Reviews of Name of the Rose, the (1980)
Review by SlowRain (2007-04-07)
This is an historical mystery set in a 14th-century Benedictine abbey, where several dead monks are discovered in the days leading up to an important meeting between representatives of the Pope and the Emperor.
The strengths of this book are, firstly, the historical setting and the insights into life in an abbey, and it does a great job detailing the religious atrocities of the inquisition and describing prevalent attitudes. Secondly, the author uses the book to discuss many issues: solving a mystery and reasoning on clues, censorship and controlling knowledge, separation of church and state, the timing of the end of the world, greed for power, elitism, faith/doubt, et cetera.
However, as a novel, I think it falls a little flat. This was Eco’s first novel, so that can’t really be held against him too much, but I wonder if he wouldn’t make a better non-fiction writer. The first half of the book was completely devoid of any intrigue or suspense, despite the author’s repeated usage of such painful lines as “if only I had known what would happen next.” Neither was the mood in the abbey well described, so that, when combined, these two items made me read about the deaths of the first three monks with the same sense of detachment that I might read in a newspaper of a murder several hundred kilometers from where I live. I also felt the characterization was about average for the narrator, and sub-par for all the others.
Despite all that, I must say that Eco is still fair to his subject matter, although we can clearly see where his beliefs lay. It’s an objective book–in fact, I’d even say that objectivity is a key theme–and I don’t regret reading it, I just didn’t enjoy it enough to want to read it again.
Review by newsalor (2005-01-21)
The Name of the Rose is one of the best historical novels that I have read. I have to say that Umberto Eco did a splendid job of writing it. My only regret is that I saw the movie before I read the book.
The writer painted a charming picture of the abbey with strong characterization and evocative details. I got a very distinct feeling of being there while reading the book.
I was also drawn to the mystery of the abbey that the main characters were trying to solve. It was cunningly woven with a clear insight into the issues of the time. To me, it really captured the essence of those days.
Review by g3d (2003-03-09)
This book was on my "To Be Read" list for the longest time and I just KNEW I would love it. I struggled vainly through....but walked away feeling glad I had finished, and relatively unimpressed. THE EIGHT by Katherine Neville is what I wanted THE NAME OF THE ROSE to be.