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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  11,099 ratings  ·  958 reviews
Yambo, a sixtyish rare-book dealer who lives in Milan, has suffered a loss of memory-he can remember the plot of every book he has ever read, every line of poetry, but he no longer knows his own name, doesn't recognize his wife or his daughters, and remembers nothing about his parents or his childhood. In an effort to retrieve his past, he withdraws to the family home some ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 5th 2006 by Mariner Books (first published June 2004)
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  11,099 ratings  ·  958 reviews

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Leore Joanne Green
I expected a lot from this book when I bought it, and I have to say that I was quite dissappointed.

I liked the lead character a lot, and the offset for the plot was excellent, but it seemed to me that he (Eco)didn't play around enough with all the possibilities which his character's situation allowed.
At Solara, the idea of trying to recover his history by surrounding himself with his childhood things was very appealing to me, but at some point I got sick of rummaging through old vinyl discs and
Nov 04, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I read every 449 pages of this book... and feel like I wasted a lot of time. This book needs SO MUCH editing. The premise and some of the ideas presented had great potential for a very interesting story, however it fails in almost every way. There is no characterization, the story barely moves from page 1 to page 449, and there are many story lines which are left unfinished. 90% of the book is tedious description of dated material such as books, records, photographs, etc. which are suppose to ev ...more
Mar 24, 2007 rated it it was ok
I was about 150 pages into the book when I started feeling the way you feel when you're looking through stacks of photo albums with someone you don't really know, who's telling you very detailed stories about people you've never met and places you've never been -- people and places to whom you have no connection.

In the end, the concept of the book (which is what drew me to it in the first place) was what made it weak. People are interesting because of their experiences, their memories of them, t
Jul 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana tells of an antiquarian book dealer who has suffered a stroke and lost all memory of the people in and events of his life. At the novel's outset, the protagonist, Yambo, begins the daunting work of trying to reinsert himself into the life he has forgotten. He finds that he does not recognize his family or closest friends, but can still appraise a 17th-century work of natural history. His only sparks of memory relate to books he has read. These come back to him ...more
Nandakishore Varma
Umberto Eco is a novelist of ideas. His The Name of the Rose, even though a thrilling mystery story, was actually a primer on medieval Christianity and monastery life. Foucault's Pendulum (which I couldn't complete) is a textbook on occultism and conspiracy theories. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is ostensibly a novel about a man searching for his lost memory - but it is actually a treatise on growing up as a bookworm in fascist Italy.

The point is - attempt this book only if you are happy
Rick Davis
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
This was not as engrossing as The Name of the Rose and not as complex as Foucault's Pendulum, but The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana hit me harder and at a more personal level than Eco's other books. The theme is nostalgia and personal identity. Through Yambo's amnesia, Eco explores the way in which we construct our identities through scraps from our past: what books we've read, movies we've seen, music we've heard, experiences we've had. It also shows that what we choose to forget and how we c ...more
Jul 28, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: meta
This book really disappointed in the end, after giving a fairly fascinating glimpse of the culture of an Italian childhood under Fascism. I was enjoying the plot and then suddenly it ends in this inexplicable way, as if Eco suddenly got horribly sick of writing the thing. I'm keeping it for the gorgeous color reproductions. ...more
Nov 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: multiple-reads
The beauty and richness of Eco's language is as good as it gets in this book. Every sentence was a work of verbal art. The language sang, to me. I was awed by its power. Truly a great novel.

This man, a failure since birth, not only reads, he also writes. I could write, too, could add my own monsters to those that scuttle with their ragged claws across the silent sea floors. That man ruins his eyes over pages on which he sets down his obsessions in muddy ink from inkwells whose bottoms ar
Kurt Reichenbaugh
Apr 15, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: high-brow, pulp
I'm really lukewarm on this novel. I bought it when it first came out in paperback here in the U.S. and then put it up on the shelf next to The Brotherhood of the Rose and let it sit there like a bottle of wine until last week. I admired all of the colorful illustrations in it, but the synopsis of the story itself didn't really grab me. Anyway, long weekends of staying inside prompted me to pull it down from the shelf and uncork it. Much of it is pretty good, from the point of view of a middle-a ...more
Melissa Mann
Dec 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
I rounded up 3.5 stars...

As a translator, I am confident in stating the problem with translation is translation. The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is meant to be read in its original and by those who truly appreciate pop culture and memories thereof. The words are well translated into English; the ideas are adapted properly to English; the strain lies in this: Latin-based language speakers culturally use five sentences where an English-speaker would use one. Normally, this is not a problem; we
Steven Z.
Jul 19, 2018 rated it liked it
For the longest time I have wanted to tackle one of Umberto Eco’s novels. I knew they were unique so I have digested his fifth work, THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA. To say the least the book was different from anything I have ever read. Eco introduces the main character a Giambattista Bodoni, with Yambo as a nickname suffering from memory loss due to a heart attack. He lives in Milan and is fifty-nine years of age and he is crushed by the fact that he can remember things from the distant pa ...more
Sonia Gomes
Feb 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Persons who like books about Second World War
Recommended to Sonia by: Got it from a Library
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Author: Umberto Eco
Translator: Geoffrey Brock

It has a been a long time since I have read “The Name of the Rose’ it is one of the most fascinating books. Since then the Catholic Church and its politics have intrigued me. So when I got ‘The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana’ I was thrilled, would it be like 'The Name of the Rose’ so beautiful, so intriguing?
No it wasn't, or was I missing something.
The reviews that I read mention it as deep, a profound meditation,
The premise of this book is that Yambo, a rare book dealer, has had some sort of illness that has caused amnesia. He doesn't recognise his wife and children but he can remember the capital of Madagascar, the dates of famous battles and endless quotations from literature. He is obsessed with quotations about fog and compares his mental state to thinking through a fog. So far so good. Up to a point, I found his situation quite interesting.

As part of his recovery process, Yambo goes to the family e
Nov 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An extremely imaginative work, Umberto Eco's "The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana" takes the reader through the history of Italy from the pre-WW II era through the early 2000s, following a man's desperate effort to remember his life after suffering an "incident" - a brain event in which he's lost the part of his memory that contains his personal experiences, the details of his life, his childhood, and especially his emotions as they relate to his life. When he awakens from a coma Yambo cannot re ...more
Jul 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: love-it
This is the first book that I did not completely mangle in my comings and goings from work. The pages are still crisp and the cover has not fallen off. I consider this an accomplishment, because for me, the sign of a good book is one that is beaten up and dog-eared. I LOVED this novel. It is the first Umberto Eco book that I have read and it was a delight to read.
The main character, a very loveable Italian gentleman named Yambo awakens from a stroke to find that his personal memory bank has been
Sarah Archer-beck
Nov 05, 2007 rated it liked it
I'll admit that I was initially drawn to this book because of the great pictures - reproductions of pop culture media from the 30s and 40s. I have liked previous books by Eco as much for their interesting plots as for their philosophical ruminations. Unfortunately, this book was really short on an interesting story line and seemed to be purely a vehicle for Eco to riff on the themes of memory, identity, childhood in wartime Italy, and whatever else occurred to him.

The first section of the book,
Jean Tessier
Oct 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leisure
My other favorite author. Usually not an easy read, but you end up less stupid for it.

The main character lost his memory and relives his childhood by examining the litterature he was reading as a child in fascist Italy: comic books, translated novels, fascist propaganda. It is a very good look at a fascinating world. Later, when the main character regains his memory, he takes stock of his life and looks at how his life was shaped by patterns and events in his youth and teenage years.

I was a litt
Michael Battaglia
A fun game you can play with yourself if you're somewhat morbid and are capable of the level of self-reflection required is to imagine if you died suddenly and strangers were the only people left to go through your crap, what kind of impression would they get of you (presuming you own a lot of stuff, if all you own are sixteen of the same suit and pajamas covered in images of nondescript produce then they may not know what to think) based on what you owned. Would they think you were brilliant, s ...more
Jun 14, 2007 rated it liked it
Umberto Eco is always prone to uncontrollable wordiness but the reader is usually compensated by the fascinated plot, complex characters, and general atmoshpere of his books. It is also generally the case that when Eco goes off in a tangent, it is to show off his knowledge in history and symbolism which personally I find interesting.

This books is an exception. It preserves the charactistic verbosity of the author bu the plot fails to become gripping or evolve in any significant direction. Also t
Marius van Blerck
May 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
After a recent diet of rather good thrillers and mysteries, I decided to try Umberto Eco’s most recent book, for a change of pace. A change it most definitely was – the pace of Queen Loana is decidedly slow (occasionally practically coming to a standstill), the tale intriguing, the atmosphere foggy and the concepts challenging. I "read" the audiobook and George Guidall (whom I will always associate with the narration of "Crime and Punishment") narrates this work in exactly the right manner. I ca ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Apr 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
A bookseller wakes from a coma with no memory of his life, and the only frame of reference he has for any conversations are direct quotations from books he has read. He journeys to the home he used to spend summers in to try to uncover the truth about his past.

While an interesting premise, this book has major tedious moments. Anyone with an interest in obscure Italian fascist literature should read this. He includes entire songs, book covers, and comic books that the main character encountered a
Feb 14, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: didntlike, 2007
I was so disappointed, just kept reading because I thought it had to somehow be fantastic (I absolutely loved name of the rose) but actually got worse. I loved the initial concept of a man who can suddenly only remember all the books that he has read, and all the graphics were really interesting, but for me it just fell flat. The story wasn’t enough and I didn’t particularly enjoy the writing either.
Jim Elkins
Aug 01, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: italian
I read parts of this (I couldn't read the middle hundred pages) as part of a project to read novels with images. Eco calls this "An Illustrated Novel," partly alluding to the comic books that he remembers from his childhood. I found the book intolerable.

1: The narrator's knowledgeable voice

Well-read and scholarly authors, like Canetti or Richard Powers, tend to be praised by people who think they have endless erudition. I think that's a mistaken way to evaluate an author, because no author I kn
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What is a person’s life if not their memories? Umberto Eco asks this captivating question in his fifth novel The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

It is about Yambo, an antiquarian book dealer, who wakes up in hospital unable to remember anything about himself. His wife, his children and his grandchildren are all strangers to him. He can, however, remember many facts and quotations from books he has read throughout his life. After being reintroduced to his home and workplace, he returns to his gr
Manuel-Antonio Monteagudo Gauvrit
"The one about comics".

That's how I knew this Umberto Eco novel before I got a chance to read it.
After finishing it, I realize it is more about nostalgia, and childhood in fascist Italy, than an ode to graphic novels. However, the parts dedicated to comics and pop culture are particularly touching and well thought out.

Despite it being nice summer reading, it is a minor book in Eco's library. Although it is a pleasure to read, the rythm is quite uneven. A must for Eco addicts like me, but not a
Benjamin Kahn
Oct 17, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Couldn't get into this book. It started off promisingly enough, but I didn't like the protagonist that much and found it was a little pretentious. The book itself is gorgeous, with a great cover that sucked me in and fantastic illustrations, but based on the little I read and what I skimmed through when I first considered abandoning it, there didn't seem enough there to warrant a further investment of time. ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it liked it
I was excited to read this book, and though I enjoyed moments of it, it failed to satisfy. The beginning was promising, Yambo was an interesting character with a story that could have developed into something truly pleasing to read. Unfortunately Eco chose to have Yambo remove himself from an interesting storyline and travel to his family home and to delve too deeply into his past, which proved underwhelming in the end.
Don't buy this book, read the first third in the bookstore and then put it d
Karla Huebner
Oct 12, 2014 added it
Shelves: fiction
One of the few books read in the last 25 years that has earned a place on my list of all-time favorites. Such a rich exploration of memory and our relationship to our own past, via the story of an older (but not yet elderly) rare-book dealer who loses and gradually regains his memory of his life.

Memory has always been an important theme for me; likewise, the ways in which our childhood and young-adult experiences shape us. This book is itself bound up in memories for me. I bought it in Prague an
Aug 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
A tender, nostalgic, and at times painful account of an amnesiac old bookseller's attempt to recover his life's memories, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana reads as though it could quite possibly be Eco's own memoir. Certainly, details have been changed to protect the innocent--our protagonist Yambo did his dissertation on the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, while Eco did his on aesthetics in the Middle Ages, for example--but these are mere cosmetic details. Eco is at an age now where he can clearl ...more
Aug 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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Umberto Eco was an Italian writer of fiction, essays, academic texts, and children's books. A professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, Eco’s brilliant fiction is known for its playful use of language and symbols, its astonishing array of allusions and references, and clever use of puzzles and narrative inventions. His perceptive essays on modern culture are filled with a delightful sen ...more

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