cover image Valentine: A Love Story

Valentine: A Love Story

Chet Raymo, . . Cowley, $19.95 (284pp) ISBN 978-1-56101-286-2

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.)