The Friendly Young Ladies

By Mary Renault
(Vintage, Paperback, 9780375714214, 304pp.)

Publication Date: May 13, 2003

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Description

Set in 1937, The Friendly Young Ladies is a romantic comedy of off-Bloomsbury bohemia. Sheltered, naïve, and just eighteen, Elsie leaves the stifling environment of her parents’ home in Cornwall to seek out her sister, Leo, who had run away nine years earlier. She finds Leo sharing a houseboat, and a bed, with the beautiful, fair-haired Helen. While Elsie’s arrival seems innocent enough, it is the first of a series of events that will turn Helen and Leo’s contented life inside out. Soon a randy young doctor is chasing after all three women at once, a neighborly friendship begins to show an erotic tinge, and long-quiet ghosts from Leo’s past begin to surface. Before long, no one is sure just who feels what for whom.

Mary Renault wrote this delightfully provocative novel in the early 1940s, creating characters that are lighthearted, charming, and free-spirited partly in answer to the despair characteristic of Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness or Lillian Hellman’s The Children’s Hour. The result is a witty and stylish story that offers exceptional insight into the world of upcoming writers and artists of in 1930s London, chronicling their rejection of society’s established sexual mores and their heroic pursuits of art and life.




About the Author
Born in London as Eileen Mary Challans in 1905 and educated at the University of Oxford, Mary Renault trained as a nurse at Oxford's Radcliffe Infirmary. It was there that she met her lifelong partner, fellow nurse Julie Mullard. After completing her training, Renault wrote her first novel, "Purposes of Love", in 1937. In 1948, after her novel "Return to Night" won an MGM prize worth $150,000, she and Mullard immigrated to South Africa. There, Renault wrote the historical novels that would define her career. In 2006, Renault was the subject of a BBC 4 documentary, and her books, many of which remain in print on both sides of the Atlantic, are often sought after for radio and dramatic interpretation. In 2010, "Fire From Heaven "was shortlisted for the 1970 Lost Booker prize.
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