If you are like me you sort of have this idea of Umberto Eco as though, Wow -- you are really going to have to do some thinkin' if you read him!
It's true. But now I realize this is a good thing.
I finally picked The Name of the Rose off my shelf and opened it up.
What a trip!
The bulk of the story takes place over a seven day period in November of the year 1327. William of Baskerville [an English monk/detective] along with his novice assistant Adso, set off on a diplomatic mission to a Franciscan abbey in the hills of Italy.
From day one, the mission shifts gears quite a bit -- because a string of mysterious murders begin to take place. And the abbot wants William to figure out what the hell is going on. Naturally, in such a cloistered environment, everyone becomes a suspect. And soon William discovers that the real issue involves the secrecy of the abbey's library.
At night, this section of the place is off limits to everyone except the librarian himself. There are connections that are too suspicious to ignore.
William, a rationalist by nature, finds himself following leads that are religious and superstitious -- and this throws him off course. The bodies start piling up, and his time there is running out.
The book is ingenious in its depiction of the mayhem that can result in religion's [insane?] desire to suppress knowledge and free-thinking inquiry. Ultimately, someone is trying to keep one single book from being read -- and is willing to murder others in this quest to quench philosophical introspection.
If Dan Brown is your man -- leave this book alone. You will only throw it at the wall at some point. In things I have read since, Eco deliberately designed it with a certain sort of reader in mind. The first 100 pages are constructed in such a way as to deter the average thriller-reader. If you can get beyond page 100, Eco will have you in his thrall. It's a design every bit as surreptitious and sneaky as what is going on in the abbey itself.
I loved this book. Written in first-person narration [by Adso] it will be a rewarding whodunit caper for anyone who loves true, timeless literature.
Is it a beach read? I don't know. I don't think so. I can't quite imagine pina colada rings anywhere on these pages as you try to hold them open in the sun while a stray beachball is bouncing off your head. But if you want to immerse yourself in a truly engrossing tale… one where yes, you have to think a bit -- this novel is a beauty, for sure.
It's my first journey into this brilliant author's crawl space -- it makes me look forward to sealing myself away into yet another Eco-chamber one day!