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on September 5, 2017
The Name of the Rose is a combination of historical fiction, mystery, and philosophy.

William of Baskerville, a Franciscan monk, and his young scribe, Adso of Melk, a Benedictine, visit an abbey whose name is not revealed on some indeterminate business involving the major disputes within the church and among the various secular governments at the time. Shortly after their arrival, the abbot asks William, who apparently is also a former inquisitor, to investigate what is believed to be a murder at the abbey.

Over the course of the next seven days, several more murders take place. They decide early on that the first victim was actually a suicide, but the subsequent victims have obviously been murdered, and they come to suspect that there is some connection to a mysterious book, and to some set of conditions set out in the book of Revelation. They think they will find clues in the monastery’s library, which only a few people are allowed to enter, and which, it turns out is built as a labyrinth. William and Adso visit the library several times and, with some difficulty, manage to discover its secrets, but that is little help in the end for helping them solve the murders. And solving the murders is no help in either saving anyone else (either physically or spiritually) or otherwise improving anything else in that environment.

A large part of the book is spent in theological discussions and discussions of the religious and secular conflicts of the period. The story takes place toward the end of 1327. This was the time when there were two rival Popes, one in Avignon, France, and the other in Rome. Much is made of a philosophical difference between the Franciscans and the Benedictines. And at least half a dozen minor heretical movements are referenced. If you have an interest in the history of the Catholic Church, or a deep and detailed knowledge of it already, these parts of the book will doubtless make more sense to you. Also, a knowledge of Latin would be helpful, although it is not strictly necessary.

One of the highlights of the book is the conference between the Avignonese (mostly Benedictines, I think) and the Minorites (mostly Franciscans). In the middle of this conference, there is a fight (a physical fight) between them. And then, only a little bit later, another of the Abbey monks is discovered murdered, and another monk, who is currently serving as the cellarer of the Abbey (and whom William and Adso have already discovered has a somewhat checkered past doctrinally) is found in the room with him. This man is taken into custody and one of the Avignonese party, who is currently an Inquisitor, immediately puts him on trial. He maintains he is innocent of the murder, and it appears that he is. But the Inquisitor keeps hounding him anyway and eventually manages to convict him of heresy because of the places he has been and the people he has followed in the past. This is a revealing look at how an Inquisitor would have operated.

At the end there is a note from the author about how he wrote the book and such things as why all the complicated religious discussion. And keep an eye out – one of these religious discussions is actually pertinent to solving the mystery.
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on September 23, 2017
I'm very tired and very exhausted by this book. But it was also very good.

The nutshell is this is a murder mystery set in a fourteenth century Benedictine abbey, with Franciscan monk William of Baskerville and his Benedictine novice Adso of Melk on the case. And it's genuinely fun! A Holmesian romp set in medieval paranoia. But everything in this book is a conceit; the entire abbey vibrates with a deconstructive menace. Behind the beautifully described murals, the rich and perversely interesting history of the persecution of mendicant monks, and even the trappings of a wicked murder plot, there is a nagging metafiction suggestion that what you see is wrong, and darkness is inevitable.

Honestly, I don't recommend this to everyone. This is my second Eco novel (after The Island of the Day Before), and this time around his writing is far more focused. That being said, Eco loves to indulge himself and deluge the reader with historical minutiae. The curious background character Salvatore speaks in an odd pidgin language, with mixes of bad Latin and whatever else he's happened upon. It's a book that requires work, and it is super easy to feel deflated when the climax hits. But I just spent two very enjoyable weeks chugging through it every night, intrigued by the tapestry, and I reckon I will think often about it for the upcoming months.

Aside, as much as I appreciate Eco's erudite prose and keen eye for mixing philosophy, religion, and literature, I'm in awe of the translator, William Weaver. The English reads well and I can still feel the character of Umberto Eco -- and he had to contend with a mass web of Latin, French, German, and a lot of specialized medieval terms. I'm interested in the man behind the book, but I think I'm even more interested by the man in-between.
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on June 30, 2016
Since I watched the movie first, I knew what to expect from that novel! But I was impressed, that it took Umberto Eco time and intense research for getting the style, tranlation and other things together, to make it such a fine book. I was glad that I was reading the introduction to this medivial , theological mystery novel.
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on January 11, 2017
This is my fourth time reading this novel....especially liked the Sean Connery movie same name.
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on September 3, 2016
Umberto Eco tells a story of superstition versus logic and science in the setting of the rising of the merchant class, the separation of the monastery clergy and the lay or town clergy and the struggle for power and supremacy between them. We see the Inquisition and the problems with a "belief based faith in which any wayward thought or action or interest can be claimed a heresy. The history of Christianity is the struggle for dominance and control and the winners claim the story. Yet the life of the heart remains true--we walk our paths, experience all the things the world has to offer and savor those that bring us meaning and joy. I've watched the movie many many times...it is true to the book. Of course the book gives you so much more--such richness. Thank you for making this an audio book. I am in the car all day long and look forward to the pleasure of being read to.
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on August 10, 2016
Obviously great research on medieval history and philosophy underpins this book, but it doesn't wear this knowledge lightly. In fact, the digressions, interesting at first, were maddeningly irrelevant to the boring plot and became just tiresome. Don't waste time on this nonsense. Buy a history book if you're interested in the period. Buy a decent murder mystery from a good crime writer if that's what you want. Give this a miss.
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on March 19, 2014
It's pretty rare that I would give anything five stars, just saying before anyone turns their back on this book.

