A Love Divine

Alexandra Ripley, Author Warner Books $25 (0p) ISBN 978-0-446-51691-4
The deft use of historical detail trumps the uneven quality of her prose as Ripley's new novel (after the bestselling Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind) delivers a vivid portrait of the far reaches of the Roman Empire and of the life and times of Joseph of Arimathea. In a postscript to this lengthy work, Ripley notes that little is known about Joseph except that he was wealthy and gave his own tomb for the burial of Jesus. Basing her plot on the legend that Joseph was a seaman and tin trader who brought Christianity to England, Ripley weaves the tale of a farmer's son whose passion for the sea carries him to prominence and power while still young. She details his friendships with King Herod and Augustus Caesar, his lifelong love affair with his first wife (even after he remarries), his establishment of a Jewish settlement in ancient Britain among the Celts and their Druid priests, the healing of Joseph's crippled daughter by Jesus and, finally, Joseph's decision to preach the teachings of Christ throughout the Roman Empire. Jesus doesn't appear until late in the book; soon after, Joseph hears of the crucifixion and, in a beautifully rendered scene, removes the body from the cross. The dialogue tends to be wooden early on and contains concentrated doses of religious sentimentality when Joseph and his daughter begin their preaching. But Ripley creates several inspired historical cameos (Herod, Pontius Pilate, Salome) and skillfully incorporates a wealth of visual and architectural, as well as religious, political and social, detail into her engrossing story. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Mass Market Paperbound - 978-0-446-16428-3
Mass Market Paperbound - 832 pages - 978-0-446-60472-7
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