David Lentz's Reviews > The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco
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Jun 21, 2011

really liked it

An older book dealer suddenly and unexpectedly holds in his hands Shakespeare's first folio from 1623 and the shock of the discovery triggers a coma from which the narrator is attempting to recover his memory and re-discover himself. It's an intriguing premise as the book dealer revisits an attic to dig through boxes of his old books to learn what light they can shed on his remembrance of lost time. The books, dating from his childhood, trigger memories of life in Fascist Italy, as he re-learns who he is by what he has already read, including children's tales, religious works, advertising, comic books, paperback novels and war propoganda. I admire the intelligence of Eco, a scholar whose style is fluid, clear, articulate, erudite and engaging. I also admire the translation of the novel, which reads beautifully and flows naturally. This novel seems self-indulgent in places and has a great many cultural and historical references, which will elude readers outside Italy. Of all the works referenced in this novel, there didn't seem to be enough of the real masterpieces here. Perhaps, that's the tragedy that any reader may risk by overcommitting to reading time squandered upon the works of lesser literary lights. By the way, this novel is masterfully illustrated by the publisher. I was intrigued by Eco and am well into Foucault's Pendulum, which is more impressive for the wit and sheer intellectual luminosity of the writing but that's another story for another day. I may well end up giving Eco's list a run for its money, if the rest of his work is as good as these two very fine but not quite great novels. Time spent reading Eco clearly is time well spent.
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