From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Heloise, and its impact on a modern priest and a Holocaust survivor seeking sanctuary in Manhattan.Father Michael Kavanagh is shocked to see a friend from his seminary days named Runner Malloy at the altar of his humble Inwood community parish. Wondering about their past, he wanders into the medieval haven of The Cloisters, and begins a conversation with a lovely and intriguing museum guide, Rachel Vedette.Rachel, a scholar of medieval history, has retreated to the quiet of The Cloisters after her harrowing experience as a Jewish woman in France during the Holocaust. She ponders her late father's greatest intellectual work: a study demonstrating the relationship between the famously discredited monk Peter Abelard and Jewish scholars. Something about Father Kavanagh makes Rachel think he might appreciate her continued studies, and she shares with him the work that cost her father his life.At the center of these interrelated stories is the classic romance between the great scholar Peter Abelard and his intellectual equal Heloise. For Rachel, Abelard is the key to understanding her people's place in intellectual history. For Kavanagh, he is a doorway to understanding the life he might have had outside of the Church. The Cloister is James Carroll at his best....
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The Cloister Reviews
What an extraordinary book! A Gem. I was not surprised to read that the author James Carroll was a priest and left. He has woven three different tales together and it works. The source foundation is of Heloise and Abelard their love their punishment and the clergy politics and his philosophy and thinking. Then there is in 40s the young woman and her father both Jewish caught up in Nazi horrors and how that spills over into her life now in NYC in late 40s. Then there is the priest in late 40s and ...more
Originally published on my blog: Nonstop Reader
A new narrative historical fiction from James Carroll and Doubleday, The Cloister uses parallel storylines from the 12th and 20th centuries to illuminate and emphasize the timelessness of faith, love, fidelity, understanding and salvation.
I cannot emphasize enough how well written and lyrical this book is. It's definitely one of the more masterfully written books I've read this year. The prose is beautiful and luminous. The author's ability to writ ...more
The Cloister by James Carroll tells the story of the forbidden love of Peter Abelard and Héloïse in 12th century Paris. Two brilliant minds teaching lessons that placed the Catholic church in a new perspective.
It also tells the stories of Rachel Vedette, a French scholar and Holocaust survivor studying Abelard’s work, and Father Kavanagh, a catholic priest in New York in 1950, and the influence that Abelard’s and Héloïse’s legacy has on their lives. Abelard’s views on Catholicism certainly made ...more
My first book by James Carroll--I LOVED it. The story of Heloise and Peter Abelard is classic but intertwined with the other plot lines in this book gave me an insight I did not have by just reading their love letters.
The initial subject of the book intrigued me, but after getting 1/3 of the way in, I was not enjoying the read. I went to Catholic school for 10 years and I was still unsure about a lot of the terms that were used in the story, and I felt that the storylines were not grabbing my attention.
Life is too short to read books that you’re not into, so I stopped reading it because I didn’t want to have to power through a casual read.
Carroll has written three story threads in three different time periods. I was ignorant of Peter Abelard and Héloïse but I will never forget them and what they stood for against unbelievable odds. I knew that the Catholic Church had been complicit in the Holocaust but oblivious to the centuries old teaching that as “killers of Christ” they were worthy of scorn, to be wantonly killed - Jews! God’s chosen people!! The second thread takes place during the Holocaust and illustrates the anguish of th ...more
The Cloister - James Carroll, Mar 6, 4.56, 384 pages
A well-researched piece of historical fiction written by former priest James Carroll. It is based on historically significant people, fascinating subjects who I’d never before heard of.
It is a multi-layered read that spans hundreds of years and begins with philisopher/nun Holoise d’Argenteuil arriving at the Cloister garden to meet the Abbot where he will lead her to the the body of her much older lover Peter Abelard, reflecting on their doome ...more
The Cloister is that rare contemporary novel that demands intellectual and emotional engagement from the reader. Yes, it is the historical love story of Abelard and Heloise, and it can of course be read for that alone. But, it is more importantly a quest for understanding; an enquiry in to crimes in the name of religion; a search for redemption; and an examination of how we choose to live our live.
Heavy stuff, indeed.
James Carroll presents these themes and the reader can elect to engage in them, ...more