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The Cloister and the Hearth

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  191 Ratings  ·  33 Reviews
Critically acclaimed as one of the greatest historical novels in English, The Cloister and the Hearth contains a meticulous recreation of 15th-century European life. Mingled with its cast of vividly drawn characters are various historical personages. The plot concerns Gerard Eliason, a young Dutch artist who abandons thought of the priesthood when he falls in love with Mar ...more
Paperback, 785 pages
Published 1960 by Washington Square Press (first published 1861)
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Jan 31, 2008 Madeleine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my family this was a book that was read aloud after dinner. I had only vague recollections of it and was surprised to find that although it was a book written in 1922 about the Middle Ages much of it was very contemporary in outlook. It was a book my father chose to have us read,so I gained insight into him as well. Perhaps because of this nostalgia, as well as that it was entertaining, I thoroughly enjoyed the book.
Feb 03, 2010 Katie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I don't, really
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 03, 2012 Simon marked it as unfinished
I'm sure this is great, but it's just not grabbing me the way the same author's _Griffith Gaunt_ did. Maybe I'll come back to it, maybe not.
What a wonderful novel; my thanks to the person who turned me onto it. Beautifully written, The Cloister and the Hearth is the tale of the forbidden love between Gerard Eliassoen, a young novice scribe and illuminator, and Margaret Brandt, the daughter of a physician. The story takes place during the late Middle Ages, and therefore contains the requisite "thee"s and "thou"s and even a few "forsooth"s, so if that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, you know who you are.

Love thwarted by the machi
Nov 15, 2011 Alicia rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alicia by: Phyllis
Wow. What an incredible reading experience. I borrowed this old, yellowed paperback from my friend in Texas 6 months ago and will now mail it back to her. This 785-page book is not an “easy read”, as the characters talk using Old English words (and sometimes using Latin and French), but the book lives up to its claim of being one of the best historical novels ever written. I can’t believe this book is so little-known and out-of-print (but full text is available online at Literature Network).

May 09, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it
I was truly delighted and amazed by this book. It is an early example of very fine historical fiction. The characters and story line are most engaging and the picture of medieval life drawn is marvelous. The language is not modern. There are many words we no longer use, like "yclept." It helps if you have read William Morris or Lawrence Sterne. There are also phrases and short passages in both French and Latin. Having studied both, I was lucky in that regard, but almost all of it is repeated in ...more
Aug 26, 2012 Julie rated it it was amazing
Some have considered this the greatest historical fiction ever penned, and I agree. It takes full concentration for the modern reader, but the rewards were great for this reader. C. Reade is a much neglected author.
Dropped it on pg 158, chapter xxvi. I just couldn't get into the story, it was due back at the library, and I have a ton of other books in my queue. Maybe I'll come back to it at some point.

Great lines -

"What God takes from us still seems better than what he spares to us: that is to say, men are by nature unthankful - and women silly" (4)

Toni Allen
May 26, 2014 Toni Allen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I haven't read this book for many years, but at one point was obsessed with it and went around antiquarian and secondhand bookstores buying up every copy I could find. Some volumes have the most amazing illustrations and if you're into collecting books these are worth tracking down.

The story is not only bitter-sweet but also a fantastic 15th Century romp with our hero, Gerard, getting into all kinds of scrapes, some of which are fraught with danger while others are absolutely hilarious.


Group read:

Oct 12 Chapters 1 - 17

Opening Chapter 1: Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows. Of these obscure heroes, philosophers, and martyrs, the greater part will never be known till that hour, when many that are great shall be small, and the small great; but of others the world's knowledge may be said to sleep: their lives and
This book was recommended by Oscar Wilde in the Art of Lying, so I thought I'd give it a go. It was a big 19th century version of a medieval romance. It reminded me quite a bit of Walter Scott, with more philosophical and religious musings. It was very long, and I actually took a break half way through as I was getting a bit bogged down in it. I found some parts very enjoyable and some parts a bit dull. The parts in Burgundy with Denys were lots of fun. (The relationship between Denys and Gerard ...more
Jul 19, 2013 Victoria rated it it was amazing
"Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words, and suffer noble sorrows"
I was told by my mother that I had to read this book before I died. There have been other books she has told me to read and they haven't been my kind of thing but only one other book she used those exact words and that was Quo Vadis and she was right about that so I have begun the first paragraph of 667 pages of paragraphs to read The Cloister and the Hearth. If the first se
Christopher Newton
best damn book ever.
Jul 25, 2013 Amy rated it it was amazing
I loved how this book is a romance, yet it explores the past of both lovers.
Oct 30, 2013 Amanda rated it it was amazing
One of the BEST historical novels I have EVER read! Reade's knowledge of the Medieval times are unparalleled. HIGHLY recommended!
Shirley Lawton
Nov 18, 2013 Shirley Lawton rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the experience of reading this book. At times, I felt like I was reading "Forrest Gump" because of the crazy adventures of Gerard. I loved the old style of writing. I found myself going to my laptop and looking up many of the foreign language phrases. There were a few passages that were a little boring, but overall I loved the story and the colorful characters. As I am of Dutch descent, I enjoyed the details concerning Holland, as well the historical facts in general.
J Matheson
Dec 12, 2013 J Matheson rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 26, 2014 Susan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2014 Tony rated it really liked it
THE CLOISTER AND THE HEARTH. (1861). Charles Reade. ****.
This is one of those classics that you can only approach if you have a plan in mind. My plan was to read 150 pages a night for five nights, and then I’d reach the end. Well, I made it in a little over four nights. I was pleasantly surprised at how swiftly the story moved along. It was a picaresque novel in the form of a historical adventure. It was set in the Middle Ages, and documents the travels of a young man who is attempting to escape
Dec 20, 2014 Wanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Wanda by: Mr. Tony's Review
Download here:

