The Cloister
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.

The Cloister Details

TitleThe Cloister
Author
ReleaseMar 6th, 2018
PublisherNan A. Talese
ISBN-139780385541275
Rating
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, Religion

The Cloister Review

  • Beth Cato
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 II: a Catholic priest, left staggered by the return of a friend from his youth, as he realizes his own poignant isolation in the clergy; and a young woman, a Jew from France whose father studied the texts of Abelard, and essentially died for it during the war. There are layers upon layers here. This book is not a melodrama. It's about nuance. It's about people being people. It's about surviving, at great cost. It's about losing God, and finding him again. It's about the history of Catholicism and Judaism, and how churches--like people--have a difficult time realizing their errors or making an effort to correct them.This is a book that will haunt me, in the best sort of way. I am left with a profound need to not only read more about Abelard and Heloise, but to look for more of James Carroll's work.
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  • Karen
    January 1, 1970
    The Cloister - James Carroll, Mar 6, 4.56, 384 pagesA 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 The Cloister - James Carroll, Mar 6, 4.56, 384 pagesA 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 doomed affair and condemnation. Fast forward 800 years when priest Michael Kavanagh and Holocaust survivor Rachel Vedette, a docent and scholar have a chance meeting at the Cloister that will change their lives. This was the first I heard of Abelard and d’Argenteuil and their historically important story told through different perspectives and eras was complex and very well-done.
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  • CoffeeandInk
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 mirrors is the Catholic priest Kavanaugh and the Jewish docent for the Cloisters, Rachel. Rachel’s father is the link back to Abelard and Heloise, as before the war he was a scholar in Paris working on a study of Abelard’s work Dialogus inter philosophum, Judaeum, et Christianum, (Dialogue of a Philosopher with a Jew and a Christian) 1136–1139. She carries Abelard's book History of my Calamities with her wherever she goes. When the priest seeks the shelter of the Cloisters during a rainstorm, they fall into conversation, and she spontaneously hands it over to the priest.The themes of obligation and exploitation, retreat and annihilation, manipulation and survival are golden threads to follow through this labyrinth. A beautifully horrifying and shattering story. Thank you NetGalley and Doubleday. I'd give this novel 10 stars if I could.
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  • Sharon
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 this evil teaching.Abelard was an apologist for the Jewish people, portraying them with “total sympathy and respect - an equal to the Christian. The Jew is not an object of conversion, or doomed to an eternity of hellfire.” This is what he taught his students which put him in opposition to the Catholics leaders of France to his physical peril.The modern day thread follows a chance encounter between a Jewish woman and an Irish Catholic priest who begin a tentative friendship after being drawn together through their fascination with the teachings of Abelard. Both are grappling with grievous issues in their lives that were “out of bounds” but come into focus through conversations about the 12th century lives of Peter and Héloïse. Abelard’s philosophy said “no” to the militant Christ and “yes” to the Prince of Peace, and it was his teachings that opened the door to Father Kavanagh’s inner introspection, though he ultimately credits Héloïse for his greatest understandings.Carroll, a former priest and practicing Catholic, is not indicting the Church, but he is throwing open the windows and doors and inviting modern Catholics to stop feeling guilty, and to see that more is present, not in the sacrament or in the Church but in the people of the parish themselves, to celebrate. Kavanaugh finally recognized that God’s love for him was no longer contingent on his being a priest. This book is brilliant and certainly more intellectual than I am capable of processing in one reading, all the philosophy and theology, a book of challenge and hope.
