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Showing 1-7 of 7 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
on 11 December 2005
Having been captivated by The Name of the Rose I had high hopes for Foucault's Pendulum. Unlike many others, I did make it through to the end, largely because the book has some interesting characters and I wanted to see what became of them. However, it was a frustrating experience. The novel is verbose to say the least and I have to say I also found it pretentious. Far, far too many esoteric historical and cultural references are introduced, often many in a single sentence, and frequently never to be mentioned again. For the small number of history or semiotics academics in the world who are familiar with all of these esoteric references, and I'm guessing they would number in the hundreds at the most, this might be an enlightening read. However, an writing about an intellectual topic is no excuse for impenetrability, and I'm more inclined to think that the dense and indiscrimate historical referencing is an attempt to disguise what is ultimately a less than coherent plot. Based on my previous experience with Umberto Eco I would class him as a talented author, but I think that few people will really enjoy this book. Put another way, I was sufficiently irritated by it to write my first Amazon review - i.e. in order to prevent you starting out of the same endurance test that I have just completed.
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on 5 May 2014
A truly frustrating literary experience.

I read "In the Name of the Rose" back when i was 18 (2001) and loved it. I have no idea why it took me so long to try another of Eco's novels but, having got the end of "Focault's Pendulum", it would take some convincing to get me to try another.

Part of the problem in my case was that the plot synopsis on the back cover suggests that this is an historical thriller. It is not.

The first forty pages or so are testing in the extreme for the reader: dense with academic meanderings and an ambitious plot. When we do finally get to grips with a vague plot line, Eco takes on various long and tedious diversions; both in plot (a stint in Brazil being the most obvious example) and also in terms the pervasive academic narrative that persists between the main characters.

You could argue that the main plot itself only really advances in the first and last forty pages of the book. When things finally get going, it all happens so quickly and so implausibly as to render having waded through the main body of the text far from worthwhile.

Eco's genius is undoubted; the research (and knowledge) that underpins the novel is actually pretty outstanding. My problem with it is that i don't think that this is deployed in a particularly interesting way in terms of the narrative development. Without ruining the plot for anyone; the main gist of the plot centres on the ability to make connections between seemingly any random events. To this end, Eco is having a joke at the expense of the Templar fanatics (Dan Brown fans of the world?) and, i suppose, other conspiracy theorists.

The problem with this is that, once you understand that this (The Plan) is the crux of the plot, much of the actual academic speech between the characters becomes fairly tedious: it is quite hard to follow (there is a lot of it!) and, long before the end of the book, you are aware that it is no longer integral to the plot.

The interesting parts of the book from my perspective were Belbo's character development through the excerpts of his childhood experiences that are revealed to us throughout.

If Templar history, tradition and theories are of interest to you (and you are open-minded enough to resist the mild jab being made by the author), then this will be of interest to you. If you are looking for Dan Brown-esque "thrillers", this is unlikely to tick your boxes. For me, I just wanted more characterisation, a better worked plot and far less historical / academic theorising "filler".
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on 16 January 2012
I couldn't have picked a more difficult book as my first review. This sat on my bookshelf for twenty years before dusting it off and having another go. I started it four times and each time abandoned it because I had no idea what I was reading. I thought I was just stupid - not literary enough to appreciate the language, not educated enough to know what he's actually on about.

The last time I picked it up, I gave myself a deadline - it had to be finished by Christmas or I wasn't going to get that Kindle! So with immense patience, I began to labour through the long, dense descriptions, with the distinct feeling that the book seemed to start about five times. It then got exciting for a while. I was quite pleased with myself for staying with it, despite the variety of languages I couldn't translate, the characters that remained unappealing (particularly the female characters) and the historical context of the 1970's that seemed to have nothing to do with anything (if it did, I missed something, which isn't unlikely.)

There was even a bit of a murder-mystery going on but it was abandoned all too soon for endless conversation, in which the author did the one thing I simply loathe: using characters as a mouthpiece for relaying huge, vast chunks of historical/scientific/religious information. The plot, what little there was of it, died on its feet.

Somewhere, lurking inside this book, is a really good movie, just as The Name of the Rose was so well-filmed. But you'd have to dig deep and I don't think anyone would care enough. By the time I got to the fantastic (apparently) denouement, I was bored to death and found myself skipping through it because it was all so trite. I love reading a book to shore up the education I never got and I got quite excited by some of the ideas and conspiracies; by the time I got to the end, however, I was left quite blank. None of it stayed with me and my disappointment is keen. The best I can say about this book is that at least I've read it.
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on 15 December 2006
For every interesting idea there is 30 pages of rambling. It's the kind of book that you grind through with gritted teeth, appreciating the all to apparent erudition of the author but not really enjoying the ride. Name of the Rose is great. This, frankly is a bit of a dog - although it is so clever clever that it garnered some good reviews from la la literati land.
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on 11 June 2008
This is really not a novel at all, but a kind of narrative reference book that is surely aimed at rather obsessive enthusiasts of science and the occult in the middle ages. You don't learn much about the characters in this book, some of which are almost as cartoony and undeveloped as those you may find in a Dan Brown novel, and the plot moves on painfully slowly, constantly bogged down by pages of scholarship which, by about 400 pages in, I was happy to skip with no loss of continuity. Only in the last 150 pages or so does the plot start to move along at a more respectable pace. But the climax is frankly a bit of a let down.
I suppose the interesting thing this book does is establish that the real cranks and crackpots who are into all this stuff are prepared to believe almost anything. But if you're not obsessed with the subject matter to the same degree as the characters in this book, you can't help but ask: so what?
This is a long book, demanding many hours to plough through, and the result was disappointing.
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Pretentious and overbearing. Jumps around aimlessly and boringly.
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VINE VOICEon 24 February 2009
I'm really not sure what to make of this - is it a sublimely constructed masterpiece or meaningless drivel? Well, I have given up after ploughing through 40% of it. There are some interesting historical discussions and some amusing bits, but the whole is much less than the sum of these intermittent good parts, and the characters flat and didn't evoke any sympathy with me. Much of it reads like some vast brain dump of every cultural, religious and mystic reference the author could lay his hands on (that is, assuming those parts of it that don't mean anything to me have not just been made up by the author). I had made quite rapid progress with reading it (skimming a few parts) but then decided, in light of the vast number of other books on my TBR list, that I was simply not willing to spend any more of my life on it.
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