In 2014 Mandy Hager was awarded one of New Zealand’s premier literary honours, the Katherine Mansfield Menton Fellowship, which enabled her to spend five and a half months in the south of France researching the life of 12th century Benedictine nun Heloise d’Argenteuil, known since the 15th century for her passionate letters to her lover and husband, the religious philosopher Peter Abélard. The result is her latest book, Heloise.
What happens when the 12th century's most famous French 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.
Heloise is now available through Penguin books