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"Valentine would come out of her oratory intensely excited, with her nerves on edge and the blood flowing hotly through her veins. At such times Benedict's glances and words laid waste her heart like a stream of molten lava. If he had been hypocritical or adroit enough to present adultery to her in a mystic light, Valentine would have been ruined with a prayer on her lips..." Deep in George Sand's own natal countryside of Berri in central France, Valentine de Raimbault, daughter of the chateau, and Benedict Lhery, cousin and adopted son of one of its tenant farmers, meet and fall headlong in love. Though they are very young, she 18 and he 22, both are already engaged to be married: he to his cousin, a beautiful and imperious girl who sees him as a stepping stone to comfort and security, and she to a dissolute diplomat who needs her wealth to pay his gigantic gambling debts. They must both first realize the extraordinary power of their feelings, and then enter a terrible battle with relatives, expectations and conventions, where their difference in rank proves a massive obstacle. Their union will indeed be hard won, if it can be. As they fight to understand and fulfil their love, the world bends, breaks and remakes itself around them many times. In the uncertainty, one of them unwillingly marries; the other rejects passionately the idea of a life united to any but their loved one. Lives are lost, arguments are precipitated into great conflicts, scores are settled and new ones created, intrigues are pursued, misunderstandings are promoted, long-held secrets are finally revealed. It is only when a chance mistake proves disastrously final that their tragic love finds its whole meaning, that the pattern they are creating in their lives fulfils its extraordinary design. This intensely passionate novel, the author's second, was first published in 1832. George Sand (Amandine Dupin, afterwards Baroness Dudevant) was born in Paris in 1804. She was raised largely by her grandmother at the family estate of Nohant in Berri, a region of central France. After rebelling an unsuccessful marriage, she had affairs with authors Prosper Merimee and Alfred de Musset, composer Frederic Chopin, and the actress Marie Dorval, among others. Her output of acclaimed novels, plays, travel sketches and autobiography was prodigious, beginning in the late 1820s and continuing until her death in 1876.
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