The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco

This is the third time that I’ve read ‘The Name of the Rose’ since it was first published in 1980. And, each time I read it I’m surprised again at how difficult it is to read and understand. It’s certainly not a book for the faint-hearted. But the story is brilliant. The movie of the book is also very good, so if you’re a bit short of time and patience, the movie is probably a better way to enjoy the story.

 

The setting is 1527 in a secluded hilltop monastery in Italy. The monastery boasts the greatest library in Christendom and most of the monks spend their time in the scriptorium increasing the library’s collection. But the library’s collection is hidden away in a labyrinth and the monks may only access books that they have been approved to access.

William of Baskerville arrives at the monastery with his scribe, a young novice named Adso (the story is told by Adso in his old age). William is at the monastery to take part in a reconciliation meeting between Pope John XXII’s forces from Avignon and representatives of the Franciscans who are devoted to poverty. The Pope definitely does not approve of poverty and groups that have taken poverty too far have been declared heretics.

As soon as William arrives, he is asked (as an ex-inquisitor) to investigate the recent death of a young monk – Adelmo. His movements are restricted since he is not allowed in the library and different factions within the monastic community have their own secrets and their own version of the truth. Before he can determine what has happened, more deaths occur, and the deaths seem to be following a pattern contained within the book of revelation.

The meetings turn out to be very intense and the results disastrous.

William uses logic to work his way through the labyrinth of clues to find the killer – but is it all too late?

 

Digging beneath the wealth of detail, there was some brilliant tongue-in-cheek humour in this book. If you love a challenge, then this is an excellent book but may need more than one reading. Make sure you set aside a good stretch of time. I have tried reading other works by Umberto Eco and given up on them without finishing.

 

Book Published 1980

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