This is a biography about Peter Abelard, a famous philosopher, teacher and later monk during the 1100's in France; and Heloise, famous in her own right as a well-educated intellectual, and their love affair. The book covers a lot of history of that time period, such as the social and political climate, what monastic life was like and who governed the monasteries, that philosophy was an important subject at the time (just like the Greek philosophers), and that there was a reformation of the monasteries going on that urged celibacy for monks (many had concubines and families, even if they were not married) and tried to exclude women/nuns from the monasteries.
Abelard believed in logic and often applied it to religious doctrine. He wrote a lot of books in his lifetime, some that were hotly debated. He had an arrogant manner, being so sure that he was always right in his thinking, and was oblivious to the feelings of others around him. He often made people look bad and made a lot of enemies. He brought trouble on himself for this very reason. He personally reminds me of Socrates, the way he irritated and pushed people and was arrogant.
Heloise was very sweet and well-respected in her early twenties that could "hold her own" with Abelard in discussions of philosophy and other subjects. She lived with her uncle and Abelard, who was 36 at the time, came to live there as a lodger while master of the school of Notre Dame. He was her private instructor while there and this is when the love affair began, in secret of course.
Eventually Heloise became pregnant and their love affair was discovered. They married on the uncle's insistance but in secret because Abelard, though not a monk, was part of a religious vocation and being married would be considered wrong and ruin his career. They lived apart, Heloise continuing to live at her uncle's. Abelard feared she was being physically abused by her uncle so he moved her to his family home in Brittany. The uncle became enraged (he was known for his temper and rages) and in a vengeful act had some thugs castrate Abelard in the middle of the night.
Heloise had a baby boy, which they named Astrolabe. She and Abelard lived apart for the rest of their lives. Abelard became abbott of various monastaries, even starting his own called Paraclete. He had Heloise join a convent, though against her wishes-she was only obeying him, her husband. She eventually became an abbess.
The book is sort of a tragedy in terms of the love affair because they do not get to stay together, though Heloise loved Abelard unfailingly for the rest of her life. The book is definitely not a "quick read". It covers a lot of material but it is written in an easily readible style. It is excellent for its subject matter and I highly recommend it.
The greatest love story in history! This book is very touching and heartwarming! You will feel this one at the very bottom of your heart. Tragic love story of two very devoted lovers.