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The Friendly Young Ladies af Mary Renault
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The Friendly Young Ladies (original 1943; udgave 2005)

af Mary Renault

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingOmtaler
3241161,121 (3.58)37
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 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 the lovely Helen. When Peter pays this strange menage 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.… (mere)
Medlem:truly_bohemian
Titel:The Friendly Young Ladies
Forfattere:Mary Renault
Info:Virago Press Ltd (2005), Edition: New Ed, Paperback, 320 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:****
Nøgleord:novel, 1930s, 2008, sexuality, life, only connect, library book

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The Friendly Young Ladies af Mary Renault (1943)

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General information at Wikipedia, and readers' discussion at Goodreads.

Book download pdf (2021-03)
https://archive.org/details/middlemist00rena

This is a good review but the whole thing justifies a spoiler alert. It discloses too much that should unfold gradually on the reader.

https://theblankgarden.com/2020/12/23/review-the-friendly-young-ladies-by-mary-r...

Renault's biblieography:
https://tlockyer.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/the-works-of-mary-renault-1905-83/ ( )
  librisissimo | Mar 19, 2021 |
This was readable enough, I guess, although everything is implied rather than stated, meaning that I have come out of it still not knowing exactly what the relationships between people were and even what happened in the end. It's not one I'd raise up as an important queer work, because really it's mostly about women sleeping with men, even if those women happen to have a possible relationship with each other as well. It gives the impression that women will never be fulfilled in relationships with women and will need to seek sexual satisfaction with men. Its portrayal of women leaves a lot to be desired as well, although I guess I have to give it a pass for that given that it was written when it was.

1.5 stars

Also, I am tempted to put that down to a straight one star due to the author's afterword (40 years after) in this edition. Apparently:
"...I thought it becoming in people whose only problem was a slight deviation of the sex urge... to refrain from needless bellyaching and fuss."
"Conventions change; but defensive stridency is not, on the whole, much more attractive than self-pity. Congregated homosexuals waving banners are really not conducive to a goodnatured 'Vive la difference!'"
and
"People who do not consider themselves to be, primarily, human beings among their fellow-humans, deserve to be discriminated against..."

What an obnoxious human being Renault was! This strident homosexual pays respect to the banner wavers that came before me and allowed my life to be lived in less danger than theirs.
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
Heh: seems like the character of Peter is an eternal type. ( )
  KatrinkaV | May 25, 2020 |
Read, favourite. ( )
  sasameyuki | May 8, 2020 |
I read this book because I was reading reviews of the Well of Loneliness, and it was mentioned. In fact, the comment was something like 'oh God, the Well of Loneliness, it's so up itself and tortured and po faced and hilarious, it's such a shame it's the defining lesbian novel, the only good thing I can say about it is that it inspired Mary Renault to write The Friendly Young Ladies because she felt exactly the same way as me.' Which given Well is up there in my Favourite Books Ever was a bit of a red rag to a bull, but I like books that are in conversation with other books, and I like queer books that aren't modern queer books and so shed a different light on things, and I like buying books WLOG. So I bought it.

It is definitely in conversation with Well. There are some really wonderfully crafted snarks, where the heroines will be given feedlines to Angst, and then say very prosaically 'I expect most relationships are unusual when one knows enough about them. We're pretty well used to ours, it seems ordinary to us'.

It's a book that left me very keen to Study It - there are bits where they are having clever grown up conversations hinting and implying things I don't quite get, and there are bits where the characters just Know their feelings and act on them, but it's a bit show and not tell - whether I'm a modern reader, or a stupid reader, there were definitely times I'd like the Spark notes just to confirm that what was being implied was what I was reading.

The plot.. well, there isn't that much plot. We start with Elsie Lane, a schoolgirl who runs away from her boring sad middle class home, and seeks out her older sister, Leo, who lives on a boat with Helen. Elsie has a crush on Peter, who has been her doctor and the first man she's really known, there's an author living nearby called Joe, and the characters wander around and interact and change relationships and grow. But they're skillfully drawn, and engaging, and the book has moments of great humour and great sadness and great passion.

Much of the book is setting Elsie's naivety (and Peter's too) against the wisdom of Helen and Joe and Leo. Elsie is so young and sweet and painfully unaware about what is really going on - not stupid, but very sheltered, and not self aware enough to face the things that would hurt her. I wanted her to grow and change, and found the ending (heartbroken that Peter is having a fling with Leo, she returns to her parents) unsatisfactory... but she has grown and changed, and he parents have moved, and the world she goes back to is not the world she left.

Oh, Peter. I loved Peter. I hated Peter. I saw too much of myself reflected in Peter. So arrogant, so convinced he is Saving people by making them fall in love with him, so self centred that he doesn't even see what he is doing. The entire book is worth it for the scene where Peter carelessly and painfully turns up at the boat with his real girlfriend (which will break Elsie's heart if she realises) and Leo delightfully seduces the girlfriend and leaves him entirely dumbfounded and with no recourse.

And the book is worth it for the joy of living on the boat - the sunlight, the island, the feel of the punt sliding through the water, or the chilly morning swims, or the hard work pumping out the bilges.

It turns Well on its head in many ways. There is Leo, boyish in her shirts and trousers, living with Helen, a beautiful well dressed feminine nurse. And you see the patterns of Stephen and Mary, except then it is _Leo_ who finds a boy and runs off with the boy at the end of the book, and it is Helen who gets to make the speeches about how she stays with Leo because Leo is what she wants, but Leo stays with Helen only because she has a broken wing that will heal one day...

Yes, for the record, if you want Well of Loneliness fix it fic, this is another book where the charming, adorable and friendly young ladies of the title are going to end up Doomed because one of them ends up with a boy. Even the author is annoyed by this - when they republished the book she wanted them to stop the ending short - 'far better leave Leo's choice in the air with the presumption she stays with Helen' - and in the end they compromised by letting her write an epilogue, saying 'there is much I would write differently... the silliness of the ending [is] inevitable disaster, [which] is it naïve to present as a happy ending'. Although it isn't a happy ending, it is a deeply uncomfortable ending, Leo swayed by Joe's bold ultimatum of a letter, standing in her bedroom holding Helen's dress in floods of tears, and packing to leave. Not really fix it fic...

It's notable as a book in that it has both silly and serious relationships. Not a farce, where everything is casual and superficial, but a space where people fall casually together for light love making that doesn't have to mean a lot, and yet still have deep deep passions for the people they truly love.

Oh, Helen. Beautiful, charming, wonderful, she is never the focus of the novel, but drifts in when needed, healing, soothing, straightening. Graceful and kind, but with a core of strength, who would never want to try to keep someone who did not want to be kept. A goodbye kiss, and her graceful brisk walk to the ferry, 'It's perfectly fair. Whatever happens, that's the thing to remember. To see things straight, not to arrange them round oneself; if one keeps that, one keeps everything in the end'

So it may be a book that claims to be in conflict with Well's heavy handedness and moralising. But it has very clear messages and morals of its own, how to live and love and be good people, and how things run very deep, and one should never live in comfortable self indulgent delusions. ( )
  atreic | May 17, 2015 |
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Very quietly and carefully, hardly moving her thin young neck and round shoulders, Elsie looked round the room, first at the french windows into the garden, then at the door, measuring distances.
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Sometimes published in the US as The Middle Mist.
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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 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 the lovely Helen. When Peter pays this strange menage 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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