Christie, or only for himself? In this assured, vivid novel, Mary Renault showcases the talents that would make her one of the twentieth century's most beloved novelists.

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On holiday in the North Devon countryside, Neil Langton looks back on the wreckage of his past. He has come to believe that all happiness is behind him; the wounds from his former marriage - in which his wife cheated on him and his young daughter died - are still raw. While rock-climbing, he meets Ellen, a young woman whom he saves from a mountainside accident. Ellen, too, is looking to escape her painful past, struggling to deal with her feelings for the man she loved - a pilot who died in service. Set in postwar Britain, and filled with a memorable cast of characters, North Face is a love story rich in atmosphere and tension.

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The Persian Boy

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'Renault's masterpiece. One of the greatest historical novels ever written' SARAH WATERSIn the second novel of her stunning trilogy, Mary Renault vividly imagines the life of Alexander the Great, the charismatic leader whose drive and ambition created a legend.The Persian Boy traces the last years of Alexander's life through the eyes of his lover, Bagoas. Abducted and gelded as a boy, Bagoas is sold as a courtesan to King Darius of Persia, but finds freedom with Alexander the Great after the Macedon army conquers his homeland. Their relationship sustains Alexander as he weathers assassination plots, the demands of two foreign wives, a sometimes mutinous army, and his own ferocious temper. After Alexander's mysterious death, we are left wondering if this Persian boy understood the great warrior and his ambitions better than anyone.'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' Hilary Mantel'The Alexander Trilogy stands as one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century . . . it represents the pinnacle of [Renault's] career . . . Renault's skill is in immersing us in their world, drawing us into its strangeness, its violence and beauty. It's a literary conjuring trick like all historical fiction - it can only ever be an approximation of the truth. But in Renault's hands, the trick is so convincing and passionately conjured. Nowhere is this more evident than in The Persian Boy . . . Bagoas is a brilliant narrator. Rendered unreliable by his passion, he is always believeable and sympathetic . . . His Persian background allows him to see the king and his Macedonians through the questioning eyes of an alien' - Antonia Senior, The Times

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'The Alexander Trilogy contains some of Renault's finest writing. Lyrical, wise, compelling: the novels are a wonderful imaginative feat' SARAH WATERSIn the final novel of her stunning trilogy, Mary Renault vividly imagines the life of Alexander the Great, the charismatic leader whose drive and ambition created a legend.Alexander the Great died at the age of thirty-three, leaving behind an empire that stretched from Greece and Egypt to India. After Alexander's death in 323 B.C. his only direct heirs were two unborn sons and a simpleton half-brother. Every long-simmering faction exploded into the vacuum of power. Wives, distant relatives and generals all vied for the loyalty of the increasingly undisciplined Macedonian army. Most failed and were killed in the attempt. For no one possessed the leadership to keep the great empire from crumbling. But Alexander's legend endured to spread into worlds he had seen only in dreams.'Mary Renault is a shining light to both historical novelists and their readers. She does not pretend the past is like the present, or that the people of ancient Greece were just like us. She shows us their strangeness; discerning, sure-footed, challenging our values, piquing our curiosity, she leads us through an alien landscape that moves and delights us' - HILARY MANTEL'The Alexander Trilogy stands as one of the most important works of fiction in the 20th century . . . it represents the pinnacle of [Renault's] career . . . Renault's skill is in immersing us in their world, drawing us into its strangeness, its violence and beauty. It's a literary conjuring trick like all historical fiction - it can only ever be an approximation of the truth. But in Renault's hands, the trick is so convincing and passionately conjured' Antonia Senior, The Times

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'The Charioteer remains compelling both as a snapshot of a particular - and particularly fascinating - cultural moment, and as a deeply romantic story of love fulfilled against the odds. It has all those qualities that make Mary Renault so memorable as a novelist: craft, subtlety, intelligence, and a terrific natural sympathy with the intricacies of honour and desire' SARAH WATERS'An explosive and courageous book' SIMON RUSSELL BEALEFirst published in 1953, The Charioteer is a tender, intelligent coming-of-age novel and a bold, unapologetic portrayal of homosexuality that stands with Gore Vidal's The City and the Pillar and James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room as a landmark work in gay literature.Injured at Dunkirk, Laurie Odell, a young corporal, is recovering at a rural veterans' hospital. There he meets Andrew, a conscientious objector serving as an orderly, and the men find solace in their covert friendship. Then Ralph Lanyon appears, a mentor from Laurie's schooldays. Through him, Laurie is drawn into a tight-knit circle of gay men for whom liaisons are fleeting and he is forced to choose between the ideals of a perfect friendship and the pleasures of experience.'Emotionally intelligent, beautifully written and deeply moving, it transcends categorisations' Telegraph

Aimee Molloy

Aimee Molloy is the author of the New York Times non-fiction bestseller However Long the Night, as well as the co-author of several other books, including Rosewater, which was made into a movie by Jon Stewart. Film rights for The Perfect Mother have been optioned by Sony/Tri Star with Kerry Washington set to star in and produce the adaptation. Aimee lives in Brooklyn with her family.

Alan Lightman

Alan Lightman - who worked for many years as a theoretical physicist - is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller Einstein's Dreams, as well as The Diagnosis, a finalist for the National Book Award. He is also the author of a memoir, three collections of essays, and several books on science. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, Granta, Harper's Magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, and Nature, among other publications. He has taught at Harvard and at MIT, where he was the first person to receive a dual faculty appointment in science and the humanities. He lives in the Boston area.

Angus Watson

Angus Watson is the David Gemmell-Award-nominated author of Age of Iron. As well as writing epic fantasy, he's written hundreds of features for newspapers including The Times, Financial Times and Telegraph, and the latter even sent him to look for Bigfoot in America. He lives in London, but you can find him on Twitter at @GusWatson or find his website: www.guswatson.com.

Antonia White

Antonia White (1899-1980) was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton before going to St Paul's School for Girls and training for the stage at RADA. From 1924 until the Second World War she worked as a journalist. Among numerous volumes of short stories, fiction and autobiography, Antonia White published a celebrated quartet of novels linked by their heroine: Frost in May (1922), The Lost Traveller (1950), The Sugar House (1952) and Beyond the Glass (1954).

Barbara Delinsky

Barbara Delinsky lives in Needham, Massachusetts. With thirty million copies of her novels in print, in twenty-five different languages, Delinsky is one of the world's most beloved and revered storytellers.A lifelong New Englander, she uses the area as settings in most of her stories. In her spare time, Barbara enjoys kayaking, aerobics, and needlepoint; in addition to spending time with family and friends. She is also a breast cancer survivor, and strives to be a positive role model for other women facing the disease.

Ben Fergusson

Ben Fergusson's debut novel The Spring of Kasper Meier, was selected for Waterstones Book Club, WH Smith Fresh Talent and the BBC Radio 2 Book Club. It was longlisted for the Authors' Club Best First Novel Award 2015 and shortlisted for The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2015. It won the 2015 Betty Trask Prize for an outstanding debut novel by a writer under 35 and the HWA Debut Crown 2015 for the best historical fiction debut of the year.

Caitlin Macy

Caitlin Macy is the author of The Fundamentals of Play and Spoiled. A graduate of Yale, she received her MFA from Columbia. Her work has been published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, O, The Oprah Magazine and Slate, among other publications. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.