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.