Book Reviews
The Name of the Rose: Umberto Eco
16th Mar 2010Posted in: Book Reviews Comments Off on The Name of the Rose: Umberto Eco
The Name of the Rose: Umberto Eco

Like a creature from a medieval bestiary, Umberto Eco’s great novel is a fabulous monster of a book, conforming to neither the rules of nature nor of contemporary fiction.

Summoned by the abbot of an Italian monastery to solve the mysterious death of a young monk, William of Baskerville, together with his assistant Adso, a novice, find themselves caught up in a series of bizarre deaths that seem to centre on the vast labyrinthine library and its precious, secret and avidly-guarded contents.

This is a difficult book in places, slow to start and loaded with knowledge and intellect. Fluency in English will give one a sense of the meaning of some of the untranslated Latin that runs throughout the book, but I”d loved to have understood completely. Parts read like lessons in political history, and the intricacies of power struggles between popes and princes, scattered liberally with the names of lesser and more widely known figures, are gone into in some depth. Lists of fantastic creatures, medicinal herbs or the contents of a dream can dominate whole pages.

Yet Eco has drawn William and Adso with a delicate and tender brush – each is recognisably human, each is flawed and easy to empathise with. The scene between Adso and the girl is beautifully described, and the writing throughout the 400 plus pages faultless. If at times I found the author”s intellect and knowledge daunting, even to the point of feeling unworthy to be reading, there were sections where I simply couldn’t put the book down, and I felt on turning the final page that without those passages mentioned above both the novel and its readers would be the poorer.

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