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  • Annie
    January 1, 1970
    Originally published on my blog: Nonstop ReaderA 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 Originally published on my blog: Nonstop ReaderA 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 write so honestly about some of the most atrocious, brutal, and heartbreaking episodes of both the 12th and 20th centuries is breathtaking. I was really struck by the elevation and sanctity of these two couples (whose relation to one another form two potential halves of a whole circle) separated by almost a millennium, being shaped and molded by these watershed moments. That there are valuable human lessons in the midst of devastation and horror throughout time and history and that it was just as true a thousand years ago as now, was very profound to me.This is a book which is going to stick with me. I think this is an important book, even (especially?) for people who have no active religious belief system. The book provides such an eloquent and unassailable logical argument for compassion and self control especially with regard to external belief systems.It's not an easy book to read. It's emphatically not light reading. The language is finely crafted, but it took me time to digest and understand.Flawless and achingly beautiful.Five starsAnticipated publication date: 6 March, 2018Formats: Kindle / Hardcover, 384 pages.Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher.
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  • Denice Barker
    January 1, 1970
    I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and can’t get it out of my mind. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks I don’t know how to tell you it’s worth every minute of your time and do that telling justice. Bear with me and then go buy the book.I had, somewhere in my life, heard the names Heloise and Abelard. I knew theirs was a love story but that’s I all. I didn’t know their time, their story or their purpose. I do now.The many layers of The Cloister include the story of a Catholic p I finished this book a couple of weeks ago and can’t get it out of my mind. After thinking about it for a couple of weeks I don’t know how to tell you it’s worth every minute of your time and do that telling justice. Bear with me and then go buy the book.I had, somewhere in my life, heard the names Heloise and Abelard. I knew theirs was a love story but that’s I all. I didn’t know their time, their story or their purpose. I do now.The many layers of The Cloister include the story of a Catholic priest, Father Michael Kavanagh, a Holocaust survivor from France and museum guide, Rachel Vedette, and their crossed paths. One day Fr. Kavanagh has a conversation with Rachel at The Cloisters. He is there spontaneously one day while working through a chance encounter with a friend from another time, Runner Malloy. Neither Fr. Michael nor Rachel realize what that chance encounter would mean to their lives. What is chance, anyway?Rachel’s father was a Medieval scholar and his life’s work was dedicated to bringing back the honor Abelard was denied in his own time. Abelard, a philosophy scholar and monk, was discredited for his relationship to the Jews and Rachel’s father worked his way minutely through Abelard’s writings hoping to reinstate his philosophy with the world. Rachel protected her father’s work with her life and after her conversations with Fr. Michael she trusts her father’s writings to him. Nothing sinister here. No car chases as she tries to get them back. Are you still with me?Heloise and Abelard’s story is one of those immortal love stories and we are told their story interspersed with Rachel and Fr. Michael’s. It is a love story deeply felt. It is also an affirmation of the Jews to their place in history. In their place in philosophical thinking. The thinking in this novel is deep and intense and brain altering. Yet it’s not so much so there is no audience for this story. It’s the most thought provoking novel I’ve read in years. I haven’t forgotten it, I will read it again (and maybe again) and think about it when I’m not reading it. And, in my opinion, that’s just about a perfect novel.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    Religion, Philosophy and RomanceAfter 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 Religion, Philosophy and RomanceAfter 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 garnering him the honor he deserves. Rachael protected her father’s work throughout her own ordeal, now she feels compelled to share it with Father Kavanagh. The novel revolves around the story of Heloise and Abelard, an iconic love story that echoes through the centuries. It is also the story of Rachael and Kavanagh and the struggle to bring the story of the Jews into the rightful place in philosophical thinking, a task that Abelard paid dearly for.This is a beautifully written book. It’s a book to be savored, not read quickly. The love story and the foray into philosophy and religion present much food for thought. The characters are real people struggling with mighty issues. The author did an excellent job of making both the middle ages and the modern era into backgrounds that enhanced the novel. I enjoyed both the romance and the philosophy. It’s a book worth reading more than once. I received this book from Net Galley for this review.
