2008: 139. The Name of the Rose

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  This was beginning with God and the duty of every faithful monk would be to repeat everyday with chanting humility the one never-changing event whose incontrovertible truth can be asserted.”

The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco*

Well, I am of two minds about this book.  I was all excited to read it - a literary mystery! Right up my ally! And then, once I started, found it extremely tough going.  A slog in every sense of the word - let me make crystal clear to all who are thinking of reading The Name of the Rose, that the mystery is way, way secondary to the medieval theology, particularly the parts about which little sect of Franciscan monks are heretics, and which are true believers.  Pages and pages of talk about different kinds of monks and the horrible things they have done and have had done to them in the name of figuring out what is the true church.  The mystery is enough to keep you going, but be prepared for a lot of history of the most obscure kind.  

And yet, I finished the book, and (particularly after I read the postscript at the end by Eco) very much appreciated it.  It wasn’t what I’d expected, and there were tough patches, for sure, but it is like nothing else I’ve ever read - Eco makes the middle ages come alive and as a reader you begin understand that alien lifestyle (for what is more alien for a 30 year old female attorney in 2008 - even a Catholic one - than a 13th century abbey?).  Plus, deep down it is a book about ideas and knowledge, and what should be shared and what should be kept secret - and what is more important than that, even today?  Also, in the end, the mystery is solved, and that is satisfying as well.

HOWEVER, I would strongly urge you to get a copy with Eco’s postscript, which really illuminated the novel for me - it is hard for me to believe that, even if this was a bestseller, that many people read it and really understood it in 1983.  I mean, the bestseller of our time was The DaVinci Code, for crying out loud.  I consider myself a reasonably critical reader, and I appreciated the novel more after reading Eco’s comments, so if you are new to the novel, I suggest you do the same.


Date/Place Completed: 9/17/08; D.C.

Categories: Fiction; Commuting Book


*For some reason, I keep wanting to call this book In the Name of the Rose.  Weird, right?

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017