Sunday, February 12, 2012

REVIEW - THE NAME OF THE ROSE BY UMBERTO ECO




My third read for the Historical Fiction challenge 2012.




This was an intriguing book - it was also quite a slow read for me as I felt I had to assimilate everything I read rather than rushing through it and not getting the actual meaning of the story.

Set in the 14th century with its background of the monasteries Eco himself is a scholar, a critic and what I later learnt (a new word for me) a semiotician. From the blog The Reading Life I understand that this means someone who studies a process to understand its signs for meaning.

The monks in the monastery in which the book is set are very involved in reading and literary matters. The Monastery is famous the world over for its erudition, for its books and they have a very handsome living copying out books for various libraries of the world. The library was not restricted to religious books but seemed to have a very wide range  of topics to offer their monks. However there were very strict rules to be followed and the librarian and his assistant were the sole arbiters of who read what and if it was considered suitable reading material for whoever requested the book. There was an element of hidden animosity for this however which was not apparent at the very start of the story.

Apart from the actual story the book throws a lot of light on how harsh and cruel life was at this time - that many monks did not seem to have a religious calling but became monks out of family wishes or to escape deprivation, poverty and the cruelties of a harsh world. There would have been no way for these monks to be educated or to inculcate their love of learning and books other than joining a monastery.

Our main focus is however on the fact that a monk has been found murdered and the chief monk seeks his help to solve the murder, find out who the murderer is and in its turn hopefully will quiet the rumblings which the chief abbot is well aware of but which he ignores hoping it will go away.  The murders do not stop and one becomes two to three to four to six and we are no closer to finding out who our murderer is.Everyone is suspect an the monastery becomes divided as each monk seems to suspect the other. On top of that the dangerous inquisitors arrive bringing with them their infamous methods of "extracting" guilt. Politics with all its machinations also surface in the monastery and it is not cynical to say that this was as bad if not worse than what exists today. The balance of power and the need to hang on to power was very strong then, as it is today. No difference whatsoever between a dictator of now with the monasteries of old!

Such a lot encapsulated into one book - murder, mayhem, intrigue, sex, politics, power so that the appeal is so widespread. One thing which had me puzzled (as it did another blogger) what on earth has the name of the book got to do with this story????

I found this to be a very slow but not a tedious read. I had to read it twenty five to thirty pages at a time but it gave me an insight into the 14th century - not a period I would have liked to have lived in though!


13 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Thanks for a good review. I have always wanted to read this book.

Harvee said...

I remember enjoyhing this book quite a bvit - the setting and the period in history, as well as the mystery! Nice comments!

Nicola said...

Thanks for the review! This has always interested me but I think I'd be better suited to watching the movie than reading the book this time.

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

Sometimes these slow reads are the best, we get more out of them in the long run. I have a copy of this book but I haven't read it yet.

JoAnn said...

This book has been on my wish list forever. So many people love it, but I wonder if it may be too complex or slow for me. Yet, as Sam said, the slow reads are often the best, and most satisfying, in the long run. I will get to it eventually - great review!

Lisa said...

I can't remember much about this book, read it about 25 years ago. I just remember loathing it although I can't recall now why exactly. Perhaps I should have taken your 25-30 pages at a time approach and I might have enjoyed it more.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've always wanted to read In the Name of the Rose, so thanks so much for the great review.

Sheila (Bookjourney) said...

This looks really good! Enjoy!

Shelleyrae said...

I also found this book a slow read but since I was a teenager at the time its possible I was too young to appreciate it

Wishing you a great reading week!

Shelleyrae @ Book'd Out

Abbi Hart (gatorade635) said...

Hope your reading week is amazing and fun!

Dizzy C said...

Sounds like a very absorbing read.

Thanks for sharing your review

Have a great reading week, Mystica.

carol

Claire said...

This was a marathon read for me and I am glad I made it to the finish line, but admit I have been wary to rush to pick up another of his books.

Kyra said...

This is a very random, passing comment on an old(ish) review, but I was just re-reading The Name of the Rose and trawling the internet for commentary. I'm glad you enjoyed it - it's one of my favourite books, although it's not exactly easy to read.

It's called 'The Name of the Rose' (as far as I understand) precisely because it's a name that seems to have no connection to the text at all - or rather it reflects the interwoven mysteries of the story, and the idea that the symbols we have for things may not connect directly (or at all) to their meanings. And, in fact, that the world cannot be interpreted as though there is some underlying truth to it.

I seem to remember reading that Eco liked the rose reference because the rose has become so deeply symbolic that it hardly means anything any more :)

I don't know if this illuminates at all - I'm not sure it's meant to!