Patrick Neylan's Reviews > The Island of the Day Before

The Island of the Day Before by Umberto Eco
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Sep 18, 11

bookshelves: fiction
Read in May, 1997

Readers expect Umberto Eco to take them on a stimulating journey of discovery as his characters unravel mysteries that take them to the heart of early Western civilisation. In The Name of the Rose and Foucault's Pendulum this style worked brilliantly. In the 'The Island of the Day Before' it fails catastrophically.

Eco spends hundreds of pages wallowing in his arcane knowledge, resorting to ever more desperate ploys to show off his learning, because this book has no plot to draw out those intellectual diversions naturally. In his previous novels, the basic murder mysteries provided a focus for the reader's journey: there was a mystery to be solved, and Eco's digressions enlightened the journey. Here the trek can be focused on one thing only: the long hoped-for last page, and the reader is only sustained by the morbid fascination of whether anything interesting is really going to happen. It doesn't.

Very early on, our hero finds himself stuck on an abandoned ship off an uncharted island. His plight becomes a metaphor for that of the reader, trapped in Eco's ego with no hope of escape. I have a degree in Medieval Literature and History, but I can't find much of interest here. What hope is there for the more general reader? Never have I fallen asleep so often over a book, pummelled into intellectual insensibility.
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