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  • Trin
    January 1, 1970
    A Catholic grapples with "the Jewish question" for 360 pages.OY VEY.Far be it for me to speak for the entirety of the Jewish people, but: as long as you cool it with the murder and the genocide, we don't really give a shit what you think about us. We definitely don't need lengthy, self-back-patting apologia on our behalf. Thanks.I'm am very relieved to be done with this and to now get to read something that, whatever the author's intention, doesn't reference "the Jew" and "the Christ-killers" ab A Catholic grapples with "the Jewish question" for 360 pages.OY VEY.Far be it for me to speak for the entirety of the Jewish people, but: as long as you cool it with the murder and the genocide, we don't really give a shit what you think about us. We definitely don't need lengthy, self-back-patting apologia on our behalf. Thanks.I'm am very relieved to be done with this and to now get to read something that, whatever the author's intention, doesn't reference "the Jew" and "the Christ-killers" about 12 times per page.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    I have not read Carroll for a long time but this came along as a Netgalley ARC and well, I was happy to enter his world again. This time he explores the tale of Heloise and Abelard. Father Michael Kavanaugh and Rachel Vedette meet by chance at the Cloisters. Rachel's story, as a survivor of the Holocaust, is beautifully rendered. This well written novel explores a variety of themes- paralleling 12th century France and the 20th century. It's not a fast read but more a thoughtful and erudite one. I have not read Carroll for a long time but this came along as a Netgalley ARC and well, I was happy to enter his world again. This time he explores the tale of Heloise and Abelard. Father Michael Kavanaugh and Rachel Vedette meet by chance at the Cloisters. Rachel's story, as a survivor of the Holocaust, is beautifully rendered. This well written novel explores a variety of themes- paralleling 12th century France and the 20th century. It's not a fast read but more a thoughtful and erudite one. It's not for everyone but it's got a hopeful message.
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  • Ally
    January 1, 1970
    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.
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  • Wytzia Raspe
    January 1, 1970
    "Abelard and Héloïse? Was he not that guy who got castrated?" That was the first thing that came to mind. And that they had joined a monastery afterwards summed up all I knew.The novel is in fact three stories that intertwine:- The story of Abelard and Héloïse in 12th century France;- The story of Jewish Rachel and her father the professor in and around Paris during the Second World War;- The story of the Father Mike, a priest in New York, of Irish decent who meets Rachel in 1950.This novel is w "Abelard and Héloïse? Was he not that guy who got castrated?" That was the first thing that came to mind. And that they had joined a monastery afterwards summed up all I knew.The novel is in fact three stories that intertwine:- The story of Abelard and Héloïse in 12th century France;- The story of Jewish Rachel and her father the professor in and around Paris during the Second World War;- The story of the Father Mike, a priest in New York, of Irish decent who meets Rachel in 1950.This novel is written by a former Catholic priest who has written a couple of non-fiction books about the history and concepts of Christianity and the relationship of the church with the Jews through history. This book however is a novel but prepare yourself to a lot of debate about theology. I am raised as a protestant but even when you do not know a thing about that religion this book will shake up your braincells. It is no easy read. Philosophy / theology: we see Abelard teaching at university or defending his opinion in front of the bishops. What is important: the intention or the result? Can someone do a bad thing out of good intentions? Had a God who is love according to Jesus really sent his son to earth to die a gruesome death? If the Jewish people were God's beloved people how can Christians kill them?In the meantime we see Father Mike reflect on his job as a priest. He likes his work but he feels alone in the middle of his fellow priests. He also starts to doubt how the church works.When he meets Rachel who feels very guilty about what happened during the war, the questions that Abelard put to his students 800 years prior have to be answered by the two of them to make sure they will find inner peace.Héloïse has the last word in. She did not want to be openly married to Abelard as it would mean the end of his teaching post at the religious institute that university then was. But at the end of her life when she is a famous mother superior of a convent she instructs the nuns to bury her with her wedding