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.
    more
  • Lisa
    January 1, 1970
    The Cloister is a rich and demanding reading experience. Carroll skillfully weaves together three narratives from three historical settings-1950 New York City, Nazi-occupied Paris and medieval France. I found the novel quite engrossing - but because all the characters are grappling with religion and ideas, it demands concentration. Father Michael Kavanagh and Rachel Vedette both find solace in the writings of Peter Abelard and Heloise, whose love story is one of the narratives. These writings an The Cloister is a rich and demanding reading experience. Carroll skillfully weaves together three narratives from three historical settings-1950 New York City, Nazi-occupied Paris and medieval France. I found the novel quite engrossing - but because all the characters are grappling with religion and ideas, it demands concentration. Father Michael Kavanagh and Rachel Vedette both find solace in the writings of Peter Abelard and Heloise, whose love story is one of the narratives. These writings and Kavanagh's conversations with Rachel, help him finally face the history of anti-semitism in the Church and the Church's complicity in the Holocaust. For Rachel, they are a way to hold on to her father, a scholar who studied Abelard, who was killed by a Nazi.I really appreciate when a novel sends me off to learn more - and this one certainly did! I have already read a few of the letters of Peter Abelard and Heloise and am finding their story fascinating. My only criticism is that occasionally the novel felt like a vehicle for Carroll's message about religion and morality. But overall he pulled it off - beautifully.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • J.S. Dunn
    January 1, 1970
    As another reviewer said, Breathtakingly tedious. Gave it a 3 only because of the depth of research but the multiple settings do not work.
  • 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.
    more
  • 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!
    more
  • Jodi Patel
    January 1, 1970
    Might I suggest not using a publisher as a therapist?
  • Charlene
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 struck by Abelard's views which condemn Catholicism's "condemnation" of Jews at "Christ-killers" which "influenced" Hitler. I put some terms above in quotation marks, since this book is a work of fiction, and I do not have the qualifications to assess the full story as author James Carroll tells it. I know a little about these topics, maybe more than a little about some, but I still consider myself unable (and somewhat unwilling) to try to separate fact-from-fiction from authorial-intent in my reading and thoughts about the novel. I will say, as story, it is very gripping and does present at least the bare outlines of what happened in history.I also know that (in 1980s) I did study the "predominant" medieval-to-modern view about the Atonement in college: Anselm's Cur Deus Homo was required reading [propitiation]. I learned only a little about Abelard and Heloise, and did not have exposure to much other than their relationship and his brutal treatment (by Bernard of Clairveaux and the pope). What I personally will say is that I find Carroll's presentation of Abelard's God-is-Love-exclusively (therefore, no Atonement necessary) to be something I would question, if Abelard was truly the great thinker, scholar of Scripture -- as he is presented in this book -- since other points met in both Hebrew and Christian canons are omitted. I was intrigued by this book; I saw in it what may be a more competitive contemporary view of God's relationship to all people than what passed as Christian in the Middle Ages or in the mid-1950s. [The Cloister was copyrighted in 2017]. Having said this, I did find the story to be very interesting reading. I would like to learn more about Abelard and Heloise! I knew their son was named Astrolabe!
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Sherri
    January 1, 1970
    This is a good introduction to Abelard and Heloise, beyond the romance. Their story runs parallel to the tentative friendship of Father Michael and Rachel, a museum tour guide and Holocaust survivor. Both carry burdens from loss, regret and secrets. There is much history, theology and philosophy in both stories, it will challenge the reader's notions of what they think and why, it may upset some readers and give vindication to others. Some knowledge of pre- Vatican II Catholicism helps too. A lo This is a good introduction to Abelard and Heloise, beyond the romance. Their story runs parallel to the tentative friendship of Father Michael and Rachel, a museum tour guide and Holocaust survivor. Both carry burdens from loss, regret and secrets. There is much history, theology and philosophy in both stories, it will challenge the reader's notions of what they think and why, it may upset some readers and give vindication to others. Some knowledge of pre- Vatican II Catholicism helps too. A lot of thought and research went into this. Among other things I learned about thralls, illegitimate Church slaves. The ending gives resolution, not a perfect happy ending but a sense of peace, relief and even absolution.
    more
  • Tucker
    January 1, 1970
    Focuses mainly on Abelard's theological iconoclasm in defense of Christ's salvation extended to Jews, his romance with his student, and the resistance he met from the Catholic church for both of those things. Half of the story is set in the 20th century, as the question of the Abelard's attitude toward Jews is resurrected in the fictional unpublished manuscript Abélard et Israël by a fictional Jewish scholar during the Holocaust. Language about Abelard's castration is discussed on Disruptive Dis Focuses mainly on Abelard's theological iconoclasm in defense of Christ's salvation extended to Jews, his romance with his student, and the resistance he met from the Catholic church for both of those things. Half of the story is set in the 20th century, as the question of the Abelard's attitude toward Jews is resurrected in the fictional unpublished manuscript Abélard et Israël by a fictional Jewish scholar during the Holocaust. Language about Abelard's castration is discussed on Disruptive Dissertation.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Evi
    January 1, 1970
    It was a promising read to begin with, but I had to give it up after 2/3 of the way through. Life is too short to struggle with a cumbersome book when there are so many good books waiting to be read.
