Chrissie's Reviews > The Name of the Rose

The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
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Jul 05, 2015

it was ok
bookshelves: hf, italy, text-checked, religion, mystery, classics
Recommended to Chrissie by: Lynne
Read from June 01 to 06, 2010

No, I changed my mind. Only two stars, not three - a book should be more enjoyable to read. It shouldn't be such a struggle!

Thughts immediately after finishing the book: Thank God I didn't give up in the middle!!!! The ending was monumental - both dramatic and profound! All the loose ends were neatly tied. The philosophical message was so well woven into the different threads of the plot. Laughter, knowledge, human motivation and religion are only a few of the topics which this book focuses upon. I was so close to giving this book up - it scares me to think what I almost missed. Anyone planning to read this book must be warned that you must fight your way through to achieve what you get at the end. I honestly don't think a great book needs be such a struggle..... Personally, I am very glad I did striggle through to the end. It was worth the effort! Thank you Lynne for recommending this book to me!!!!

Through page 288:I have a temper. I have exploded, but I guess I will go on reading because there is the tantalizing atmosphere of the monastery that I simply am not yet ready to leave! Maybe it is silly to write how the book affects me as I read it, but I think other readers should know what they are getting themselves into. The passage through a book is important. A reader's final analysis of what he got out of the book is less important considering how so many readers, with time, forget large portions. You see that although I was really annoyed, I simply could not leave the book unfinished......

Through page 284:I am definitely having trouble. Here is why:
1. The prose is too wordy, too convoluted, too pretentious.
2. I try to understand and I fail. I cannot understand how there can be 56 rooms in the Scriptorium. I spent so long trying to understand....but it is beyond me.
3. The controversy between the Papal and the heretical groups, although interesting, is made more complicated than it need be. Again and again what is done in the name of faith and religion is revolting.
4. The mystery aspect means nothing to me. If I at least was interested in that..... Now Adso has finally lost his virginity and discovered a bundle with a wrapped up heart. This is not a spoiler, everyone know this is a murder story. But the main problem is I couldn't care less.
5. Although Brother William marvelously explains his beliefs by means of clever allegories, I dislike the ploy used to explain to the dumb readers what is going on through William's didactic explanations to Adso!
6. The characters are two-dimensional. They are cardboard figures.
7. The moral of the story seems pretty obvious. Learning should be available to all. Knowledge should be questioned so that it continues to develp and grow. Honoring today's knowledge will lead to stagnation. Knowledge has to be allowed to change, to develp, to progress. It should not be kept in a closed box, brought out only once in a while to be bowed to. Sorry, but I don't find this mind shattering.

What I DO like is the vivid depiction of the life in the monastery and the religious turmoil of the era. However, I am not going to say I love this book simply b/c you are suppose to like it.

Should I continue? Sigh - what if there is more, and I have it all wrong! Do I continue so I may find out who is responsible for the murders OR if William is able to discover who this might be? Logically the latter would be most appropriate since he so clearly stands for reason over magical beliefs. In real life not everything is solved.

Through page 207: Finally we have been to the library. Brother William of Baskerville, who is assigned to solve the mystery of the deaths, annoys me. He is Sherlock Holmes of a previous era! His clear cool thinking puts me off. Maybe you DO have to be that way to be a good detective, but I don't like it. He has ALL the answers to any peculiar occurence. His complete self-confidence drives me up a tree! Grrr.

Through page 151: My emotions are all over the map with this book. One minute I love it and then the next I am about read to throw it at the wall in disgust.

What I absolutely adore is the atmosphere that Eco creates in the Benedictine abbey at the op of a snowy mountain located in the central ridge of the Apennines in the 1300s. I feel like I am there. I feel the coldness; I see the massive tower with the kitchen, refactory, scriptorium and the renown library. The library IS the central character almost, but I haaven't even been allowed inside.

I am not into mysteries - who dunnit, doesn't excite me. If it does excite you, that is an added plus.

I find it interesting to learn about the religious controversies of the times. It is fascinating to learn about the differences between the Franciscan and Benedictine orders. BUT sometimes the theological tone is just too much. For example:

"And they who killed the crazed penitents, repaying death with death, to defeat true penitence, which produced death, replaced the penitence of the soul with penitence of the imagination, a summons to supernatural visions of suffering and blood, calling them the "mirror" of true penitence."

That could have been said simpler, and in fact was said simpler in a nearby sentence. Sometimes it feels like I am wading through words. Sometimes I don't have the energy to deal with this, but then the discourse changes and I am happy again and cannot put it down.

Very mixed feelings!
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Reading Progress

06/02/2010 page 80
06/02/2010 page 80
14.29% "Complicated, but also fascinating!"

Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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Lynne The abridged version should be fine. It is a rather dense book. I read it shortly after taking my medieval history class in college. That really helped!

Chrissie Hmm, me, I will probably get lost! I don't mind getting lost if I just enjoy myself during the search!

Lynne Oh I am curious what you think.

Chrissie There was an introduction and a prologue and notes.....finally I have found the BOOK! Just two pages in. Yes, I wil let you know.

Lynne And that's the abridged version, right?

