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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed - a true modern classic
My favourite Eco novel and one of my all-time favourite books. I keep returning to this informed and wonderfully crafted story time and time again. It _is_ very dense but Eco's narrative style is so smooth and captivating that it's not at all intimidating.
Just like 'Foucault's Pendulum' with all its Hebrew, mysticism and Kabballah (which I love), if you don't...
Published on 14 Dec 1999 by Nigel Collier

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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Reader - The Detective
In the Name of the Rose, is in many ways a frustrating book to read, because the reader required as much perseverance as the monk-turned-detective protagonist, William. It is a very top heavy book, complete with Latin phraseology, which in spite of Umberto Eco's obvious gift for narrative, is testing to navigate; many will begin and not finish. However, if you are a...
Published on 7 April 2008 by x-bout reviews


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51 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed - a true modern classic, 14 Dec 1999
By 
Nigel Collier (Hull) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
My favourite Eco novel and one of my all-time favourite books. I keep returning to this informed and wonderfully crafted story time and time again. It _is_ very dense but Eco's narrative style is so smooth and captivating that it's not at all intimidating.
Just like 'Foucault's Pendulum' with all its Hebrew, mysticism and Kabballah (which I love), if you don't like the incidental stuff (like the Latin) in Name of the Rose then just plough through it - and then savour the richness of the characterisation and the clever and meticulously dove-tailed intricacies of the plot which is unravelled at a perfect pace before you.
The basic story is pure Conan Doyle - with the aptly named main Holmes-esque character William of Baskerville being one of the most wonderful characters of any book I've read (on a par with John Le Carre's Barley Scott Blair - coincidentally both characters being played by Sean Connery in the movie versions of their respective books). Baskerville makes the same observations and inferences as the Victorian detective and even says, "elementary" as a playful reference to his fictional mentor (Eco has that sense of fun - like concluding that an encoded scrap of paper thought to hold the secrets to an ancient secret world order of Templars (in Foucault's Pendulum) was actually just a shopping list).
The other characters at the Monastery are utterly vivid, disturbing and grotesque - straight out of an Hieronymus Bosch painting. I really can't rate this book highly enough. Eco needn't be hard work, he does try and be clever (which, let's face it, he is.....very, very clever) but there's no need to get bogged down by the peripheral stuff and commentary if that's not your thing. If it is your thing then this novel will become one of the most cherished and well-thumbed items in your book case - just don't lick your finger when turning the pages.......(you'll need to read the book to understand that last comment).
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Monastic murders make fine reading, 25 Sep 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
I can't recommend this book highly enough. The way Eco unravels the labyrinthine plot whilst evoking with such supreme stylistic clarity the intrigues, seductive heretical undercurrents and atmosphere of a time and a place unknown to us is little short of extraordinary - the late medieval world is given a forceful and remarkable immediacy that draws the reader in and focusses attention on every word. I'm aware that people have found the background detail and historical elements overly imposing and generally obstructing to the plot, and although I agree to a point ( Adso's description of the church door in one of the opening chapters goes on far too long and doesn't really add anything ) those who complain about things like the almost obssesive repetitions of the doctrines and actions of Fra Dolcino as slowing down the narrative miss the point a little, as without an understanding of this the revelations towards the end of the book seem a little disingenuous. Incidentally, the parallels between the library of the monastery and that of the library described in the Jorge Luis Borges story 'The Library of Babel' are worth noting, and the presence of a character named Jorge of Burgos surely can't be a coincidence. If this encourages more people to read Borges, then this can't be a bad thing. In conclusion, a book to be both savoured and revisited ...
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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping read!, 10 Feb 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
People will probably either love or hate this book. Those expecting a straight forward medieval 'whodunnit' in the tradition of Ellis Peters might be in for a little surprize, as Umberto Eco adds a great deal of background information (history, theology, linguistics) to his murder mystery. For Adso, the narrator of the work, there is much more to discover than just the identity of the murderer.
I would also like to reassure readers, who might think that knowledge of Latin is essential to understanding and enjoying this work. It is not. A good grasp of Latin will add to the enjoyment, no doubt, but the casual reader can just skip through the quotations. What is given in Latin is background information, also making the work more authentic. However, nothing relevant to the actual plot is hidden from the reader who only knows vernacular languages.
All in all a gripping read, which will change the reader's perception of libraries for ever!
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Convincing mediaeval reconstruction, 22 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
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.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20th century classic, 23 Aug 2007
By 
J.R.Hartley (NW England) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The first time I tried to read this book as a 19 year old student desperately trying to impress my peers I abandoned it after less than a hundred pages as I found just too hard going. Several years later and at the insistence of several friends I tried again, this time determined to see it through to the end. It was, and remains, a revelation.

