A confession: I didn’t read this book in the Italy. Beginning with a confession seems pretty appropriate for a review of a book filled with mysterious monastic murder!
In the early 1300s, the super intelligent, non-conformist Monk Baskerville (a shout out to another famous detective that I really stupidly didn’t notice till my dad pointed it out to me) is sent to a remote abbey where another monk has died under strange and impossible circumstances. But once he and his faithful sidekick (and narrator) Adso get there it seems like everyone in the abbey has something to hide as the mysteries and the death count begin to rise…
I know right? It sounds amazing! But before you rush out and buy it let me warn you: it is less exciting than it sounds. Waaaaaay less.
For a book filled with murder and sex and intrigue and a tricksy labyrinth, it’s kind of slow-paced. I’m not saying it’s bad by any stretch but I just kept hoping it would pick up the pace. People spend heaps of time talking and playing mind games and it’s interspersed with lots about the history of certain orders and particular figures in Christianity and I had no idea who they were. It all started off being interesting to learn about them but there is a lot going on and to be honest I found it very confusing, and then I just lost interest and kind of skimmed until they got back to the murders.
I’ll be the first to say that it’s my fault and not Umberto Eco’s but still. Didn’t work for me.
But I remembered it because we’ve been going to lots of epic churches and taking long scenic train rides through the Italian hills and boy did The Name of the Rose paint a really vivid picture of all the stuff we’re seeing.
There’s this one scene near the beginning where Adso has this quasi-hallucination in a church that really captures the mix of horror and awe of the Christian imagery. And as someone who has now spent a lot of time in medieval hilltop villages, Eco gives you a great feel for how it must have been 700 years ago to live with the mix of natural beauty and incestuous isolation. Seeing these places for real is just as he describes them. I don’t have any good pictures to put up but I can put up the cover of the book! FYI I haven’t been putting them up because I’ve been using the cover of the particular version I read and the stupid kindle doesn’t have covers. Kindle update: still don’t like it.
Next post will be staying on theme. I’m currently reading Foucalt’s Pendulum, also by Umberto Eco, which has pleasantly surprised me with how consistently intereting it is. Watch this space.