FAREWELL, MY ONLY ONE
Audouard resurrects the medieval love story of Heloïse and Abelard in this Goncourt Prize–nominated novel, retelling it in the voice of a clever young student named William who travels from Oxford to Paris in 1116. Soon after his arrival, William is shaken by a vision of the ethereal, brilliant young Heloïse, "man's dream and man's fear." Then he attends a lesson given by the great philosopher Peter Abelard, falling under the spell of Abelard's skepticism and rational approach to theology. Heloïse, too, attends Abelard's lectures, and eventually Abelard initiates a fiery love affair with her. In his solitude, William begins to live his life through them, out of love for his two closest friends mingled with a not-so-subtle trace of voyeurism. Brutal punishment looms for the lovers, and when it comes, they turn to God for solace, exchanging their famous letters and discovering a world that extends beyond words and beyond the material world. Though slow in places, this is an elegantly written novel, refreshing in its bawdy portrayal of religious figures and intellectually stimulating in its rigorous treatment of the theological discourse of the time. Agent, Susanna Lea Assoc. (Aug. 6)
Forecast: This isn't The Rule of Four, but those who can't get enough of Renaissance riddles may enjoy a plunge further back in time, and an invitation to ponder even loftier mysteries.