Rather than giving a pointless opinion on my personal preferences of certain novels, I would like to say that this indeed is a good read. There book certainly goes to great lengths to describe atmosphere and character history. I'd say fans of the Medieval times would absolutely adore that. People who are mildly interested, why not? And of course if you just straight up don't care, it's still good to know and not painful to read.

Dialouges usually last for pages and go to interesting lengths to explain different points of views at the times, which I appreciated very much. If you're a philosopher and are interested in out-dated ways of cataloging thought, this book is also for you.

The plot itself quietly unfolds itself, only through the course of several days within the novel. It's more about exploration but the plot is tool to basically provide the many different kinds of characters you might find in a monastery in the middle ages.

To pose a simple explanation: a teenage Benedictine novice by the name of Adso follows his mentor, a Franciscan monk by the name of William of Baskerville travel to an abbey in Northern Italy to bear witness to a debate which they feel may change the path of the Church.

Of course there's also a great mystery too.

I have no particular recommendation, some regard it as some of the best literature about the middle ages, some have nastier opinions. Personally I found it entertaining, if a bit slow at first (but which good book isn't?) and I found all the long dialogues, however contradictory to modern beliefs, to be fascinating.
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on January 24, 2014
Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, is a murder mystery set in the 14th Italy. A very gripping plot right from the first page there is something very eerie about monks and murders and that’s what keeps the story interesting until the very end. The plot is quite intriguing. Brother William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar travels to a Benedictine Monastery in Italy to attend a theological discussion along with his novice Adso. Adso, the narrator of this story chronicles the death and the resultant events that happen thereafter.

The abbot of the monastery welcomes his guests warmly but he is worried about the recent death of his illustrator and its implications on the theological debate for which many esteemed guests would soon descend upon his abbey . He requests William to intercede and investigate the matter. William sets to work along with his faithful novice.

The story takes us right into the life of a monastery and the daily activities of the monks. It also gives us a rich description about the management of ancient libraries, ways by which manuscripts were procured, copied and preserved. Various chapters of this tale are full of theological discussions and questions that are quite insightful and interesting. For example, there is a whole chapter devoted to the question of whether Jesus laughed or not and whether it is advisable for man to do the same. References to this sort of debate brings home the fact that faith was an all consuming factor that governed every aspect of man’s life during this period.

Umberto also gives very detailed descriptions and history about the various sects and intersects within the catholic faith. And it is also quite scary to read about how easy it was to denounce someone to be heretic in those days.

William’s investigations lead him to believe that the clue to the murders lie in the secret library that the abbey is guarding most zealously. After many blind turns, William manages to secure entry into the library’s most secret passages to discover that it is a labyrinth designed to protect many treasures of knowledge. William’s investigations are hindered by an old enemy, an inquisitor who comes to the abbey for the debate and denounces two monks as heretics. But that does not stop the killings. As William races to find the answers to many of his eluding questions, Adso experiences many strange things. He falls in love with a peasant girl who later gets denounced as a heretic. The rumblings of his heart and the limitations laid upon him by his order makes his dilemma very poignant

Plus Points: Fantastic plot and well maintained suspense. It is very difficult to guess the villain in this one. Well researched background, good prose and language.

Minus Points: Though theology and its very many intricate discussions are interesting to read, this book devotes many pages to it, which might get a bit boring. I myself skipped through some pages to get to the plot again. I felt that these could have been trimmed.

Verdict: Definitely a book to buy because you might want to read it again.
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on July 17, 2016
Umberto Eco knows the middle ages so well it's almost as if he lived in them. There's a lot of Latin throughout which the reader is not expected to understand. It's there because the monks would have known and used it. Also, almost endless religious arguments bog down the story, in my opinion. However those arguments show how the Church was struggling to resolve fine points of its dogma, and all that dissent is at the heart of the story. This is during the Inquisition, and the burning of a priest who dared to preach Christ poor and crucified is described. Women were vilified and feared. Political correctness was demanded. The ending was appropriate and satisfying. Someone who likes their mysteries to be different and eye-opening might enjoy this one.
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on October 28, 2015
This is a complex novel set in a time few of us know much about - Medieval Italy and the religion of that time. Most people have heard of the Spanish Inquisition, but this novel shows us that similar brutal inquiries took place long before that time. The lead character (played by Sean Connery in the movie version of Name of the Rose) is an English monk who has had trouble with the church hierarchy in the past. The "villain" claims to be looking for truth, but sees life only through the narrow lens of his own straight-laced beliefs. These two come into conflict when one of the brothers at an abbey they are both visiting is killed.
Their inquiries lead them onto more and more labyrinthine paths, both physical and mental as they search for truth.
While very enjoyable, this is no light "beach read," but a seriously complicated book that requires the reader's close attention.
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