It's hard to figure out where I should start with this book, because there's a lot of places where I could start.
The Name of the Rose is set in 1327,It's hard to figure out where I should start with this book, because there's a lot of places where I could start.
The Name of the Rose is set in 1327, and the struggles of the Christian church in northern Italy form the real background of the novel. The early 14th century comes through very clearly throughout the pages of the book, and as a historical novel it does extremely well. Various struggles surrounding the idea poverty and the church, heresy, the nature of heresy, the changing nature of towns and power, the emperor and the pope are all there, and come to life as much as the monastery that provides the setting of all the action.
However, all of this is part of the secondary plot, and form long passages that distract from what is technically the main action. The center of the book is a series of murders at a Benedictine monastery, which are investigated by the two main characters. (The main—not viewpoint—character, William of Baskerville, is an obvious homage to the origin of the mystery story, Sherlock Holmes.) The mystery itself is less successful, partially because all the other parts of the book demand too much time to keep it moving consistently, but more because the story is more of a tragedy than the mystery it presents itself as.
The book is well-written, even in translation from Italian, and well worth reading for a good combination of prose, history and mystery, but it tends towards the overwrought and long-winded....more
Well, this was a little different. There's a set of introductions to the book that, between them, take up well over 50 pages. The main one (by the autWell, this was a little different. There's a set of introductions to the book that, between them, take up well over 50 pages. The main one (by the author) gives a short history of clan MacGregor, and explains the long-term problems they have had with the law. This then turns into a history of the actual person, Rob Roy. This would have been fine, but was over-long, not that well written, and of course, I wanted to get to the actual story.
The other introduction is from the publisher (of the 1893 edition) describing the writing of the novel. It is much shorter, and has some interesting points. An important one is that Rob Roy is not about Rob Roy. Sir Walter Scott in fact resisted the title for that very reason, but he was a popular enough figure that as soon as he was in the story, it was what everyone wanted to know about.
My copy of the book is a cheap (I got it for free) Kindle ebook from Waxkeep publishing. Unlike some other cheap ebooks, this one was in pretty good shape. All the footnotes merely appeared at the end of the paragraph they occurred in, and there's a few 'L's instead of '£'s, but is mostly free of problems.
The book itself was a disappointment. It was by no means bad, but I found it nowhere near as engaging as Ivanhoe. The main character is Francis Osbaldingstone, a young man enamored of France, and poetry and creative endeavors. His father is a colorless businessman in London, estranged from the rest of his large Scottish family, and wants his son to take over the business. When his son refuses, Francis is exiled to his relatives with instructions to pick one out as the heir to the business.
Things get complicated from there, with fellow travelers on the road north, his uncle and cousins, a romantic interest... and then things go a bit sideways with trouble with his father's business, sending him into Scotland and a new cast of characters. This new cast of course prominently features Rob Roy himself, but also the Scottish countryside.
The structure of the plot is sound; everything in the novel rests on other elements, even when it seems like a digression. In fact, the least essential thing in the book could well be the main character. His presence kicks off much of the action, but the vast bulk of the book is him being acted upon instead of acting. Add to this the fact that there's a fair amount of dialog in various Scots accents, and the book is a slow read. (I found the heavier accents easier going for some reason.)
So, I can't really recommend Rob Roy, even though I did generally enjoy it. If you do generally like 19th Century writing, I do recommend it....more