Sunday, October 20, 2013

Trafficked/ The Ruby Ring

I was watching The View and Barbara Walters interviewed a woman, without showing her face.  Her story was horrific and compelling, and I knew I had to read her book.  This book was graphic, heart wrenching, emotional, tragic and wonderful all at different times.  I read it so fast because I was shocked and had to read more.  Her name in the book is Sophie, and she is an educated British woman.  She came from a home with several other siblings, a loving mother, and an emotionally abusive father.  He didn't want any of his children and would tear them down at any opportunity.  From this, Sophie learned to not trust men and also was insecure about herself.  She took great care with her appearance, often neurotic about it.  Her mother eventually left him and remarried, but the scars were already deep for each child.  Especially one of her brothers, who kept trying to please his father even when he knew it was hopeless.  Sophie had a good job and often went out clubbing with her friend.  One night she met a man named Kas; he kept watching her intently and tried to ask her out.  She denied him several times, but they kept running into each other.

They became friends and would talk often over the phone, and he would listen to all her problems.  Sophie ended up dating and living with a guy named Erion.  When she first mentioned him, Kas got very upset on the phone.  That was the first time Sophie noticed anything in his demeanor other than friendliness.  She supposed it meant he liked her too, and they didn't talk for a little while.  Erion and Sophie lived together for years, and broke it off to get back together again.  Sophie's treatment by her father had made her kind of a wreck in relationships.  She would test Erion to the breaking point, until he couldn't take it anymore.  He found out he was being deported, and one of Erion's friends asked her to marry him so he could stay.  She found she couldn't, and ended up in the hospital for a twisted stomach and needed surgery.  From that point on, her life would change forever....

Kas was still in touch with Sophie, and offered after she got back from a family vacation after her surgery, to go with him to Italy.  Just days after being on vacation, Kas started to beat her.  He told her he owed a drug dealer a lot of money, and that she would work it off for him.  He told her she was going to be a whore on the streets, and proceeded to tell her what to wear, what to do, everything.  He said he would kill her younger brothers and dump her body in the water if she didn't do what he said.  Sophie was numb with shock and fear, not believing this transformation in her friend.  For the next six months, Sophie would work on the streets for Kas.  On average she was with 18-36 men a night, and beat repeatedly by Kas.  She got to the point she couldn't eat much anymore, and got to about 92 pounds.  She was arrested a few times for prostitution, but was always released.  She did everything Kas asked her to, but nothing pleased him.  She was able to phone home regularly to keep things normal, and was forced what to say.  By some miracle, she landed in the hospital with a life-threatening illness.  She was able to phone her mom with a secret password, and her parents flew in.  Sophie kept this from Kas, and was able to keep up the pretense long enough to return home with her parents.

The rest of the story is no less compelling- Kas returns to find her, and it shows what Sophie does to pick up her life and move on.  It is inspiring, tragic and stunning.  I was horrified at the widespread abuse of human trafficking statistics; I sure hope people can have an ending like Sophie where they can escape and move on with their lives.  Better yet, I hope it never happens to anyone, anywhere.  An inspiring true story.

This book is set in Rome in 1520, and follows Raphael Sanzio, the beloved painter of Pope Leo X and Cardinals and princes around the world.  This is a story of love between an artist and an unlikely woman.  Raphael has many commissions to complete, always with deadlines and not enough time or apprentices to finish the work.  He was trained by his father and had a God-given talent.  Raphael was in the elite part of Roman society, sought out from nobility and cardinals to paint their legacy for them.  Since the men of the church could not have children, at least not recognized ones, their legacy was what they could leave behind.  Paintings, art work- Raphael could paint that for them.  He had one project he was still struggling to find the right model for- a Madonna for the mother of Christ in the Sistine Chapel.  Raphael had searched for four years, and one day, he finally found the woman he sought.  Her name was Margherita Luti, a baker's daughter from the humble neighborhood of Trastevere.  It took several attempts for her to agree to be painted, and mostly at the urging from her family.  He paid her well, and quickly fell in love with her.  Margherita rose swiftly in society, becoming his mistress and lover.

The Pope quickly became distressed at this love affair, as did Cardinal Bibbiena who had helped introduced Raphael to the Pope.  Raphael owed him much, especially because he was betrothed to his niece Maria.  As of yet, he had not married her nor did he want to.  But if he snubbed her, he would anger Bibbiena and thus the Pope as well.  He relied on their patronage to keep him famous and in work.  Raphael was certainly well off, but he had his apprentices to think of too.  As their love deepens and they spend all their time together, Raphael's work gets farther and farther behind.  A plot is put underway where Margherita is kidnapped.  It takes him about a month to be told the truth of what happened.  The hope was, with her gone, he would marry Marie and finish his projects on time.  Instead, Raphael became so morose he could not work and things only got worse.  The Pope and Bibbiena saw it was good for him to have her, so they told him the truth.  It took years for him to recover and begin his work in earnest again.

Raphael bought Margherita her own home, where she lived lavishly and had servants.  He maintained his own residence to keep up the facade of propriety.  He continued to paint her in many of his works, and did some of her nude or nearly so.  He told the Pope he would forgive him only if he allowed them to marry.  Raphael pleaded with Marie to cancel their betrothal, which she refused to do, even knowing he could never love her like she loved him.  She died young, and that released him to propose to Margherita.  But still the Pope dragged his feet, and would not let them marry.  Margherita is given a ruby ring, with a story attached to it, and Raphael paints her with the ring on as an engagement gift.  Raphael continues to work feverishly, hardly sleeping or eating.  His work is piling in and he struggles to keep up.  His friend Da Vinci has gone to live at the French court, and his rival Michelangelo has left for Florence to find other work.  It seems he has all the commissions and not enough time.  He soon fell ill, and died at the pinnacle of his career at a young age.

Margherita was abandoned by her friends, her own family who said she'd sully their bakery name if she returned, and was shunned by society for being the whore of Raphael.  Many said it was her fault he died and couldn't complete his paintings.  Giulio Romano, an apprentice and close friend of them both, helped Raphael's dying wish to see her safe.  Since no one would marry them, he took Margherita to a nearby convent, Sant'Apollonia, to live out the rest of her life.  She would be safe there.  He destroyed any paintings of her nude, to protect her, and spread the rumor that Raphael had repented of her on his deathbed.  So instead of being the victor, Margherita was the vanquished.  She tried to attend his funeral but was spotted and ran out.  History seems to have written over her; Cardinal Bibbiena had his niece Marie buried next to Raphael  at the Pantheon, and not Margherita as they had both wished.  Her name was found on the convent's list of names, but that is all.  I find it a tragic love story, but I enjoyed the book.

No comments:

Post a Comment