Chrissie It is the Everyman's Library one with an introduction by David Lodge. I bought it awhile ago so I am not sure, but I think so. Is that bad? Oh well, I have what I have. I am doing this properly - looking up all the words I don't know like aedificium and balneary (bathing houses) and it seems that a cloister can mean a covered walkway next to a building with a colonnade on the side...... There is a map of the abbey, but I cannot locate the pigsties or the chapter house. (Teeny print which is annoying.)I guess the pigties are near the stables and the chapter house near the church/dormitory area. I skimmed the beginning sections, ie prologue, introduction, etc. They are just not interesting until I am in the story! I was getting quite pissed with all of them.

But now in the book I like the atmosphere of this huge "fortress" type building on top of a mountain with snow on the pines and a missing horse and immediately you begin to glimpse the character of Brother William of Baskerville with his assistant Adso. So far so good! I am hoping to appreciate both the mystery and the depiction of the times.

Chrissie I checked; nowhere does it say that this is the abridged version. In this book Lodge's introduction says that some critics wanted it abridged but that Eco thought readers should suffer through the beginning 100 pages, wade through all the explanations of an earlier manuscript, definition of monastery time schedules, etc., otherwise they wouldn't have the grit to finish the book anyway. Wouldn't it say it was abridged if it was?

message 8: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 02, 2010 03:53AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Lynne, as far as I can see the monastery is Benedictine and Adso is a Benedictine novice under the direction of Brother William, a Franciscan. I have noted that some of the reviews at GR say differently. Do you remember? Anyhow the introduction and prologue in my book state this clearly! Confusing!

Lynne I thought I had remembered that you purchased the abridged edition, but probably not if it doesn't say so. As far as I remember (and it has been a long time), you're right. Glad to hear that you find it fascinating so far. I love Brother William.

Chrissie I am trying to get all the details and I feel kind of stupid when I don't follow everything. I can't find the chapter house still..... I am only about 100 pages in.

Lynne Don't feel stupid. Like I said, I read it shortly after college, before I had forgotten most of what I learned. It's not a quick read by any stretch of the imagination. I don't remember how long it took me to read. I did end up skimming some of the philosophy. I got caught up in the world Eco created more than the mystery or philosophy. It is definitely not for everyone. I have never seen the movie. I rarely see them and almost never for books I like.

Chrissie I am definitely enjoying myself! The crime mystery hasn't grabbed me at all - but mysteries rarely do. What I like is the description of the abbey and the snow and the layout of the buildings and now I am beginning to feel the chemistry of the different monks. I have also learned alot about the difference between Benedictine and Franciscan theology. I also like learning about how the Pope was at this point residing in Avignon. I have been there and seen the spot. GORGEOUS - so I could picture that too. When the sun is setting the church is lit up by the sun in a most unbelievable manner. We happened to see this as we were eating dinner on evening. I will never forget the view!

message 13: by Lynne (last edited Jun 02, 2010 10:49PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lynne I remember feeling that I had learned so much by the end. I loved the bits about the manuscripts.

Avignon...I'm jealous. Can't you just visualize the abbey?

Chrissie Yes tha abbey is fantastic!!!! I found myself counting to check that I had placed the 40 windows in the right places in the Scriptorium, on the second floor of the Aedificium. That room, will be stuck in my brain forever. Forty windows and what a view with the snow on the pines and spruce. For me the atmosphere in the abbey is the best, then learning about the religious trends at that time and LAST the mystery. But I am getting curious about some of the monks. I am realizing that strange relationships are hidden under the neat, proper surface.

Lynne Oh yes, this book is almost impossible to rate on a simple star system. In many ways I think of it as three books in one. The atmosphere is absolutely the best and is what has stuck with me. The writing can give one a headache and I got somewhat tired of the philosphy. Still, I consider it a "comfort read" because it immerses me in an imaginary world, but still one which is based on fact. (Okay, that was a run-on sentence.)

Lynne (And I think it is great that it has inspired such discussions)

message 17: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 03, 2010 09:34PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie You recommended it to me Lynne, and you did this not simply b/c you liked it so much but b/c you know very well my preferences. Your judgement was correct. I absolutely agree that the book has at least the three different elements - atmosphere, mystery and philosophy - that can be judged separately. The atmospheric ambiance simply cannot be criticized. The pjilosophical/religious thoughts can get a bit heavy occasionaly but they draw me in most of the time. And the mystery aspect has yet to captivate me. WHY fo I have such a hard time caring about the criminal element?!

Lynne The plot of the mystery drives the book, but I think it mostly to give all the ideas some structure. I did enjoy the mystery, but can barely remember the details whereas the life of the abbey remains enjoyable. I want to be a fly on the wall of the Scriptorium.

FYI, I checked my library's web site and they have "shelved" in three genres: mystery fiction; historical fiction; and "didactic fiction". I didn't know that didactic fiction was a genre, but the description is apt.

Chrissie Again I agree with you - my favorite place is the scriptorium!!! If the reader makes the effort to carefully follow the description you truly feel that your are there! The forty windows looking down on the snow covered pines and cliffs, that is what did it for me. The light and the expanse of that room..... and the tables for each monk! Wow, i have definitely fallen in love with that room. Hayes inserted a picture of the place where the movie was filmed. First I was impressed but then I discovered all the things that were "wrong" with that building......