First of all, dispel any thoughts of the rather tame and dreary film that cam out in the 80s as it just did not do justice to this remarkable novel. Yes, it is frighteningly dark and sinister but there's a real warmth and kindly wisdom about Willaim of Baskerville and an endearing naivety from his young charge, Adso, to help the reader through the very grimmest of the plot developments.

While the setting provides a suitably unsettling backdrop to the grisly goings on, the heart of this book is in it's characters from the pious abbott, the disturbing Salvatore, the sinister Jorge and the downright terrifying Bernardo Gui of the dreaded Inquisition, all of whom are fleshed out with their own stories. Adso asks he questions the reader wants answered in a Dr Watson type way, while sleuthy William of Baskerville ( a none too subtle tip of the deerstalker hat to Arthur Conan Doyle by the author) provides the answers... and answers them with riddles.

The Name Of The Rose sheds a glimemr of light on a disturbing period of European history when plague and famine were a constant concern and religious fanatacism was the real power governing people's lives. While set several centuries ago, the theme of dogmatic zealots throwing their weight around to the peril of ordinary people is all too familiar in today's troubled times and modern day parallels are, sadly, all too easy to draw. That said, Umberto Eco does not launch an unbridled attack upon religion as he is very sympathetic to the genuine faith of many of the characters. Instead he targets those with blind faith who do not question themselves and use "the will of God" to subjugate and punish others, whether it is the men of the Inquisition or the heretical Cathars. That's not say it's a book about religion as that would miss out the murder mystery element, the sex, the architecture, the red herrings, etc.

Umberto Eco's The Name Of The Rose is a magnificent book of masterly storytelling and enlightening prose. Yes, it's hard work to get into, but then many great books are and the rewards are worth the effort so don't be put off. Ideal reading material for dark winter nights.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars compared to the film, 31 Dec 2004
By 
The film of this book (starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater) was first rate - as if someone had taken a camera into the 14th century. The film followed the story faithfully.
If you enjoyed the setting and contexts of the story in their own right, as well as the mystery and the plot, then you have to read the book. Umberto Eco is a true philologist, and his use of language and turn of phrase are at times witty, at times poetic. The conundrum of the library is much more detailed in the book, but it also contains a great deal of information about the ecclesiastical politics and scheming of those times which motivate the principal protagonists. You will also learn a good deal about the heretical movements of the middle ages.
If you enjoyed the film, reading the book will give you the detailed insights into the motives and backgrounds of the characters, and into the historical setting of the story - all things which could not sensibly be incorporated into the film.
It is a very good book, but not exactly light reading, there are a few long lists in the book (common in mediaeval literature, but not in modern literature and they can be boring), and us ordinary mortals will undoubtedly have occaisional recourse to a dictionary.
If you wondered, at the end of the film, _really_ why Bro. Remiggio was burned at the stake, then the book will explain all.
In summary - as well as being the first rate mystery you know from the film, 'The Name of the Rose' is a fascinating, and erudite exposition of mediaeval political and ecclesiastical intrigue and turmoil.
Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.
(And if you are the sort of person who is automatically inclined to try and translate that, then you will definitely enjoy the book.)
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A serious novel for serious people?, 12 Oct 2003
By 
Ms. V. Hoyle (York, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
First, a warning: Umberto Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is, at times, as daunting as the intellect of the man who wrote it. Eco, armed with his almost unique flare for combining philosophy and history, sets out to recount the mysterious, and sinisters, events occuring over a week long period in an Italian monastery in 1327. The premise and events are deliciously obscure, the solution far superior to your average who-dunnit climax.
Second, a fanfare of trumpets: the film was a great big, historically accurate flop. But that was because it was trying to be a big, historically accurate book and that was never going to work. Yes, the prose is dense, and yes, there are several paragraphs written wholly in latin without translation, but the novel overall is so rewarding that ploughing through it proves worth it. The characterisation of William of Baskerville, with his enormously proud intellect and his dry, satirical sense of humour, is quite classic. Adso the self-starring narrator-come-sleuthing novice is innocently fervent, while still retaining his seedier lusty boy-self. The remaining cast? A virtuoso performance of character studies and cameos (take special notice of the Bishop of Kaffa, the man who is still alive despite all piously hopeful statements to the contrary). And far from being a book for serious people, there are some crack-you-up, laugh-out-loud moments from the stand-up act that is Wlliam of Baskerville.
Third, beautiful and terrible as an army arrayed for battle: Eco is exploring some very deeply interesting philosophical statements concerning human nature in "The Name of the Rose" and he leaves you to puzzle out their origins. Find the mirror in yourself and hold it up - what does it show you about human nature, whether its mediaeval or modern-day?
In a nutshell: settle down in the cold of winter, focus and dive in...and don't expect satisfaction until you've worked your way through the labyrinth and found the real book, the real "The Name of the Rose", the key to the whole mystery.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition !, 28 Feb 2007
Umberto Eco is internationally renowned as an author, a philosopher, a literary critic and a historian. He is also a professor of Semiotics at the University of Bologna and lives in Milan. "The Name of the Rose", his debut novel, was first published in Italy in 1980 and became a bestseller throughout the world. It was also adapted for the big screen in 1986, a version that starred Sean Connery and Christian Slater.