  • Lisa Bernstein
    January 1, 1970
    This novel moves back and forth in time between the twelfth century France, France in 1942, and New York in 1950. The characters are all compelling and believable. The plot explores the themes of faith and reason, and different kinds of love (eros, agape, caritas) and how these are experienced by the characters as well as how they influence theology and history. Dense at times, both with description and some Latin and French (always either translated or understandable by context) this book is hi This novel moves back and forth in time between the twelfth century France, France in 1942, and New York in 1950. The characters are all compelling and believable. The plot explores the themes of faith and reason, and different kinds of love (eros, agape, caritas) and how these are experienced by the characters as well as how they influence theology and history. Dense at times, both with description and some Latin and French (always either translated or understandable by context) this book is highly rewarding and thought-provoking. I recommend it!
    more
  • 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)
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • 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.
    more
  • Anne
    January 1, 1970
    Breathtakingly tedious - glad to return it to the library.
  • 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.
    more
  • Drick
    January 1, 1970
    This book contains four stories woven into one in a masterful way. The central story is a love story between 12th century monk Peter Abelard and his young student Heloise. Abelard is castrated for his violation of his vow of celibacy yet remains a master teacher often opposed by the zealous "white monk" Bernard of Clairveaux. Heloise remains the open secret lover of Abelard who joins the convent and becomes an Abbess. She and Peter remain close. But in addition to their illicit love affair is Ab This book contains four stories woven into one in a masterful way. The central story is a love story between 12th century monk Peter Abelard and his young student Heloise. Abelard is castrated for his violation of his vow of celibacy yet remains a master teacher often opposed by the zealous "white monk" Bernard of Clairveaux. Heloise remains the open secret lover of Abelard who joins the convent and becomes an Abbess. She and Peter remain close. But in addition to their illicit love affair is Abelard and Heloise insistence that Jews are not outside the love and salvation of God, something the medeival Church openly and violently opposed. Abelard is eventually condemned for this "sin" among many others.The Second story is the relationships between Holocaust survivor RAchel Vedette and Father Michael Cavanaugh who have a chance meeting in the Cloisters, a museum built by the Rockefellers to mimic a Medieval Cloister. Both of them in their own way are seeking to come to terms with their painful pasts and become each other's foil and listening earThe Third story is Rachel Vedette's relationship with her father who was a Talmudic scholar who sought to show that Abelard was a true friend of the Jews and part of the Catholic tradition that in the 1940's fed by Hitler's anti-Semitism continues despise and persecute the Jews. Rachel's story tragically ends as her father is taken away and killed in the death camp, while she looks on hopelessly and powerlessThe final story is Michael Cavanaugh's relationship to his school friend John "Runner" Malloy who was suddenly and secretly expelled from their Catholic school where they were studying for the priesthood and were best of friends. "Runner" mysteriously reappears, they reconnect and Cavanaugh learns the tragic truth of Runner's dismissal and the lie that hide behinds it.While seemingly disparate stories what holds them all together is a little-known book of letters between Abelard and Heloise that speak of the power of human love, and raise all sorts of questions about Church history and its horrid account of anti-Jewish persecution. Carroll is telling more than a story, he is making a point of the sins of the Church and what it means to be a believer when the institution representing God is built on lies and falsehoods.
    more
  • Fran Hawthorne
    January 1, 1970
    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 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 heretic by the Catholic Church, not for his romance, but for challenging conventional teaching about the "guilt" of the Jews. In "The Cloister," Carroll -- a former ordained priest and the award-winning author of 19 previous books -- interweaves the tale of Abelard and Heloise with an almost-parallel narrative, set in Manhattan just after World War Two. An Irish-American priest, Father Michael Kavanagh, begins to have increasing doubts about his faith, as he learns about a cover-up of pedophilia at his seminary. He also, gradually, befriends a young, emotionally frozen French-Jewish refugee, Rachel Vedette, who is guilt-ridden because she feels that she betrayed her father, Saul.Too coincidentally, Saul Vedette was an Abelard scholar who was focusing on the monk's research about the Jews.In truth, scholars dispute whether Abelard was such a champion against anti-Semitism. And the Heloise-Abelard romance in this novel can become a bit cloying. But the characters of Kavanagh and Vedette are richly defined; the plot twists are surprising; and Carroll deserves credit for exploring these important, and sadly ongoing, issues of religious agony.
    more
  • Rick
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book so much that I finished it in five days! This story comes at a particularly apt time to read a thoughtful novel about standing up to political and religious intimidation, when we are beset with a rise in hate crimes against any multitude of minority groups."From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Héloïse, and its impact on a modern priest and a Holocaust survivor seeking sanctuary in Manhattan.Father Mi I loved this book so much that I finished it in five days! This story comes at a particularly apt time to read a thoughtful novel about standing up to political and religious intimidation, when we are beset with a rise in hate crimes against any multitude of minority groups."From National Book Award-winning writer James Carroll comes a novel of the timeless love story of Peter Abelard and Héloïse, 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 Héloïse. 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." (Amazon.com)
    more
Write a review