The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, 7 of 52

At last I have finished 502 pages of this book and can honestly say there was a touch of both relief and sadness on finishing. This was due to two conflicting factors. One, I was getting desperate to not get too off track with my aim of reading 52 books this year and two, I enjoyed the world of the book so much it was sad to leave it behind. Not that it was essentially a good world; superstitious, jealous, vengeful, backward and literal -just fun.

Now a little background about me, I am a history graduate and especially loved medieval history. One of my last undergrad subjects was witchcraft and heresy, and I must say this book brought to life much that I studied. Here in the flesh were those heretical offshoots of the Catholic Church, their threat to the status quo of the machine of the papacy, which was itself under immense pressure having escaped to Avignon from Rome, eloquently and clearly expressed through fiction. I was particularly interested in the Cathars during my studies and whilst they are only mentioned in the story a few times, they are mentioned with such loathing and distaste that it makes you comprehend the fanatical fervour against these sects. All the conventions of behaviours attributed to heretical groups and the activities they participated in are here. For anyone unfamiliar with the substance of inquisitorial process and thinking this book provides a good grounding. Importantly and quite delightfully this book is a wonderful illustration of how real the threat of the Devil was imagined by those living in 13th and 14th centuries. The Devil was seen in everything they did not understand, and for the monks women seemed to have an especially held place of honour. However, the greatest portion of debate contained within the novel is reserved for the exploration of the Franciscan, Minorite and Benedictine goal of Apostolic poverty – one that threatened the status quo of the papacy and of the monks in the monastery.

I have seen the movie of the book many times and I think this was a detractor for me. I enjoy watching The First Tuesday Bookclub on ABC1 and a recently posed question on their twitter stream was relevant to my issue; ‘book to films? love them or hate them?‘  My answer was rather read book, this is thanks to my vivid imagination always creates a more wonderous and exciting world in my head. So with The Name of the Rose I found my imagination working in reverse, reading William of Baskerville and the novice Adso I could see and hear James Bond 007 (Sean Connery) and Ferris Beuller (Matthew Broderick). They were my constant imaginary companions for the whole book.

Putting my own personal problems aside, I really enjoyed the whodunnit aspect of the story and thought it was very well executed. Just enough smattering of murder and suspects to keep you guessing – well, actually I already knew who did it! This did not take away from the story and the wonderful way that Eco is able to bring to life theological discourses of the era and entwine it with the plot. I haven’t gone into this too much as it would give away the plot and that would be no fun for those who have not read it.

I certainly feel that I have achieved something having read this book now. It is strange how certain books sit in the recesses of your mind wanting to be read by you. You know what I mean, the book that you’ve walked past in the book shop numerous times, picked up, read the back cover, and popped it back on the shelf as it seems too daunting at the moment. Do yourself a favour and read one of those mind blowing books this year.

Happy hot summers day to you all.

Readability 7 out of 10

Cant put down rating 7 out of 10

Recommend to others 7 out of 10

Do I want to read another book by this author – yes I would like to read Foucaults Pendulum – appeals to the Anthropologist in me.

#8 – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith – light and amusing characters.


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