The Name of the Rose Review

July 28, 2012

Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose has been on my list of books to be read for years. Oddly, it has been on my bookshelf longer. Yes, you read that correctly.

At some point during my pre-teen/early teenage years my mother heard about the book and thought it would be something I would be interested in. I was already past my, albeit brief, “psh, reading” phase, but I was still hesitant to read anything my mother suggested because I was, after all, still a teenager. In any case, I eventually realized that this book sounded really interesting and was probably really good, so on the never-ending list it went.

Fast-forward however many years and I’ve finally gotten around to reading it.

Overall, I really did enjoy reading it, but it took me longer than expected to get through. Generally, when I’m reading something so intrigue-packed like this, I can hardly put it down to sleep, eat, coo over adorable animals, etc., but I found myself taking breaks from this one. I also kept falling asleep while reading it, which I really don’t understand because it isn’t boring by any means. Maybe my mind was just trying to tell me that I needed to process.

I really enjoyed the intrigue of this. There are so many twists and turns and Eco keeps the reader guessing the entire time. Adso, the narrator, is a great character, as is his mentor William, and it’s interesting trying to get into their heads as they work to figure everything out.

My only critique of the book would be that there is a lot of Latin left untranslated in the book. Personally, it’s been a while since I picked up my Latin books, so I would have appreciated a footnote or something like that.

The Name of the Rose takes place in a monastery and follows two monks as they try to unravel the secrets behind murders that have taken place there. Given the setting, it’s understandable that there’s a lot of reference to Catholicism and Christian theology. I’m wondering if perhaps I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I would have had I had more of a background or understanding of it all.

I was actually thinking along these same lines again today, but concerning art.  My friend and I visited The Cloisters museum, which is associated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It specializes in Medieval art, all of which is beautiful, but the building and grounds are absolutely stunning and merit a visit on their own. The thing is, a lot of Western art (especially in the medieval period) primarily employs Christian imagery. Since I grew up Jewish, I am not particularly familiar with much of it.

I guess my question is whether I feel I’d enjoy the art more if I understood more of the imagery/theology behind it. I certainly think it could help in terms of literature — recognizing allegories and such — and I’ve been meaning to read the New Testament (and the Old Testament actually, since I’m not sure I’ve ever read it all the way through), but would it help in art as well?

Anyway, I distracted myself. The original point: I enjoyed reading The Name of the Rose. Could I have enjoyed it more? Possibly. I’m not entirely sure. In any case, you should read it. But maybe brush up on your 14th Century Christian theology, and definitely brush up on your Latin.

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3 Responses to “The Name of the Rose Review”

  1. Mom said

    moral of the story: listen to your mother! 🙂
    actually, I haven’t read it, can I borrow??

  2. Mom said

    I DID read Red Badge of Courage (finally). Hated to admit I liked it. Never did read Wind in the Willows, though

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