Read Mr Tony's review here:

Sounds terrific and it is free. Go download it and enjoy.

13 NOV 2014 - I will finish this book tonight. I will not, however, mark it READ as I am reading this with an off-site group. My review/thoughts will come next week. In the meantime, open up some time in your schedule and settle down to enjoy a really good (not, at times, a really great) read! (P.S. I have now marked this
J. Ewbank
Jun 24, 2014 J. Ewbank rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
I struggled with this book, picking it up several times. Rarely is a book unfinished by me. However for some reason this book did not resonate with me and it just seemed to go on and on without catching me. Sorry.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the Isms" "Wesley's Wars" and "To Whom It May Concern"
Aug 31, 2014 Laura marked it as to-read
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie, Wanda
Free download available at Project Gutenberg.
Sally Tarbox
Sep 29, 2014 Sally Tarbox rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldnt-finish
"Shall we never be out of this hateful country?", September 29, 2014

This review is from: The Cloister and the Hearth (Kindle Edition)
I first heard of this book through my elderly father, who recalled it being a set book at his school, and described it with a shudder as the 'most boring book in the world.'
Thinking I might appreciate a Victorian classic better than he did, I gave it a go. Managed 230 pages (of 630) but ground to a halt.
Written in 1850s, this is the story of Gerard, a fine young Du
Wayne S.
Nov 15, 2014 Wayne S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is the latter half of the fifteenth century, and twenty-two year old Gerard Eliassoen is the eldest of nine children of Elias, a cloth merchant, and his wife Catherine of Tergou, Holland. His next two younger brothers, Richart and Jacob, have left for work in Amsterdam. Another brother became a tailor, and his oldest sister a robe maker. That left four others at home, the dwarf Giles, the crippled Kate, and the two youngest, Cornelis and Sybrant, both ne’er-do-wells. Gerard has been taught by ...more
S.J. Arnott
May 12, 2015 S.J. Arnott rated it really liked it
Shelves: medieval
This book was a best-seller in Victorian England and is reputed to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's favourite novel.

It's loosely based (loose to the point of invention) on the life of the parents of Erasmus of Rotterdam, a famous Dutch philosopher, and tells how some unpleasant machinations separate the young couple, and how they find each other again.

It's full of great characters, my favourites being an 'odd-couple' duo of monks: one, a laid-back freethinker; the other, a 'burn first, ask questions
Jan 30, 2016 Jan rated it really liked it
This is a book I've read before. In my opinion it is a far better story than Romeo and Juliet.

A bit about the author: Charles Reade was born at Ipsden House, Oxfordshire, on Jun 8, 1814. He was educated at Iffley and at Magdalen College, Oxford, entered Lincoln's Inn and was called to the Bar, and then turned to literature, writing a large number of plays and novels. He died in London on April 11, 1884. Of the 18 novels he wrote this is deemed one the top five. An interesting side note is that S
Mike Orta
Aug 13, 2016 Mike Orta rated it it was amazing
I found this book at a swap meet and paid five bucks for it. What a great find! I really enjoyed this book. Charles Reade uses the english language in a very descriptive way. I read and reread passages enjoying the language as I would enjoy a lemon drop rolling about my mouth. The style is old fashion and out of date but if you enjoy language then you will really enjoy this book.
Jade rated it liked it
Aug 23, 2016
Oct 12, 2016 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Maybe four-and-a-half, because there were a few tedious passages. This Modern Library edition is 913 pages long; it was certainly long enough to slow my Kindle to glacial speed and occasionally to freeze it up. But it had everything--passionate love, hair-raising adventure, comedy, travel, fighting, sieges, narrow escapes, religion, irony, humanists, churchmen both cruel and kind, and lore about art in the 15th century. It had realistic characters who were (as far as I could tell) true to their ...more
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