What happens when the 12th century’s most famous lovers are caught in the crossfire of factions, religious reform and blind ambition?
Heloise is a determined young woman with an exceptional mind, longing to pursue learning rather than marriage or life as a cloistered nun. Her path inevitably crosses with Peter Abelard, the celebrity philosopher, theologian and master at Paris’ famed Cathedral School.
When two such brilliant minds meet and engage, sparks are likely to ignite. But theirs is an impossible love. This is a time when the Gregorian Reforms are starting to bite and celibacy among the clergy and church officials is being rigorously imposed.
Based on meticulous up-to-date research and the pair’s own writings, this novel offers a plausible interpretation of the known facts and a vivid imagining of the gaps in this legendary story. It shines a light on a changing world whose attitudes and politics are not so very different from our own.
Published by Penguin NZ in May 2017, Heloise tells the story of Heloise d’Argenteuil, famed lover of 12th century French philosopher Peter Abelard.
You can find out more about the background to the writing of the book here
And here’s a wonderful review from The Listener 3.6.16
A lovely review in the Sunday Star Times 18.6.17
And from a fabulous review by Claire Mabey in Metro magazine (thank you Claire!):
…Mandy Hager has written the life story of Heloise as a novel and it is a tremendous achievement. Traumatic, hopeless, tender and hopeful in the telling, the story weaves its way through the shifting politics of state and church in medieval society
… Her encounter with Abelard is near-immediate, intense, and at times shocking. The pair spar and fire each other’s wits with one-on-one lessons and letter-writing exercises and Hager’s meticulous research and deft layering of circumstance underscore the story with a constant hum or threat and intrigue.
… In Heloise, Mandy Hager has delivered to us much more than the re-imagining of a famous love story. Flick to the back of the book and you will find appendices, with a list of historical figures and places, a list of main sources, a list of books from which the author was given permission to quote extracts, and endnotes.
Heloise is a body of work by a brilliant writer who has picked through, dug out, put back together and carefully brushed off the intellectual and historical intricacies of this famous medieval relationship.
The achievement is a treasure. The reader is given access to a 12th century world in which the central characters have been so carefully brought to life.
This is the romance I’ve wanted to read since seeing the concrete forms of Abelard and Heloise in a graveyards in Paris and it’s a history I’ve wanted to be immersed in since discovering that Heloise, in her own right, is a woman to inspire every one of us today.
You can also listen to an interview on Radio New Zealand’s Standing Room Only (4.6.17)
And here’s a nice review on National Radio’s Nine to Noon: