Umberto Eco was born on January 5th 1932 in a small town close to Turin, and is a medievalist, philosopher, literary critic and novelist. So it is no wonder that his most famous work “Name of the Rose” is set in medieval times. The story is in fact set in Italy in 1327, narrated by an old monk years later.
The first time I picked up the novel, I had to let it go in the first ten pages. I could not get over the heavy Latin pieces that made it too heavy for me. Recently, after probably five years, I decided to give it another shot and I was pleasantly surprised.
The narrator, Adso of Melk, is a novice monk traveling with William of Baskerville. Their initial destination in the abbey was for William to be a mediator between Pope John XXII and Michael of Cesena. But as they got to the abbey, the abbot asks William to solve a mysterious death that occurred in that isolated and sacred place, before the arrival of Michael of Cesena. Unfortunately there are more deaths during the week and the mystery gets more complicated. William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk find themselves trying to solve the mystery (trying to prove that is not the Devil’s work) of the deaths but asking too many questions about the “forbidden to enter” library that does not please the abbot. The whole story, spoken a lot in Latin, also tells the history of that time with the Inquisition, the political squabble and the religious controversy surrounding that era.
I think it is worth to give it a try, especially if you can get past the first chapter. A good read for a long plane ride or before bedtime, but might be a little heavy for a summer read on the beach.