And yes it is didactic fiction. I never knew that was a genre, entitled didactic fiction. This fits so well into that category.

People often don't take the time to figure out what highly regarded book is really about. They assume they will like it simply because it is so "popular". Neither do many reviews clearly explain the subject matter so readers can properly pick the books that fit them. On the other hand maybe that is good so readers try different kinds of literature that they wouldn't have normally chosen.......

The difficult task for me will be assigning the stars. Parts I love and parts drive me crazy. So what, do you average them out. When I am done I guess I will just have to put the question to myself: do I hate it, was it OK, did I like, did I really like it or was it amazing? I do not try and logically add up the pluses and minuses. I go by my gut feeling and try and let my emotions dictate the stars. Too bad one cannot give several stars for a given book - like both a one star AND a five star,indicating that you loved and hated different aspects!

Lynne I once heard a librarian say that you get no bonus points in heaven for finishing a book you don't like. I waste time on bad books. I agree with you that the characters are more symbols of a pattern of thought than flesh and blood people. Still, I like William and the humanism he stands for. (More later when I'm not at work :) )

message 21: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 04, 2010 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie No no bonus points, but I have to quell my curiosity for how it ends. I have read 400 of 560. The story line is now very much on the conflict between the papal supporters and those who favor a church that is less obsessed with wealth. And of course the murders.

Lynne, I hope you understand that I still appreciate your recommendation. It is very difficult to judge how a book will affect another. Is honesty most important?!

Lynne Oh yes, I would rather have an honest discussion than insincere platitudes about how much you love the book. (Although I do feel a little bad!) I won't hesistate to recommend another book to you if I think of a good "atmospheric" book.

What has come out of this discussion for me is how much I enjoy ongoing discussions about books and that I should participate more often.

Chrissie Yes, it is a good "atmospheric" book. That is what drew me to go back and read, after exploding my irritation. I cannot say I am crazy about William. He is too perfect. He is smart and kind and forgiving thing of how he responded to Adso's slip! For me the saving grace of the book would be if he fails to solve the murder mystery. If he fails, and come now he probably will solve the mystery, then I am sure he will fail with humility. This is a crazy thought - a ystery story that isn't solved!!!!! I just want him to be more human.

They did put a floorplan of the rooms in the library and that makes me less grumpy. I felt so stupid for not understanding!

Yup so I will finish. That does tell you that it was worth my reading. :0]

Lynne I promise never to recommend another Eco book. I can't get anywhere with his essays. I just feel stupid.

Do you think the writing was so complicated in the original Italian? I think Eco may be made even worse in translation. Good god, it must have been a project to translate.

Chrissie Translation must have been a horror job. I have done translation work and have noted that often one has to clean up the original. You know, you ask yourself what is the author trying to say. Then you say that in the other language. You don't do a word by word translation!

Keep recommending books to me, but not Eco please!

message 26: by Shomeret (last edited Jun 06, 2010 10:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Shomeret I loved The Name of the Rose, but have been unable to stay interested in anything else by Eco that I've tried. This isn't because they are difficult to read but because they didn't deal with anything that interested me. I would struggle through any book with content that drew me because then it would be worth it.

message 27: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 06, 2010 10:22PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Shomeret, you must be correct. Struggling is worthwile if the content has meaning to you. So what content element drew YOUR attention in this novel? For me the most interesting element was "life in a monastery during the 1300s". The religious themes were also interesting - the controversy betwee papal supporters versus the "poverty" theologians - but from my pov this theological debate was very wordy, obtuse and drawn out.

Then there are the philosophical thoughts on learning and knowledge - preservation of knowledge contra development and change. However, what modern reader thinks it is good to limit knowledge to a select few? Nobody! Laughter, as a source of good and having its origin in the masses rather than the elite was for me interesting, but again rather over done.

Maybe if one likes to solve crime mysteries, the book has more appeal. And why did I never shed a tear for any of the 7 murdered?!

Of course it is worthwhile to struggle through a book if the result is rewarding. But what exactly did this book give me? And isn't a book that makes learning an enjoyable experience a better book?

Shomeret At the time that I first picked up Name of the Rose, I had no idea of the number of heresies that existed during the medeival period and how fundamentally they challenged Catholic doctrine and practice. This book showed me that the origins of the Reformation were in the medeival period. I hadn't known that at the time. Since then I've read a great deal more about important medeival dissenters. I am someone who is very interested in theology and how religions develop. I always want to maintain an ecumenical perspective that embraces all types of belief.

Chrissie Then I can clearly understand why this book taught you alot. You probably understood more of it than I did b/c I started with less knowledge than you did. Thank you for explaining.

message 30: by Chrissie (last edited Jun 07, 2010 01:15AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Chrissie Shomeret, I have been thinking about your clear reply. I really admire youir ability to so succinctly summarize what you learned! It helped me to draw conclusions from the novel. I recognized all the strands, but you tied them all together so nicely! I prefer your writing style over Eco's! I know, I know -without the details you have no story!

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