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The Island of the Day Before Paperback – June 5, 2006

3.3 out of 5 stars 120 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this tale of an Italian nobleman shipwrecked in the South Pacific in 1643, Eco's storytelling abilities and his love for esoteric historical detail, so beautifully balanced in The Name of the Rose, are sadly out of kilter, with the arcana overwhelming the plot. As part of a cabal instigated by French Cardinal Mazarin and his protege Colbert, Robert della Griva has been traveling in disguise on an English ship whose mission is to discover the Punto Fijo, the means by which navigators can plumb ``the mystery of longitude.'' Cast adrift during a storm, Roberto fetches up against another ship, the Daphne, whose crew has mysteriously vanished. Although the vessel is moored only a mile from an enchanting island (the two may be on opposite sides of the date line, giving the book its title), Roberto, a nonswimmer, is as marooned as though in mid-ocean. The text consists of a third-person narrator's retelling of Roberto's manuscript recounting his adventures on the ship and such previous experiences as his participation in the siege of Casale and life among the erudite of Paris. There are some magical descriptions of Roberto's moonlit solitude aboard the Daphne, but the introduction of a third story line involving his imaginary evil twin hopelessly tangles a narrative already overloaded with lengthy exegeses on such obscure 17th-century devices as the Powder of Sympathy and the Specula Melitensis. Eco's postmodernist games--he directly addresses the reader, explaining how little the narrator knows--wear thin, and some delightfully secondary characters who appear too briefly only remind us how unfocused the novel is. Perhaps Eco himself was aware of the novel's faults when writing it--for his narrator criticizes Roberto's tale as ``narrating so many stories at once that at a certain point it becomes difficult to pick up the thread.'' Author tour.

Copyright 1995 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Eco, an Italian philosopher and best-selling novelist, is a great polymathic fabulist in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire, Joyce, and Borges. The Name of the Rose, which sold 50 million copies worldwide, is an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library. In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate heresy among the monks in an Italian abbey; a series of bizarre murders overshadows the mission. Within the mystery is a tale of books, librarians, patrons, censorship, and the search for truth in a period of tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. The book became a hit despite some obscure passages and allusions. This deftly abridged version, ably performed by Theodore Bikel, retains the genius of the original but is far more accessible. Foucault's Pendulum, Eco's second novel, is a bit irritating. The plot consists of three Milan editors who concoct a series on the occult for an unscrupulous publishing house that Eco ridicules mercilessly. The work details medieval phenomena including the Knights Templar, an ancient order with a scheme to dominate the world. Unfortunately, few listeners will make sense of this failed thriller. The Island of the Day Before is an ingenious tale that begins with a shipwreck in 1643. Roberta della Griva survives and boards another ship only to find himself trapped. Flashbacks give us Renaissance battles, the French court, spies, intriguing love affairs, and the attempt to solve the problem of longitude. It's a world of metaphors and paradoxes created by an entertaining scholar. Tim Curry, who also narrates Foucault's Pendulum, provides a spirited narration. Ultimately, libraries should avoid Foucault's Pendulum, but educated patrons will form an eager audience for both The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before.?James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (June 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156030373
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156030373
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (120 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #586,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Umberto Eco (born 5 January 1932) is an Italian novelist, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, and literary critic.

He is the author of several bestselling novels, The Name of The Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of The Day Before, and Baudolino. His collections of essays include Five Moral Pieces, Kant and the Platypus, Serendipities, Travels In Hyperreality, and How To Travel With a Salmon and Other Essays.

He has also written academic texts and children's books.

Photography (c) Università Reggio Calabria

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Many reviewers of The Island of the Day Before seem to fault the volume for many features which, were they familiar with the literature from which it is derived, they would find to be its greatest assets. Just one example is Eco's wonderful description of the Deluge which cannot be appreciated without having read Ovid. As with all of Eco's works a healthy interest in philosophy and semiotics is really required to follow the entire work. (DeGriva's mandering about the ship for instance can be viewed as a metaphor for the abductive line of reasoning, something Eco deals with extensively in his scholarly works.) This volume is demanding, as others have noted, and we seem to live in a world where we don't expect books to make demands of us, so for many readers this book may be too complex. However, if one is truly interested in learning the topics which interest the polymath Eco this volume is a treasure trove for what you learn along the way. If one wants only familiar words and a simple plot, do not read Eco--you will probably miss the point.
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Format: Paperback
The meaning behind the name of this book struck me about a quarter of the way through. Sometimes I forget titles while I read and just enjoy the contents. But this had so much significance to what the book was actually about, it stayed with me. Imagine; even if only 'imagined', the ability to swim to an island within your sight, and arrive in the prior day. Not too shabby, compared with most titles I see, and the meanings behind them.

