389 of 416 people found the following review helpful
A Rewarding but Painstaking Read
, August 1, 2000
This review is from: The Name of the Rose: including the Author's Postscript (Paperback)
One reviewer here on Amazon was right on the money when he said that reading a novel by Umberto Eco instantly raises your IQ by a couple of points. The Name of the Rose has been my first encounter with Eco's work, and I was for the most part very impressed with his skillful murder mystery set in a 14th century Italian monastery.
The novel works on many levels. It is a compelling murder mystery, as young narrator Adso of Elk accompanies the wise William of Baskerville as he uses logic and semiotics to not only solve a murder mystery, but to decipher labrynths and hidden secrets of the vast monastery library. Interwoven with the murder mystery is a virtual course on philosophy and late Middle Ages religion, as Eco provides detailed accounts of the histories of various sects, includes scholarly debate on topics such as the poverty of Christ, and a history of the Catholic Church leading to the establishment of a papacy in Avignon, France.
One is reminded of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as William and Adso use logic and determination to piece together numerous bizarre deaths and occurences at the Abbey, while encountering obstacles and outright hostility by the Abbot and his librarian, to name a couple. The setting of the novel, and the glimpse into a culture that few of us can even imagine, is reason enough to read The Name of the Rose.
The book is not without its faults however. I think the book should stand alone, (ie you should not have to buy a separate "reader's guide") and I was very frustrated at the numerous Latin phrases that are included throughout the novel with no translation. Perhaps this is more the fault of the translator than Eco himself, but it makes for a difficult reading experience. One does not need to know the meaning of every word in the book to follow the plot, but it is aggravating to stumble across paragraph-long passages or insciptions that are completely foreign to most readers, without so much as a footnote. There are also fairly long digressions involving topics of religious debate or history of minor sects that, in my opinion, were extraneous and contributed little overall to the success of the novel. However, overall, I thought the novel was rewarding, both informative and suspenseful.
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