I saved my copy of ‘Valentine’ for quite some time, because I was sure from the start that it would be special, that it was a book to save for exactly the right moment. And when I read ‘Valentine’ I realised that I had been right, that I was reading a classic work by the finest of authors.
I was transported to rural France, I was captivated by the story, the romance, by everything that the author had to tell me …. I was torn between wanting to rush through the pages and wanting to linger, to in this world, in this story, for as long as I could.
‘Valentine’ tells the story of the love between Valentine de Raimbault, the daughter of the chateau, and Bénédict Lhéry, the nephew of one of its tenant farmers. When they met they feel in love, swiftly and deeply. That love was tangible, the characters lived and breathed, their whole world came to life. It was wonderful, but it was impossible.
“He could not take his eyes from Valentine’s; whether he leaned over the bank or ventured on to the loose stones or on to the smooth and slippery pebbles in the river-bed he inevitably met Valentine’s glance, watching him, brooding over him, so to speak, with tender solicitude. Valentine did not know how to dissemble; she did not consider on that occasion there was the slightest occasion for her to do so.”
Benedict had been brought up by his aunt and uncle, and it was understood that he would marry their adored – but spoiled – only child, Athénaïs.
Valentine’s sister, Louise, had been cast off by her family when a love affair produced a son out of wedlock, and that left Valentine to marry well. A marriage had been arranged with a man of high rank; but a man who was dissolute and in need of the fortune that Valentine would bring to pay his gambling debts.
It was impossible, but the bond between them was unbreakable.
The story rises and falls because Valentine and Benedict have different temperaments. One is reluctant to cause hurt and tries to follow the path that was planned for them, and one is ready to do anything for the two to be together.
And of course their are other influences. A spouse who will not be undermined. A lover sore after rejection. A loving sister, whose own feelings and interest may conflict with sisterly love ….
George Sand constructed and managed her plot beautifully, attending to every single detail;she brought the countryside to life with wonderfully rich descriptions; and she made her characters’ feelings palpable.
She gave me a wonderful story, full of wonderful drama, and so many real emotions.
And it was a story with much to say, about the separation of social classes, about the lack of education and opportunity for women of any class.
“Every day, in the name of God and society, some clown or some dastard obtains the hand of an unfortunate girl, who is forced by her parents, her good name or her poverty to stifle in her heart a pure and sanctified love. And before the eyes of society, which approves and sanctions the outrage, the modest, trembling woman, who has been unable to resist the transports of her lover, falls dishonoured beneath the kisses of a detested master! and this must go on!”
There is so much depth, so much richness in the characters, in the relationships, in the way that story plays out, but I am wary of saying too much.
I have to believe that George Sand was an author who put her head her heart and her soul into her work. And now, of course, I want to read everything that she ever wrote.
It’s difficult to place her ….
…. imagine Thomas Hardy, transformed as Virginia Woolf transformed Orlando, sitting down to rewrite Romeo and Juliet and drawing inspiration from Shakespeare’s other works too ….
I can’t quite explain.
I just know that I loved this book.
(Translated by George Burnham Ives)
Wonderful review, Jane! I’ve only read one George Sand (Lavinia) but I did love it very much!
I have Lavinia lined up, so I’m very pleased to hear that.
I have never read any George Sand I think I should.
Yes, I think you should – I’d recommend George Sand to anyone who loves Hardy.
Oh really? Sold!
The only George Sand novel I’ve read is Indiana, but I really enjoyed it and have wanted to read more of her books for quite some time. After reading your review, I’m thinking Valentine is the next Sand book to read. Thanks!
It is a wonderful novel, so I really hope you do,
I would love to read some of her work! I’m noting all these suggestions.
It sounds lovely and as a fan of Hardy seems as if I might enjoy George Sand – never read any of her books so another new author to try.
I think you would, Cat, and I know that I am going to read more before too long.
So glad you enjoyed it so much, Fleur. I’ve made it a project to republish as many of her works as I’m able (some still haven’t been translated!). I love her too.
Thank you for bringing this one back in to print, and I will be ready to read however many more you can republish.
Is this the George Sand who we associate with Chopin? I knew she was a writer but have never thought to look for any of her works. Thank you for opening my eyes.
Yes it is. She wrote many novels, and I also have a book called ‘A Winter in Majorca’ about time she spent there with Chopin.
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Valentine is one of my favorite novels. Your review gives it beautiful justice.