Love Without End by Melvyn Bragg

This is a radiant story about the tragic love affair between the revolutionary philosopher Peter Abelard and the beautiful and clever Heloise.  Bragg is, surprisingly, better at bringing Heloise's radical and defiant character to life than Abelard's until the end of the book when Abelard becomes more understandable.  This may be because Abelard appears to today's readers as extremely domineering and self-centred to Heloise.

Bragg deals with this to some extent by making the story a novel within a novel.  He combines the love story with a modern-day tale of the father who is writing it telling his daughter about it, and discussing it with her. This gives it ballast and helps explain medieval religious views and attitudes. I didn't find the characters of the father and daughter as convincing as those of Abelard and Heloise, although their story is quite moving.

I always like Melvyn Bragg's books and this made me want to read more about Abelard and Heloise. The only part that I was upset with was his suggesting that Abelard's arch-enemy William of Champeaux had any part in his castration. There is no evidence for that.

I received this free ebook from Edelweiss in return for an honest review.


Hels said…
My name Helen was always translated to Heloise in French classes and then on the internet. So from the very beginning I was very aware of the Heloise-Abelard story. Yes they fell in love and had a son, and married. But from there on, the events were very unclear! To avoid her uncle Fulbert, Heloise moved into the convent of Argenteuil while Abelard suffered castration at her uncle's order. Poor Abelard .. he too entered the monastic life at the royal abbey of Saint-Denis.

Now I wonder if a novel, even a great novel, can be more definitive.

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