Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Name of the Rose

In my second year of university, I was ambitious, and tried to read Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, and was swiftly defeated by it. It turned me off Eco for a long time, but The Name of the Rose has always been on my to-read list, and I finally got the courage to take it on. Now that I've read, I'm going to take a look at it.




The Name of the Rose is a whodunnit set in a 14th century monastery in Italy. A young monk, an illuminator of manuscripts, has perished, and it's up to William of Baskerville and his scribe to unravel the mystery.


That's the simplest plot summary that I can give. This is really a book about books, about semiotics, about the act of reading, and about the crazy things people do in the name of God. If one wanted a crash course on semiotics, this is certainly the book to do it with.


I'm not really going to delve too deep in this, considering this novel is practically critic-proof and considered a classic. It's also really complicated, and fun. It's also very difficult in that the sheer quantity of historical detail is staggering.


The best parts of the book, that which are most readable, are the scenes in which the detective character and his scribe discuss the case. It's always clever and fun. The hardest parts of the book are the lengthy dream sequences. I understand their purpose in the text, but that doesn't mean they are fun to read. I've never been a huge fan of long dream sequences.


The Name of the Rose is a big novel about big themes, and was enjoyable overall. I probably won't read it again, if only because it's just too much. But that's what I want from literature - this is a puzzle to be solved, in a myriad of ways.


I know this was a fairly fluff review, but what are you going to do? I'm sick. Next on my to-read pile is Gerard Woodward's August and Franzen's Strong Motion. Bear with me, friends.

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