Valentine Hardcover – 1 Jan 2005
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A novel of never-ending pleasure... superbly innovative. It is a work of rare and irreverent intelligence. -- Le Figaro Litteraire
Moving... memorable... a richly poetic book about beauty and destiny, at once compelling and complex. -- Los Angeles Times
From the Inside Flap
Very little is known about the man who gave his name to romantic love, but bestselling novelist Chet Raymo has imagined his biography and brought it vividly to life on the page.
There has long been a suggestion that Valentine was a doctor, and Raymo has built his story around the romance of the physician Valentine and blind Julia, daughter of a Roman jailor. Their love story provides the central thread of this engrossing novel, which also brings alive the world of the Roman Empire at the time of Claudius II a time when Christians were amongst those whose deaths provided public entertainment in the Flavian Amphitheatre and the Circus Maximus.
It is a novel with remarkable resonances, its ideas startlingly relevant to our own times: globalisation vs. fundamentalism, reason vs. superstition, the subversion of virtue by wealth and the power of passionate love to overcome all obstacles to its consummation.See all Product description
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The story begins when Valentine, a teenager and slave, is assisting his master, Dr. Theophrastus, with the difficult birth of a child. Valentine is awestruck and fascinated by the drama, yet unaware of how his life will be changed for eternity by this tiny newborn girl, Julia--born without sight.
The event compels him to study medicine and he becomes a compassionate and caring doctor, and eventually the personal physician to Quintus--the procurator of the games. Valentine struggles between the pagan lifestyle of the Romans and the moral teachings of ancient philosophers. He does not, however; chose to follow the teachings of one "philosopher," Jesus Christ--the radical from Galilee who claimed he could raise people from the dead and give them eternal life. Preposterous, thought Valentine.
Displeasing his employer whose son Valentine could not heal, he finds himself in jail on false charges of being a Christian--a death sentence. This is where the love story begins.
Julia and Valentine have met only once before (excluding her birth), but neither can forget their meeting. Secret visits from Julia in jail are Valentine's only comfort. Julia, now a devoted Christian, is determined to change Valentine's heart before he meets his fate.
A wonderful story that is very moving.
Armchair Interview says: Excellent read.
I really did not want to read "Valentine" by Chet Raymo. I do not like any story that is historical. The cover of "Valentine" turned me off even more. It reeked of history.
I was quite surprised that as I delved into the story, I could not put it down. The love story really did not unfold until the end. Until then, Chet Raymo blended history into this intriguing novel, and he made it exciting.
He showed how the early Christians were considered to be superstitious, and traitorous. He created characters that had to suffer for their religious beliefs. As an American, I have always taken the right of religious freedom for granted. I now realize how fortunate we are.
Chet Raymo reminded me of the advances we have in medicine. Valentine, a physician, was considered to be strange, because he actually studied medicine. On the other hand, there were many other healers who simply were ignorant of physiology and pharmacy or were simply quacks.
Perhaps the most unsettling tradition was that of the death matches in the amphitheatre. Crowds would gather to see a person fight another person or animal until one dies. The crowd enjoyed seeing it! "Aptus, too, will thrill when his sword slips under the Egyptian's helmet and the blood gushes downward like water spilled from a bowl."
The fighting and death are seen as sexual. "The managers of the games know what they are doing when they recruit the best looking female slaves for these diversions. Every cock in the amphitheatre was stiff when she went down."
The love story is between Valentine and Julia. Valentine assisted in Julia's birth. He ended up falling in love with her. When Valentine held Julia after her birth, he "was astonished at its miniature perfection." He describes his desire for her as a woman. "I see Julia's slender body--her breast, her belly, the cottony swelling of her sex." If you stop to think of that with today's standards, that is a little twisted. Just look past that. Julia supports Valentine through imprisonment and escape.
Julia is punished for her belief in Christianity by having to fight a pack of wolves in the amphitheatre. Her father debates on whether or not to see his only child, who is blind, suffer a horrendous death. He wants to go. He thinks maybe his presence will provoke pity, leading to her release. What if it does not? He will see his daughter torn from limb to limb, chewed on and digested by beasts.
"Valentine" is a page-turner. Just when I thought the story had come to a finish, another turn was taken. For a thrilling historical adventure, "Valentine" is a great choice.
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