The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

I was attracted to The Name of the Rose some years ago when I learned that its story is centered on a medieval mystery set in an Italian Abbey. Now, I’m quite a fan of the mystery genre and I love history. Hence it went onto my “to read” pile. But it was there for quite some time, almost forgotten. But two years back, I visited the Melk Abbey, and I had a vague recollection that I’ve got a book in my collection that had some reference to the Abbey. Back at home, a quick search made me realize that it was The Name of the Rose. And what with my interest in history, mystery genre, and my visit to Melk Abbey, the book naturally gained priority in my reading order.

That is the history. Now I’ll come to my reading experience. The Name of the Rose is by no means an easy book to read. It is heavy with medieval history and religious calamities of the time. The mystery, although cleverly written, felt more like an average mystery because its plot was so disturbed by historical and religious details that poured abundantly from Eco’s pen. At first, it was difficult for me to get into the book. I felt the plot to be treading uncertainly, groping in the darkness to find its true path. Yet, though the plot suffered, I was drawn to the book as if by some magic. Eco’s rich prose, through which he brings us a forgotten historical account of medieval time, recompensed enough to engage my attention. If I admired a book while still being exasperated to no end, I can easily say that The Name of the Rose falls within the category.

The plot of the book revolves around a series of murders that take place in a wealthy Franciscan abbey in Italy and one Franciscan friar’s attempt at finding the criminal. The story sounds pretty interesting when summed up like that, but unfortunately, the historical and religious details make inroads into the plot and impede its smooth continuity. As a result, the story feels disjointed and incoherent. However, Eco throws in an interesting and diverse character set that, no matter what flaws founded in the plot, the story was felt alive and moving. Eco’s rich prose and humour at times when you least expect it added much to the enjoyment. Honestly, it was the history, the setting, the characters, and Eco’s writing that helped me sail through it.

Rating the book was quite a chore. So, I finally decided to break the story into sections and rate it accordingly. The plot – 3 stars; the history, setting, characters, and writing – 4 stars. The scale was heavy on the latter side, hence the overall rating of 4 stars. I’m sure this rating gives quite a clear and honest picture of the book. If you are a mystery fan and are plot-driven, and not interested in medieval history and ancient architecture, this is not for you. But if you are quite in the opposite, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

Rating: 4/5

About the author

Piyangie Jay Ediriwickrema is an Attorney-at-Law by profession. Her devotion to literature has taken shape in reading and reviewing books of various genres set in different periods of time. She dabs at a little poetry and fiction of her own and hopes to share her work with the readers in the future.

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