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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Eco’s most accessible book yet, 31 Dec. 2005
This review is from: The Mysterious Flame Of Queen Loana (Hardcover)
‘TMFOQL’ is a departure for Umberto Eco. All of his other novels are either set in the distant past or are rich with medieval references and imagery. ‘TMFOQL’ is very much a twentieth century book with modern themes and ideas. It is also the easiest to read and understand of all of his works and hopefully will bring him to a wider audience.
‘TMFOQL’ is the story of Yambo, a Milanese book dealer. After an undefined incident he wakes in the hospital with no memory of his life, or of the world as a whole, except what he has read in books or seen in films. Unable to recognise his wife, children or home, he is sent to a house in the country in which he did most of his growing up in an effort to jog his memory. He reads the books and comics he read as a child, and tries to piece together his growing up from them. Prominent in his collection are pro-fascist comics and stories, and his schoolbooks, also full of pro-fascist jottings. As an older man he is determinedly anti-fascist, and he tries to work out how this change happened using the things of his childhood. When he suffers a second incident, his memories come flooding back, and he is able to compare the real causes of his growing up with the ones he guessed at from the evidence that he could find.
‘TMFOQL’ is a surprisingly personal book from Eco, whose characters are usually too far removed and themes too lofty to see the author in any of them. Yambo the bibliophile is easily identifiable with Eco, and the vivid descriptions of Yambo’s childhood literature can only have come from Eco’s own upbringing. This creates a more intimate feel than Eco’s other books. However, some of Eco’s trademarks, such as the layers of truth and sly winks to the readers, are still very much in evidence. There is a strong ironic twist on Marcel Proust’s ‘Search for Lost Time’. In Proust’s book, the objects and senses of our childhoods can be used to reconstruct the events of our lives. Eco has a wry smile at this idea, as Yambo’s attempts to reconstruct his past fail to tell him anything meaningful about himself. Like all Eco’s books, ‘TMFOQL’ is a very clever book, but is much more accessible and personal than the others. If you have struggles with Eco in the past, this could be the one to get you started.
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