Sunday, 21 November 2004

Book Review: The Name of The Rose (Umberto Eco)

Today, we celebrate a momentous occasion. A day like none before, a day to celebrate! On this day, after two long years, Eyeris has finally finished The Name of a Rose!

I would like to dedicate this incredible accomplishment to my good friend EW, who lent me the book two years ago, and over these two years, never complained that I was hogging her book, or nagged me to return it (much).

Ok. Enough sarcasm. On with the review.


Title: The Name of The Rose

Author: Umberto Eco

Set in Italy in the Middle Ages, this is not only a narrative of a murder investigation in a monastery in 1327, but also a chronicle of the 14th century religious wars, a history of monastic orders, and a compendium of heretical movements.

One after the other, half a dozen monks are found murdered in the most bizarre of ways. A learned Franciscan who is sent to solve the mysteries finds himself involved in the frightening events.

Main Characters:

  • William of Baskerville - The 'detective' in the book. A Franciscan monk who is extremely proud of his own intellect, has deductive powers that could rival Sherlock Holmes', as well as a burning obsession with learning and knowing the truth of things.
  • Adso of Melk - The narrator. At the time of the murders, he is a naive novice monk sent to serve William, and ends up playing a big part in the events at the abbey
What I liked:

  • The plot, the plot!
  • You just have to admire the way the labyrinth was mapped out. Am not sure whether it is actually Eco who came up with it, but it's pretty darn brilliant.
  • William of Baskerville is an intriguing character with lots of layers, and different sides to his personality. Plus he is a pretty good detective, and capable of sarcasm as well!
  • Some nice moments, especially when William is explaining stuff to Adso. William's experience makes for a great foil to Adso's young and naive personality

What I didn't like:

  • VEEEEERY slow in some parts, especially the beginning.
  • Too many pages taken to explain religious theologies, descriptions of doors (!), historical occurrences, and discussions regarding of heretics.
  • I REALLY didn't see the point of some parts that just did not seem to do anything to advance the plot.
I can thoroughly understand why some people consider this a classic. The plot is brilliant, the characters are endearing, and some of the concepts here are really good.

However, I found reading this book a little tedious because, being use to faster paced books, this extremely leisurely-paced book got me dozing off in some parts. Spending an entire chapter describing the carvings on a DOOR did not endear me to the book much, and neither did the endless lectures/monologues/debates/sermons regarding religious issues, history and other heavy stuff.

However, now that I think back about it, a lot of it was pretty essential to the plot (though some huge chunks were largely irrelevant as well, IMHO). I won't spoil the book for those who have not read it, but all I can say is that after suffering through the boring parts, seeing it all come together eventually was pretty amazing.

Despite all the boring bits, the overall feel after finishing the book was one of satisfaction (and not just because I took so long to finish it!). It made me want to read it again, just to see what I missed, and to recap the entire story again. A book that makes you want to read it again is either very confusing, or very intriguing. Fortunately, TNOTR is the latter.

All in all, The Name of The Rose is a little tedious, but also an ultimately satisfying read.

PS: BTW, can somebody PLEASE tell me what the title has to do with the story?

1 comment:

Max.Walker said...

Dear Eyeris,

The Title of the book is exactly that, meaningless. TNOTR is a book about books and reading, it is a readers book. The analogy to the Rose is simply that it gives nothing away. The use of the Rose is vastly overdone and has thus lost all apparent meaning. Eco once said that the book should be finished by the reader, essentially he lets us shape our own analysis and interpretation of the book and in that lies the beauty of the title. As you yourself seem to have been confused by it Eco has proved his point.

What I am trying to say is that due to the vast multifacital nature of this book and the 'anti-detective' story mode the meaning that the reader assumes to the text is greater than the meaing that Eco can give to us.

max.j.m.walker(at) for any queries.