Mary Renault (4 September 1905 – 13 December 1983), born Eileen Mary Challans, was an English writer best known for her historical novels set in Ancient Greece. In addition to vivid fictional portrayals of Theseus, Socrates, Plato and Alexander the Great, she wrote a non-fiction biography of Alexander.
Born at Dacre Lodge, 49 Plashet Road, Forest Gate, Essex (now in London), Renault was educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford, then an all-women's college, receiving an undergraduate degree in English in 1928. In 1933 she began training as a nurse at the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford. During her training she met Julie Mullard, a fellow nurse with whom she established a lifelong romantic relationship.
She worked as a nurse while beginning a writing career, treating Dunkirk evacuees at the Winford Emergency Hospital in Bristol, and working in Radcliffe Infirmary's brain surgery ward until 1945. She published her first novel, Purposes of Love, in 1939: it has a contemporary setting, like her other early novels, and the novelist Linda Proud has described it as "a strange combination of Platonism and hospital romance". Her novel The Friendly Young Ladies (1943), which is about a lesbian relationship between a writer and a nurse, seems to have been inspired by her own relationship with Mullard...
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