But a clever title is not all to be found with this Umberto Eco novel. Theology; existentialism; lost language; and even one of my favorite words (discovered first while performing in 'The Pirates of Penzance); escutcheon.
Others criticize Eco on his meandering thoughts and ideas; on his half-truths/half-fictions; his playful use of alternate reality; and his obvious disregard for probability. I say 'what the heck are you reading Eco for, then?'
It took me four years of owning this book to read it. Prior to this, I could not do it. But now, with Name of the Rose and Baudolino under my belt, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, devouring it from cover to cover, and opening my mind to all that Eco has to offer...
Roberto, the 'hero' of the story, finds himself stranded on board the Daphne, a boat anchored just offshore an unreachable island. Without wind, without crew, and without a know-how of swimming, Roberto explores his new 'prison', having survived a shipwreck of the vessel Amaryllis.
Finding that he is indeed NOT alone on the boat, Roberto prepares to flush out the intruder and face him down. But what Roberto discovers is not quite what he set out to find.
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Format: Hardcover
Roberto della Griva, son of minor Italian gentry, sets off with his father to defend a besieged city during the Thirty Year's War. After his father's valiant death, he eschews a return home for the experiences of French society. It is here, within the soirees, that Roberto hones his philosophical skills and eventually finds himself manipulated by his imaginary brother, Ferrante, into a sea voyage to the other side of the world.
Cardinal Richelieu's successor charges Roberto with the task of discerning the secrets of longitude while embarked upon an English vessel. In a storm, the vessel is lost and Roberto, lashed to a door, days later is cast upon an abandoned ship anchored near an uncharted island in the Pacific.
From here, Eco takes the reader on a philosophical, metaphysical, and mystical trip that is not nearly as entertaining as his preceding narrative. Roberto wrestles the mysteries of time, space, heaven and hell, and authors a romance in which he wins the hand of his true love from the cold and calculating grasp of his imaginary brother.
It is all a bit much. Several pages are devoted to the self-awareness of stone. Though the book has some fascinating stretches, in the end, Eco's endeavor for abstract slays the rythym a good novel needs. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, but I would not recommend it as a "must" read.
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By A Customer on June 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Roberto della Griva, the protagonist of The Island of the Day Before, was born in 1614, a member of one of the minor noble families of northern Italy, vassals of the Marquis of Monferrato.
While still a young child, Roberto manages to convince himself that he has an evil brother, Ferrante, kept secret by his family, to whom he ascribes all his bad actions. Ferrante serves to explain Roberto's bad luck, for everything bad that happens to Roberto is Ferrante's fault and Roberto must therefore go through life being punished for Ferrante's misdeeds.
At the age of sixteen, Roberto's father is killed at the Siege of Casale, the fortress guarding the frontier between Italy and France. Roberto manages to return to Italy long enough to arrange a yearly income for himself before travelling to France.
Roberto arrives in Paris in the early 1640s, at the moment of the transition of power between Cardinal Richelieu and Cardinal Mazarin. Having an interest in astronomy and philosophy, Roberto frequents the scientific salons and we learn much about the early 17th century. During the course of his visits, Roberto falls in love with one the great ladies of Paris and mistakenly believes that she returns his love. He begins writing her a series of leters that eventually fall into the hands of the narrator and form the basis of the book.
Ferrante intervenes, however, in the guise of Cardinal Mazarin and Roberto's carefree life in Paris comes to an end. France is engaged in a race with England to find the answer to the problem of longitude, and Mazarin blackmails Roberto into booking passage on the Dutch vessel, the Amaryllis, bound for the South Seas.
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