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
Carroll's latest novel is set in the 1950s and examines crises of conscience in the lives of four people, two contemporary and two historical. The contemporary characters are a Catholic priest and French Holocaust survivor who meet by accident in New York's Cloisters Museum, and the historical characters are Abelard and Heloise. Carroll weaves these seemingly-disparate stories together to create a rich, double-sided tapestry: post-WW II America on one side and Medieval France on the other. But t ...more
The Cloisters is a novel of ideas that made me feel as breathless and on edge as I do when reading a thriller. With masterful writing and pacing, the author creates two worlds for the characters to inhabit—1140s Paris and the scholastic sphere of the brilliant Peter Abelard and Heloise, and their inevitable, and separate, retreat from the world.
How this all fits into Nazi occupied Paris, concentration camps, and on to post WWII New York City is an amazing literary feat. Entering this hall of mir ...more
This book has three settings, one in medieval Europe, the other two more closely-related in time: Jewish people from France in one of Hitler's camps, and 1950s NYC Irish Catholic priesthood.
The medieval story is a fictionalized account of Abelard and Heloise; the French Jewish woman (Rachel) helped her father (a medieval scholar at the Sorbonne) with his research into Abelard's unusual view of the fate of the Jewish people, and the Priest, who meets Rachel in the Museum (the Cloisters), is struc ...more
I was given an advance copy of this book by NetGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.
WoW! An excellent book that tells the epic love story of Heloise and Abelard and the importance and context of Paul Abelard's teachings. The story moves between 12th century time of these lovers then tells the story of a father and daughter living in the Polish ghetto during World War II, and finally in a small Irish Catholic parish in New York City in the 1950's. I know that these stories don't really seem ...more
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.
Once again, James Carroll has written a compelling, complex, richly researched story that explores important questions of Catholic history. In this case, he goes back to the 12th story, to the doomed romance of the French monk Peter Abelard and his pupil, Heloise. But if readers think they know that story -- ugh, didn't Abelard get castrated? and then the couple wrote passionate love letters for years afterwards? -- it turns out that there's a lot more to the tale. Abelard was condemned as a her ...more
I received this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
A stunning book, beautifully written. Carroll brings to life the story of Abelard and Heloise, but not to focus on the tragic nature of their romance, which resulted in Abelard's brutal castration. No, he depicts the love that arises when two brilliant people come together, each feeding the other's brilliance. The result of that love echoes through the centuries to change the lives of two people in New York City in the aftermath of World War ...more
Religion, Philosophy and Romance
After an unsettling meeting with an old friend from seminary, Father Kavanagh wanders through Central Park. To escape the rain, he takes shelter in The Cloisters. He’s hoping to be alone, but Rachael Vedette, a museum guide, wanders into his sanctuary. Their unexpected conversation changes their lives.
Rachael is a survivor of the Holocaust in France. Her father, a Medieval scholar, studied Abelard in the hope of bringing Abelard’s ideas to the modern era and garn ...more