ring on her finger for the first time.The title "The cloister", points to a museum in New York where Rachel and Father Mike meet. It is a monastery that was transported from France to the USA by Rockefeller. It is from the same era in which Abelard and Héloïse lived. in.Some original writings by Abelard and Héloïse have survived the centuries. After he was castrated and both lived in their own monastery they kept writing each other letters. In one of them, quoted in the book, she writes that when you have a very close intellectually connection you can be very happy and it will not leave room for other passions. Them must have loved each other very much. (I was given this book for free to read by Netgalley providing I would write a review. Thanks for the opportunity)
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  • Anya Leonard
    January 1, 1970
    In the grand tradition of Kate Mosse, this book juxtaposes the story of Peter Abelard and Heloise with a more contemporary story of Father Kavanagh and Rachel. We meet both of our sets of main characters early on in the story and learn and grow with them through their trials and tribulations. Carroll is careful to paint us a very vivid picture of 12th century France to bring the romantic characters of Abelard and Heloise to life. Admittedly, this story has always held a romantic ideal for me. Th In the grand tradition of Kate Mosse, this book juxtaposes the story of Peter Abelard and Heloise with a more contemporary story of Father Kavanagh and Rachel. We meet both of our sets of main characters early on in the story and learn and grow with them through their trials and tribulations. Carroll is careful to paint us a very vivid picture of 12th century France to bring the romantic characters of Abelard and Heloise to life. Admittedly, this story has always held a romantic ideal for me. The author carefully and creatively weaves a web that draws us in and leads us to the climax of the story. I found myself transported. This book is for anyone who enjoys historical fiction, or romance, or both. I am proud to say I would happily read this novel again, with gusto.
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  • Annarella
    January 1, 1970
    This is a wonderful book and I was hooked since the first pages. I coudn't believe I never read anything by this writer as he is so incredibly good.I am still reading it, savouring every page and trying to make it last as long as possible.Strongly recommended.
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  • Lynn
    January 1, 1970
    Peter Abelard 's reputation down through the centuries had "risen and fallen: initially a heretic, then a scholastic philosopher, then an embryonic Protestant, then a hero of the Enlightenment, then an admired humanist of the Romantic era". He became abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys. Together with Heloise, his student, he was the inventor of modern love. They were the Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere. Abelard is all but unknown to anti-modern Catholic theology.Mike Kava Peter Abelard 's reputation down through the centuries had "risen and fallen: initially a heretic, then a scholastic philosopher, then an embryonic Protestant, then a hero of the Enlightenment, then an admired humanist of the Romantic era". He became abbot of Saint-Gildas de Rhuys. Together with Heloise, his student, he was the inventor of modern love. They were the Romeo and Juliet, Tristan and Isolde, Lancelot and Guinevere. Abelard is all but unknown to anti-modern Catholic theology.Mike Kavanaugh is a modern-day priest in a parish in northern New York City, who wanders into the Cloisters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art one day and becomes acquainted with this most intriguing couple through conversations with a young Jewish woman named Rachel Vedette.This tale touches on anti-Semitism, WWII roundups of Jews by the French Police, the Drancy death camp, the etymology of the word Saracens, monastic corruption during the Middle Ages, Simone Weil, and the distinction between body and soul.This is a wonderful read, especially for Catholics who will be more familiar with the rites and Latin vocabulary. I thoroughly enjoyed it.I read this EARC courtesy of Edelweiss and Random House. Pub date 03/06/18
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  • Amy Gennaro
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 to relate to one another, but the author uses these more modern stories to illustrate the impact of the teachings of Paul Abelard and how the Catholic church ignored them. I have long not understood how the Catholic church has long blamed Jews for the death of Jesus Christ. This will definitely give you insight into how this has been perpetrated through the years. It was extremeley well-written and flowed seemlessly between the stories. I could not put the book down. I heartily recommend this book!
