Letters To Romeo Novel
Letters To Romeo Novel – 113 lost love letters between Heloze d’Argenteuil and Pierre Abelard—the first description of a 12th-century love story since the discovery of the original Romeo and Juliet.
“It never leaves me when I sleep, and I see it when I wake up, as soon as I open my eyes, even before daylight.” – Abelard to Heloise
Letters To Romeo Novel
Among the young women of twelfth-century Paris, Heloise d’Argenteuil stands out. Highly educated and quick-witted, she is being bullied by her uncle to be fierce in the service of God.
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But one day her fate changes forever. Pierre Abelard, headmaster of the Cloister School of Notre Dame, is hailed as one of France’s greatest philosophers. His controversial reputation only adds to his allure, yet while legions of women shy away from his poetry and swagger, he’s only charmed by the brilliant Helozie. As their relationship blossoms from a meeting of the minds into a forbidden romance, both Heloise and Abelard must choose between love, duty and ambition.
Sherry Jones weaves the lovers’ words into a poignant account of passion and sacrifice. As sensual as it is sensual, as beautiful as the destroyer, Love’s Sharp Hook is as poignant as it is about one of history’s greatest love stories, a love of compassion and the power to transform and endure.
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This Sharp Hook of Love reading group guide includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for growing your book club. The suggested questions are meant to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope these ideas enrich your discussion and add to your enjoyment of the book.
Sharpe’s hook retells the story of Heloise and Abelard, the twelfth-century Parisian lovers. Incorporating beautiful language from real couples’ letters to each other, the novel follows their love story as it blossoms from a meeting of the minds into a forbidden romance. Separated by family, friends and society, united in love, Heloise and Abelard learn what it means to truly sacrifice life for the one you love. A flash of lust, as destructive as it is beautiful, Love’s Sharp Hook teaches readers that true love can never be thwarted.
1. “Below the heart, nothing controls—it has no power to command, so we are compelled to obey,” wrote the historian Heloise in a letter to Abelard. This quote is used by the author as an epigraph to the novel, and as such, it shapes the story that follows about control—or the lack of it. Who or what is in control in love’s sharp hook? Who or what is out of control? Have any characters successfully disobeyed their hearts?
2. The narrator, Heloz, begins her story by saying, “I was born in silence” (ix). How does this statement serve as a symbol for what happens in the novel? In addition to living a closed life, how is Heloise literally and/or figuratively silenced?
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3. The idea of going home or making a home is a central motif in the novel. For Heloise, the thought of “home” is not one of comfort, but of fear and loneliness. That is, until you meet Abelard. What does the idea of ”home” mean to each character in the story? Do you think Heloise and Abelard got home? Why or why not?
4. Discuss the role of women in Love Sharp’s Hook. How did the role of women in 12th century Paris differ from today? How are they similar? How did Heloz break the stereotypes of women in her time?
5. Does Heloise’s Uncle Fulbert have any redeeming qualities or is he pure evil? Do you think his motives for Heloise are heartless or self-serving? Could his purpose be both?
6. Revisit the scene from page 44 when Heloise almost drowns in the Seine. Do you think this moment will serve as a turning point for their relationship, swinging it in the direction of a full relationship? Why do you think this particular moment allows Heloise to trust Abelard? Do you think Heloise would have lost her temper without this experience? Why or why not?
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7. Do you agree that not being able to escape fate can be a romantic theme in Sharpe’s hook? Will all the characters meet their destiny? Consider Heloise, Abelard, Uncle Fulbert, Jean and Agnes in your response.
8. On page 113, Heloise and Abelard consummate their love for each other as Abelard sleeps with Heloise, “filling her with her breath.” How does Abelard, who is said to have breathed life into Heloise, show his kiss to Heloise on his deathbed? What symbolism can you draw from the act of filling another with your breath? Explore this scene in relation to the idioms “kiss of death” and “breath of life.”
9. In what ways are the characters in the novel motivated by self-interest? Do you think it’s fair to label all characters as selfish to some degree? Who might be the most selfish and why? Who could be the youngest?
10. “I pray that one day you will understand” (ix). These last words to Heloise by her mother echo throughout the novel, haunting Heloise. Did Heloz understand as much as her mother thought? What does Heloise mean when she says, “I was pierced with the hook of love?” (334) 11. Is Helozie responsible for leaving her son to be raised by her in-laws? Do you think you are making the best decision under the circumstances? Why or why not?
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12. To varying degrees, Heloise and her mother both have trouble admitting the truth to their loved ones, Abelard and Robert. Why do you think they choose to keep their secrets to themselves? In the case of Heloise, would honesty be the best policy regarding the letter she wrote to her uncle that led to his attack on Abelard? Was Heloz taking advantage of her mother’s honesty about her father and why she was abandoned?
13. Do you agree with Heloise’s definition of love on page 345: “To truly love, we must be willing to give ourselves and even our lives.” What did Heloise give to her lover? What did Abelard betray? Do you think their sacrifices are equal? Why or why not?
14. “I raised my hand to touch my eyes, and found my face wet with tears” (348), Heloise says at the end of the novel. What is the significance of this moment in the story? How does the inability to cry in most of the novel set Heloise apart or affect her relationships with others? What does it say about her character and the power of love that she was able to cry as she watched Abelard leave the abbey?
1. Heloise and Abelard’s love develops through their mutual love of classical literature, philosophy, and rhetoric. Without Heloise’s talent and desire to learn, the two might never have met. Explore some of the Romantic texts, including Ovid’s Heroides (the text can be found here: http://www.theoi.com/Text/OvidHeroides1.html). Take turns reading parts of this classic poem aloud to your book club. What similarities can you find between the lovers in Ovid’s poem and the main characters in Love Sharp’s Hook? Why do you think Heloise and Abelard are drawn to this poem? Ever feel that the story of star-crossed lovers is outdated? Discuss modern examples of sick lovers. What does the prevalence of these types of stories say about the human condition?
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2. On page 26, Heloise describes the speech game she plays with Abelard in their correspondence, a game that turns into a series of confessions about the depth of their mutual feelings. There is something very intimate in the act of writing a letter, and you can often express in words what people cannot say face to face. Have each member of your book club write a letter to a real or imaginary favorite. During dinner, share the letter writing experience with your group. Have you written to a loved one before? How is putting something in a letter different from saying it out loud?
3. Have a movie night with your book club, watch two versions of Romeo & Juliet (1997, 1968). Draw parallels between these films and The Sharp Hook of Love. How are Heloise and Abelard similar to Romeo and Juliet? How are they different? in you