“James Carroll is an elegiac artist, a writer of great inclusiveness and tender sensibility.”



This novel begins and the story, both past and present revolves around The Cloister Museum in upper Manhattan.

It begins as the story of Father Michael Kavangh, a parish priest who one morning while serving communion see’s an old friend who he knew from his days at the seminary. But when he approaches his old friend to give him the Sacrament, his friend refuses to receive it and abruptly leaves the church.

When Michael tries to follow him outside, he ends up at the Cloisters Museum where he meets Rachel Vadette, a Jewish woman who works at museum. This is where our story will begin to unfold.

The story will bring us back to the Middle Ages where Peter Abelard, a priest who is also a master theologian is championing a major departure in Catholic belief as it refers to its relations with the Jews. The story of Peter and Heloise, a noblewoman, will be the catapult to the rest of the novel. We will learn of Rachel’s backstory, how she helped take care of her father during the holocaust in Paris. Saul Vadette has discovered the teachings of Peter Abelard and he wants to present them to the world, especially in light of what is happening in Europe with the Nazi persecution of the Jewish race.

The story flips between the three different eras, and we begin to see the parallel that is beginning to grow between the lives of Peter and Heloise, and Michael and Rachel. The story is well written, but at times, the extensive Theology written about in the story tended to slow the book down. At 360 pages it could have been a little shorter.

The Middle age and Holocaust parts of the book make it a very interesting read. Just prepare yourself for a theology lesson.


Reviewed by:

Richard Franco

Added 22nd May 2018

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Richard Franco