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Valentine: A Love Story Hardcover – January 28, 1955
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From Publishers Weekly
In his first novel since The Dork of Cork (1993), Raymo imagines the life of the patron saint of lovers, St. Valentine, about whom very little is known. Narrated by Julius Marius Favus, a gladiator trainer–turned–Roman jailor, and interspersed with letters between Valentine and a friend, the story unfolds of Valentine's training as a doctor and his falling in love with Julia, the blind daughter of Julius. As a young man, Valentine flees his home in Cyrenaica after impregnating the daughter of a wealthy Apollonian merchant. Soon, he becomes entangled with the wife of a powerful Roman. As Julius switches back and forth to different times in Valentine's life, a detailed portrait emerges of the plague-ridden, bloodthirsty Roman Empire and the theological wranglings of the early Christian church. Raymo, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, pens some lovely scenes, including one in which Valentine muses over the seeming randomness of life and death. Raymo's details are rich and precise, and his vocabulary often erudite. Valentine moves from seeing Christianity as a "cult of weakness and shame" to a desire to be remembered as "having nudged mankind away from fear and superstition." Fans of historical literary fiction should find this novel an absorbing read. (Feb.)
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About the Author
Chet Raymo is professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at Stonehill College in Massachusetts. He is teacher, naturalist, and former science columnist for the Boston Globe.
Top Customer Reviews
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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