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  • Ioana
    January 1, 1970
    Threading three different stories, the novel presents the story of people who are unable to present their cases clearly, or if they do, they are met with judgment and misunderstanding. The story of World War Two Holocaust when millions of Jews were killed is well known. A victim of this injustice was Rachel Vedette, a French Jew, and her father, a scholar of the Torah. Presenting her story is done as a result of her discussions with Father Michael Kavanagh, a misfit in his group of Catholic prie Threading three different stories, the novel presents the story of people who are unable to present their cases clearly, or if they do, they are met with judgment and misunderstanding. The story of World War Two Holocaust when millions of Jews were killed is well known. A victim of this injustice was Rachel Vedette, a French Jew, and her father, a scholar of the Torah. Presenting her story is done as a result of her discussions with Father Michael Kavanagh, a misfit in his group of Catholic priests. What helps Rachel and Father Michael understand each other and deal with their doubts and struggles is the story of Peter Abelard and Heloise. The texts Abelard wrote and Heloise made sure survived the ages showcase a man who dared to write about what he believed in and thought of, despite the shame and excommunication it brought upon him. Above all, the idea of love, in all the forms people try to see it in, is seen throughout the novel. It's what fuels every discussion and change of direction, whether it’s love for God or love for other people. More than Abelard and Heloise’s, Rachel and Father Michel’s conversation, and relationship, intrigued me. They seemed to play hide and seek, emphasis on seek, during their every encounter. Two people who think of themselves as impostors in their everyday life come face to face with the history of the Jews throughout the centuries and its implications for their personal lives. Two people confined to the self-sufficiency they’ve been used to up to that moment. Two people unable to be honest with each other because of their baggage and out of fear to not say too much or offend. This is what fascinated me.I personally didn't like how some serious social and religious issues were approached. I haven't read anything by Abelard, and my Catholic knowledge is limited, but I sensed that some ideas the author adhered to were far-fetched. It was as if he wanted to tie everything in a nice bow and give his characters a final resolution and clear purpose, doubts-free.I enjoyed the foray into history, the musical and poetic language (which made the reading tedious at times, but I powered through) I was exposed to, and the attempt to show how apparently small and insignificant deeds of the 12th century carry weight well into our time.Despite the heavy topic and at times slow paced reading, it was a good book, certainly appealing to history buffs. I received a free e-book copy from the publisher via Net Galley. All thoughts expressed here are my own.
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  • Jo Dervan
    January 1, 1970
    Father Michael Kavanagh stepped into the Cloisters, a medieval museum composed of parts of former cloisters brought from Europe by John D. Rockefeller.Jr. The museum was near his blue collar Catholic parish in upper New York City. However the priest had never been inside the museum. While there, he met Rachel Vedette, a Jewish docent who has survived the Holocaust in her native France. The two struck up an uneasy friendship and cemented it with the information of her late father’s study of the w Father Michael Kavanagh stepped into the Cloisters, a medieval museum composed of parts of former cloisters brought from Europe by John D. Rockefeller.Jr. The museum was near his blue collar Catholic parish in upper New York City. However the priest had never been inside the museum. While there, he met Rachel Vedette, a Jewish docent who has survived the Holocaust in her native France. The two struck up an uneasy friendship and cemented it with the information of her late father’s study of the writings of Peter Abelard. Most people know Abelard as the medieval monk who engaged in a torrid affair with the beautiful Heloise. They also know of the savage castration that Abelard suffered when news of the liaison became known. Heloise went on to become a nun and eventually an Abbess of an important Priory. Abelard was disgraced and basically banished to a minor abbey far from Paris. Both Kavanagh and Rachel had secrets and eventually revealed them to each other. The book, a historical fiction story, alternates between mid 20th century NYC and medieval France. We learn why Abelard’s teachings were so dangerous that other contemporary theologians sought to have them banished by the Catholic Church. This is an interesting story as it exposes the story behind the romantic tale of Abelard and Heloise Nd their forbidden love.
