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.
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“Undeniably charming . . . has an enormous nostalgic attractiveness.” —New Yorker
“Written with rare insight.” —Boston Globe
“A very lively and human story.” —New York Times Book Review
About Mary Renault
MARY RENAULT has written over a dozen novels, has had her work adapted for radio, stage, and screeen, and has been the subject of documentaries and biographies. She is as widely known for her forthright treatment of gay relationships as she… More about Mary Renault
Published by Vintage May 13, 2003| 304 Pages| 5-3/16 x 8| ISBN 9780375714214