"The Name of the Rose" is set in the fourteenth century and is told by Adso of Melk - an aged Benedictine Abbot looking back to a journey he took as a novice. Adso's father was a German nobleman loyal to Louis the Bavarian and arranged for the young Adso to travel with him to Italy - there, he hoped to see Louis crowned Holy Roman Emperor. However, with his father's time subsequently taken up with the Siege of Pisa, Adso was placed in the care of William of Baskerville - not only a shrewd, learned and wise Franciscan, but also a former Inquisitor. Together, the pair travel to a Benedictine abbey in the northern Italian mountains.

The arena in which William and Adso operate is at least as political as it is religious. There are great differences of opinion between the orders on a number of topics - the most relevant to the story involves a difference in opinion about poverty between the Franciscan Order and the Pope. Since the Pope and the Emperor don't see eye-to-eye either, Louis has obviously sided with the Franciscans. The Order's Head, Michael of Cesena, has been summoned several times to Avignon - where the Papal Court was held at the time - officially to deal conclusively with the matter. However, since many suspect this would actually involve Michael being charged with heresy, the Emperor feels it best if Michael travels as part of an official Imperial delegation. As the whole matter is proving increasingly difficult to deal with, a preliminary meeting has been arranged to lay out the opposing points of view. William has been appointed the Emperor's representative, and the meeting is taking place at the abbey to which he and Adso are travelling.

As it happens, the pair are given much more to think about than just the meeting. Not long before William and Adso arrived, one of the abbey's most skilled illuminators - Adelmo of Otranto - had been found dead at the foot of some cliffs beneath the abbey. The Abbot suspects the young monk was murdered, and asks William to investigate. Things are not made entirely easy for the pair : although Adelmo may have been pushed to his death from the upper floor of the library, they are forbidden from entering that area. Nevertheless, with the meeting imminent, they know it's vital to have everything cleared up as soon as possible - preferably with out any more deaths...

This is a hugely enjoyable book - the only real flaw is that it's occasionally a little over-descriptive. However, it makes a nice change to read a murder-mystery than relies solely on the skills of the investigator - particularly one as likeable as William - without any help from forensics, fingerprinting or DNA sampling. The 'back-story', relating to the meeting, added a nice political spin to things. It also added a certain amount of panic for some of the characters, as the Pope's representative is also a practising Inquisitor . Very highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books of the 20th century, 19 Mar 2003
This review is from: The Name Of The Rose (Paperback)
What else can be said about this book that hasn't been said already? It is an amazingly well-written book aimed, in my opinion, at mature educated readers that wish to immerse themselves in a mind-blowing literary feast that will change their lives forever. Very little can be said against it, except perhaps that Eco didn't make it longer.
It can be an extremely interesting read for anyone interested in Medieval history (the author is an expert in that field), for those keen on reading suspense novels, for anyone fond of enigmas, for bibliophiles, for people interested in Church matters, and so on. The novel contains a superb mixture of many different issues, and a wealth of information about them that educated readers might use as an excuse for further reading.
I think "The Name of the Rose" is definitely one of the greatest books of the 20th century and it still hasn't been beaten by any other novel by Umberto Eco. I doubt he will ever be able to do so, anyway. But, in any case, the book is so full of details and interesting passages that there is no need for him to beat it. One can just go back to it, read a few paragraphs and enjoy this masterpiece of contemporary literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good historical whodunnit, 29 Oct 2007
By 
Didier (Ghent, Belgium) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
Having read this first and then afterwards most of Eco's other books too, "The Name of the Rose" still remains my favourite. There's a very good balance here between the pure historical whodunnit and the knowledge & learning conveyed in the book (and necessary to understand the whodunnit, while to my mind in the later books the 'learning' is much too predominant).

The atmosphere of a medieval abbey is very well done and, as it is secluded from the outside world, an abbey where a killer's on the loose is the perfect site to build up the tension. Add to that plenty of colourful characters and, in the right measure, a wealth of information on religious strife in the Middle Ages and what you get is a top-notch historical thriller!
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