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  • Nancy
    January 1, 1970
    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, 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, or not. I have been aware of the storied love affair of Abelard and Heloise for years, but never knew more than the one-sentence summary of their relationship. Their story drew me to the book, but the contemporary story that also was central to the novel was equally compelling.I love the intellectual cattle prod that accompanies a reading of this book and am grateful to NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary copy (in exchange for an honest review). This book was difficult for me to read because of the suffering imposed on the characters, but it will remain with me for a long time and will remain one of the most interesting books I've read this year.
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  • Ilona
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 me see the church in a new light.Carroll smartly intertwines the different characters and timelines, but thereby leaves me with the feeling that all the separate stories feel incomplete and unfinished. It took me quite a while to get into the story, which is sporadically difficult to understand with limited knowledge of theology and old catholic texts at hand. 3.5 starsThanks to NetGalley and Doubleday Books for an advanced reading copy in exchange for an honest review. The Cloister by James Carroll will be published on March 6, 2018
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  • Aliceconlon
    January 1, 1970
    I am finding it hard to write a review of The Cloister, a book rich in retelling the love story of Abelard and Heloise, the writings of Abelard on personal conscience and the place of Jews in Christian history, the atrocities towards Jews in Germany in WWII, and the Catholic Church's homophobia and cover ups to protect priests and the Church itself in the 1940s and 50s. The richness of detail of life in clerical, medieval France contasts with the sordidness of Nazi atrocities; the unremarkable d I am finding it hard to write a review of The Cloister, a book rich in retelling the love story of Abelard and Heloise, the writings of Abelard on personal conscience and the place of Jews in Christian history, the atrocities towards Jews in Germany in WWII, and the Catholic Church's homophobia and cover ups to protect priests and the Church itself in the 1940s and 50s. The richness of detail of life in clerical, medieval France contasts with the sordidness of Nazi atrocities; the unremarkable duties of a popular young priest in Manhattan contrasts with the grandiose trappings of those farther up in Church hierarchy. Carroll ties together the threads which seemed so disparite to me in the first third of the book. An interesting read, especially during Lent.
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  • Liz Gray
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 threads poke through from one side to the other, and the two different time periods have much more in common than one would expect. Thoroughly researched and beautifully written.
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  • Jack Laschenski
    January 1, 1970
    Carroll, the author of Constantine's Sword, continues his task of proving over and over again that the root and branch cause of all the world's anti-semitism is the evil teaching of the Catholic church.For 2000 years that church has been the cause of the murders of millions (billions) of jewish people.And it goes on today (See Austria and France).This time in a novel with curiously intertwined stories of priest, a holocaust survivor, and Abelard and Heloise!
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  • Patricia
    January 1, 1970
    In this novel two strands of history - the story of Heloise and Abelard from the Middle ages and the story of Father Kavanaugh, a priest in early post war New York - are woven together in a thought provoking and compelling manner. One setting is at The Cloister in NYC, a place I have visited, which always adds to my enjoyment of a book. A good read!
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  • Joanne Tallefson
    January 1, 1970
    How philosophy can misinterpret realityA very thoughtful comparison of how the early Christian theology and persecution of Muslims and Jews was comparable to Nazi persecution of the Jews and current anti Semitism --as well as a touching love story.
  • Julie Barnard
    January 1, 1970
    I really liked the first half of this book, and especially I liked the parts about Abelard and Heloise. But as it went on it got a little tedious. So not my favorite book of the year, but probably still worth reading.
  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    Breathtakingly tedious - glad to return it to the library.
  • Pam
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this book tremendously. I found it very thought provoking and faith-affirming. I may buy this book just so I can reread some parts.. particularly the Christmas homily.
  • Chanie
    January 1, 1970
    Another novel where I loved the concept but found the writing tedious.
  • Karla Mcmaster
    January 1, 1970
    Powerfully written. Interesting information about Heloise and Abelard and Christian history. Makes me want to explore more.
  • Kaeeap
    January 1, 1970
    Rachel Vedette, Father Kavanaugh, Runner Malloy Abelard & Heloise
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