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  • Published: 15 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143771005
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384


An absorbing adult novel from this much-loved writer of YA fiction.

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.

  • Published: 15 May 2017
  • ISBN: 9780143771005
  • Imprint: Penguin eBooks
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 384

About the author

Mandy Hager

Mandy Hager has been awarded the Katherine Mansfield Menton fellowship for 2014, and she was the 2012 recipient of the New Zealand Society of Authors Beatson Fellowship. She won the Esther Glen Award for Fiction for her YA novel Smashed and Best Young Adult Book in the NZ Post Book Awards 2010 for The Crossing. The Nature of Ash won the LIANZA YA Fiction Award in 2013 and was shortlisted for the 2013 NZ Post Children's Book Awards. In 2015 her novel Singing Home the Whale was awarded a Storylines Notable Book Award; was a finalist for the LIANZA YA Fiction award; it won the YA category of the New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults; and was named the 2015 Margaret Mahy Book of the Year. Singing Home the Whale was described by the judges as a novel that "should be compulsory reading in any country that still hunts whales." Her adult novel, Heloise, was longlisted for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards in 2018. In 2019 she was awarded the prestigious Storylines Margaret Mahy Medal.

Hager has an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University and an Advanced Diploma in Applied Arts (Writing) from Whitireia Community Polytechnic, where she now works as a tutor and mentor. She lives with her partner on the Kapiti Coast.

She has written novels for adults and young adults, short stories, scripts, and non-fiction resources for young people.

See more at www.mandyhager.com, and on her Facebook pages for the Blood of the Lamb trilogy and for The Nature of Ash.

Internationally acclaimed writer Margaret Mahy proclaimed The Crossing as being like ‘1984 for teenagers — direct, passionate and powerful’, while in the Otago Daily Times children’s writer and reviewer Tania Roxborogh similarly drew comparisons between this ‘important book’ and other literary classics, declaring it ‘utterly compelling . . . very much in the vein of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale or Lowry’s The Giver’. The New Zealand Listener identified The Crossing as ‘classic young adult fiction’, describing it as ‘fast-paced, moving and the personal is always political . . . . tracking the journey from childhood to adulthood . . . [with] an authentic, fully realised sense of place’. The second title in the Blood of the Lamb trilogy, Into the Wilderness, was described by the Listener as a ‘sustained, gripping piece of writing, a visceral battle against the elements’. The trilogy concluded with the ‘gripping, futuristic’Resurrection.

Stand-alone thriller The Nature of Ash received a glowing review from Zac Harding of Christchurch City Library: ‘Mandy Hager has set a new standard in thrilling, action-packed stories for NZ teens with her new book, The Nature of Ash, and I’ll say it can proudly stand alongside these international, best-selling dystopian thrillers . . . The Nature of Ash is an exciting, explosive, action-packed thriller that had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish . . . Ash is one of the most authentic male teen characters in New Zealand fiction. ’

Graham Beattie on Beattie’s Blog, concurred: ‘It is not often you would describe a YA novel as a blockbuster but in this case it is totally appropriate . . . This 364-page totally gripping Wellington-set thriller has been getting rave reviews around the country and now having read the story myself I am not at all surprised. Action-packed, fast-paced stuff . . . Watch out for it in next year’s book awards. ’

Pip Cole in Tearaway declared herself ‘enthralled’, while Diane McCarthy commended the real, contemporary settings of this ‘political . . . futuristic’ novel, saying they gave ‘some real grit and realism’. She praised Hager for being ‘very brave’ — ‘I don’t know of many authors who write political thrillers for teens. ’

The Saturday Express saw The Nature of Ash as having wider appeal than the average teen novel, ‘part coming-of-age novel, part future warning of where we could end up, politically and socially’. The reviewer noted the ‘strong underlying themes of accepting those who are different, standing up for what you believe is important, and self-acceptance’, concluding ‘Hager could well be New Zealand’s answer to Aussie writer John Marsden’.

