The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Paperback: 552 pages
Publisher: Harvest Books; 1st edition (Sept. 28, 1994)
The Name of the Rose is a book I read several years back and one I wanted to revisit here on my blog. This historical fiction novel set in medieval Europe is not for those looking for a quick read, and if you’ve ever had the pleasure of reading it, you’ll understand why. The writing is theological and academic in nature throughout certain parts of the book, and at times, I became bogged down in the minute details covered by Eco. The author wonderfully re-creates this period of medieval history, a time when the Catholic Church in Rome was battling heretical sects throughout Europe and doing everything in its power to make sure they did not surface again. It is in this setting that Eco drops the reader, a backdrop to the actual story of a murder mystery placed in an Italian monastery in the 14th century.
The main characters are William of Baskerville, a brilliant scholar and former inquisitor, and his assistant Adso, through whose eyes the story is told. The abbot of the monastery has summoned William to make sense of recent events that have occurred within the abbey’s walls. As they conduct their investigation, they uncover layer after layer of secrets protected by the monks living there, secrets that lead to betrayal and murder, and an even greater secret that lies within the abbey’s library.
You will truly learn a lot from this novel and even feel smarter after you’ve read it — though probably not comprehending everything the first time, as you’ll find yourself going back and re-reading certain passages. You will learn about the political and religious struggles among the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, and “heretical” religious sects. You will experience life inside a medieval monastery, understanding how they lived and and how their community functioned. You will be transported through Eco’s writing to a time and place abounding with theological debate and religious fervor, a time of great change and upheaval in the traditional thought of medieval European society.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars