Name of the Rose was the first book that I bought on my brand new Kindle and one of my book club friends cried ‘irony’ as I would be reading about the fate of world’s most precious library in the digital format 🙂
Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, is a murder mystery set in the 14th Italy. A very gripping plot right from the first page there is something very eerie about monks and murders and that’s what keeps the story interesting until the very end. The plot is quite intriguing. Brother William of Baskerville, a Franciscan friar travels to a Benedictine Monastery in Italy to attend a theological discussion along with his novice Adso. Adso, the narrator of this story chronicles the death and the resultant events that happen thereafter.
The abbot of the monastery welcomes his guests warmly but he is worried about the recent death of his illustrator and its implications on the theological debate for which many esteemed guests would soon descend upon his abbey . He requests William to intercede and investigate the matter. William sets to work along with his faithful novice.
The story takes us right into the life of a monastery and the daily activities of the monks. It also gives us a rich description about the management of ancient libraries, ways by which manuscripts were procured, copied and preserved. Various chapters of this tale are full of theological discussions and questions that are quite insightful and interesting. For example, there is a whole chapter devoted to the question of whether Jesus laughed or not and whether it is advisable for man to do the same. References to this sort of debate brings home the fact that faith was an all consuming factor that governed every aspect of man’s life during this period.
Umberto also gives very detailed descriptions and history about the various sects and intersects within the catholic faith. And it is also quite scary to read about how easy it was to denounce someone to be heretic in those days.
William’s investigations lead him to believe that the clue to the murders lie in the secret library that the abbey is guarding most zealously. After many blind turns, William manages to secure entry into the library’s most secret passages to discover that it is a labyrinth designed to protect many treasures of knowledge. William’s investigations are hindered by an old enemy, an inquisitor who comes to the abbey for the debate and denounces two monks as heretics. But that does not stop the killings. As William races to find the answers to many of his eluding questions, Adso experiences many strange things. He falls in love with a peasant girl who later gets denounced as a heretic. The rumblings of his heart and the limitations laid upon him by his order makes his dilemma very poignant
Plus Points: Fantastic plot and well maintained suspense. It is very difficult to guess the villain in this one. Well researched background, good prose and language.
Minus Points: Though theology and its very many intricate discussions are interesting to read, this book devotes many pages to it, which might get a bit boring. I myself skipped through some pages to get to the plot again. I felt that these could have been trimmed.
Verdict: Definitely a book to buy because you might want to read it again.