Peter Abelard: A Novel

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Holt, 1947 - France - 277 pages
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A love story that remains fresh and exciting to people for eight hundred years does not need a factual introduction. But when, after all those years, a writer retells that story in such a way that all the elements seem suddenly to fuse into the "great" telling, special horns ought to be blown. That happened in Helen Waddell's novel Peter Abelard, in which the lovely and terrible history of this pair of lovers -- Heloise and Abelard -- is lifted from the distant past and displayed, living and passionate still, before our modern eyes. The story has been told so many times before that nearly everyone is familiar with its elements -- the famous Catholic scholar, Abelard, and the convent-bred girl, Heloise -- their deep and tragic fleshly love and their deep and triumphant spiritual passion. The time is the early 12th century; the place, Paris. Abelard, the mightiest scholar of the age in Europe. had lived to his late thirties, fastidious and chaste. Then at thirty-seven he was engaged to tutor Heloise, a girl of seventeen and the niece of the elderly Canon of Notre Dame. In Miss Waddell's own words, "No opportunity was wanting; the same trance fell on the quiet house in the Rue des Chantres as on the ship becalmed off the Cornish coast: and the two drank together a cup as fatal as the love-draught of Tristan and Isolde." This is timeless romance; the writing is of a quality rarely found, and the whole is a most moving book. It was a Literary Guild selection when it was first published, and with this reissue, Thomas Surgrue was prompted to call Peter Abelard the most exciting of the 5,000 new titles scheduled for publicaton during 1947.

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