Eco purports to be presenting a now-lost mediaeval manuscript. His reconstruction is indeed convincing; many of the topoi and stylistic manners of mediaeval literature are deployed as one would find in a real work from the fourteenth century (and some, such as the interpolation of lengthy detailings of tiny items at crucial points in the action, are just as annoying as in genuine mediaeval literature). It is in the dialogue that the work shows itself to be clearly distinct from works of the C14th; but this is central to the modern novel, and Eco's combination of the two forms is very interesting. He brings to life many historical figures of whom we know almost nothing apart from the works of theology, philosophy, literature that they left behind: although some of Eco's reconstructions are individualistic, it must be said. Certainly, far more can be gained from this work with even a small amount of knowledge of the history that is played out in the background - the early chapters of J.R.H. Moorman's 'History of the Franciscan Order' come to mind; and for anyone who knows nothing of the mediaeval world, R.W.Southern's 'Making of the Middle Ages' - it's small, very cheap and brilliant.