Title: The Name of the Rose
Author: Umberto Eco
Published: 1980 Pages: 502
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Adso, a novice monk of the Benedictine order, accompanies Brother William, a Franciscan friar, to an abbey with the task of religious/political negotiations. But a murder has occurred and Brother William, a master of logic in a Sherlock-esque mode, is called on to investigate. Over the course of the investigation, William and Adso encounter many mysteries: the past lives of the variant monks living at the abbey, a labyrinthine library that holds untold secrets, and signs of the Apocalypse.
I have been putting off reading this novel for quite some time. A discussion of this procrastination can be found here. One reason for my procrastination was fear of the length, which was overcome by my attraction to the Chunkster Challenge. Then, as fortune would have it, I joined the Take a Chance Challenge which called for me to read a book from 1980. Lo and behold, that is when Eco published The Name of the Rose = reason number two to read the novel. Then, while talking with Brandon, he recommended the book and that was the trifecta. And just today, I joined the R.I.P. IV Challenge and ta-da, it works for this too.
Brandon gave me a good piece of advice - read up on the history before reading the book - which I in my arrogance promptly ignored. I really should have. I probably would have gotten so much more out of the novel if I knew a bit of what was going on in Italy and around Europe at the time, especially as regards Papal and political history.
Of The Name of the Rose's 502 pages, I probably only fully comprehended half. This was not just a murder mystery, but also a lengthy discourse on religious politics, literary theory, the nature of truth, semiotics, logic, the validity of inquisitions, syllogisms, and history. I was fascinated even as I was confused. Overall though, the book is a good story with many and diverse characters, beautiful language, and intriguing philosophies. I'm not even sure where to begin with an actual review....as you can probably tell by now. With so much fodder for the mill, it is impossible to focus, and hence I turn to bullet points:
What I Loved
- References to historical characters and events that I recognized such as William of Ockham and the Inquisition
- The religious-political divide between monks who advocated poverty to the point of violence and those who interpreted the poverty of Christ more broadly
- Eco's amazing ability to describe. Two stand out - a doorway which features a world upside-down and backwards and a dream which features characters from the Bible and from the reality of the book
- The logic inherent in William's analysis of the crimes being committed and of the discord amongst the fighting religious factions
- The lovely titles of each chapter such as Second Day Matins: In which a few hours of mystic happiness are interrupted by a most bloody occurrence.
- The overabundance of historical information which I could not relate to and did not see the import of in relation to the story being told
- His insistence on putting a bunch of Latin phrases throughout the book. I, unfortunately, do not speak Latin...at all.
If I've missed yours, please let me know and I'll add your review to the list.
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