What a mesmerizing (yet sometimes confusing) book. Five hundred pages, not including the introduction and post-script.
It is basically consisted of two main plots. First was the mysterious murders of monks in an Italian Franciscan abbey on the 14th century, in which a former Inquisitor named William of Baskerville and his novice turned detectives to solve the murders. Second was the so-called historic meeting between Franciscan leaders (favored by the Roman Emperor) and their archenemy, representatives of the Pope John who resided then in Avignon. Organizing the meeting was actually the main duty of William.
I have to admit that my interest lies deeper in the first plot. It's just more simple. The murders were somewhat arranged in certain fashions, mimicking the prophesied events during the sounding of seven trumpets in the Apocalypse. Plus, the Abbey itself, with all its rich legacies and precious relics, holds many secrets and intrigues; with the center of attention was its amazing library that no one can enter except the librarian. The library was said to be the most complete library in Europe, contained not only teachings on the Scriptures but also those of heretics, magicians, alchemists, etc.
William of Baskerville, our monk-detective, presented a unique character with his use of logic and modern tools. His novice, Adso of Melk, well, he's your typical boyscout, but suffering from a number of delusions and inner battles (the curse of youth, perhaps). They both embarked on a fascinating adventure in the abbey, trying to solve the mystery of the library and its almost innumerable labyrinths, deciphering symbols, facing bizarre monks ranging from hostile, mysterious, frightened, excessively curious and most of all, they all have motives for killing. Most of the victims were connected to the library. Suffice to say, the murders is caused by something in the library, which should not be seen by others.
The second plot? Well, couldn't say I really understand the narratives and dialogues, since they mostly involved theological debates whether monks were allowed to be poor. The Pope said the Franciscans were heretics while the accused said the Pope was corrupt. My brain is just not strong enough for that kind of thing. I love the quarreling part though, when the monks lost their temper, because it's so damn funny.
Despite some desperate efforts from my part to skip some pages of this book due to my lack of understanding, I still say this book has its own grandeur. Perhaps because if there's an existing library as magnificent as the one in the abbey, I shall be very interested to have to a visit there. Seduction does not always come from human flesh or splendid treasures, but also in knowledge. And sometimes it's even more dangerous.
Will I read other Eco's works? Yeah sure, why not. Next would be the Foucault's Pendulum.