Losing out on a promotion to her ex lover, Hilary Mansell, a talented doctor, moves to a rural hospital. She is bored and unchallenged, but the routine and long hours dull her disappointment. When Julian Fleming is admitted with a serious head injury, Hilary's skill and quick thinking save his life, and after his recovery he seeks her out. Julian is handsome, intelligent and a decade younger than Hilary, and although at first she resists his advances, she cannot help falling in love with him. Julian is a gifted actor but denies himself the career he longs for, and she senses that beneath his charm and humour something is holding him back. Before long, it becomes clear that his overbearing mother makes all the decisions in his life, and she doesn't approve of his ambitions - or of Hilary.
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.