Also by Mandy Hager

See all

Praise for Heloise

Read the novel and see how Hager interrogates and humanises this epistolary tale and intelligently imagines many of the inevitable gaps. . . . It is a deeply psychological re-reading and plausible interpretation of a body of correspondence and its times. . . . Hager demonstrates that Héloïse’s letters contribute to one of the earliest, most radical feminist philosophies of the 12th century (illuming the price involved), one which is still relevant today. In an era awash with text messages and twitterings about what we had for breakfast, Heloise is invigorating and invites us to consider the fabric of communication.

Cassandra Fusco, Takahe

This is the thoughtful person’s historical romance, as intent upon exploring the ideological, intellectual context of these people’s lives as it is on bodice ripping, although rest assured there is a good amount of that, too. Most importantly, Hager both reflects and creates anew this extraordinary woman of so long ago. . . it’s the ideas with which Heloise passionately engaged – her faith; her sense that the word of God is very different to the laws and hierarchies of the then all-powerful church; her horror at the treatment of women; and her grappling with what it means to truly love someone even under the most impossible circumstances – that are the engine around which Hager’s Heloise turns. This is also a novel of language. Don’t expect to rush through it, as you might a lightly told love story. Hager is in thrall to the lovers’ language – miraculously preserved in their own writings and letters – and to the classical literature that was the foundation of their intellects. . . I loved Heloise and was enriched by it.

Margie Thomson, Sunday Star-Times

I feel like I've had this door into the twelfth century just flung open and it's just a very, very, very good book. She's such a good writer. So it's gripping from the start.

Elisabeth Easther, Radio NZ

Mandy Hager has written the life story of Heloise as a novel and it is a tremendous achievement. Traumatic, hopeless, tender and hopeful in the telling, the story weaves its way through the shifting politics of state and church in medieval society. . . . Heloise is a body of work by a brilliant writer who has picked through, dug out, put back together and carefully brushed off the intellectual and historical intricacies of this famous medieval relationship. The achievement is a treasure. The reader is given access to a 12th-century world in which the central characters have been so carefully brought to life. This is the romance I’ve wanted to read since seeing the concrete forms of Abelard and Heloise in a graveyard in Paris and it’s the history I’ve wanted to be immersed in since discovering that Heloise, in her own right, is a woman to inspire every one of us today.

Claire Mabey, Metro

Hager has fleshed out the familiar parts of the story with prodigious research, including some intriguing byways of church history and skulduggery, and created an immersive read that grips our attention

Paul Little, North & South

. . . a determined and commendable attempt to imagine the kind of life Heloise would have experienced. She has obviously researched the material thoroughly, and her solid background of writing for young adults has been good preparation. It is a huge canvas that Hager has chosen to work on. She has done a remarkable job of re-creating the atmosphere, conventions and flavour of the time.

Stef Clark, Gisborne Herald

what this novel does do brilliantly is show how Heloise was punished for her passion, and for being beautiful and brilliant at a time when women were mostly powerless. It is a story to provoke indignation and heartbreak. For history lovers, it’s a treat and will make you want to read much more about the 12th century.

Nicky Pellegrino, NZ Woman's Weekly

Selected as one of the '100 Best Books of 2017'.

Russell Baillie, NZ Listener

In Heloise, Mandy Hager produced a unique, insightful and skilfully written take on the story of Benedictine nun Heloise d'Argenteuil and her lover and, later, husband, the theologian and philosopher Peter Abelard.

Dionne Christian, Weekend Herlad

an absorbing tale which draws readers into Heloise and Abelard's world

Dionne Christian, Weekend Herald

Hager has, impressively, studied a wealth of primary and secondary texts in order to reconstruct Heloise's mental and emotional development.

Kathryn Walls, NZ Books

Awards & recognition

Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

Longlisted  •  2018  •  Ockham