On The Name of the Rose

Posted by Jack on 2019-06-25 at 19:00
Tagged: books
TitleThe Name of the Rose
AuthorUmberto Eco

I honestly couldn't finish this book. I'm trying not to be overly critical and to give it the benefit of the doubt considering its 40 years old and a translation to boot, but after getting 350 pages into it, I started to dread picking it up and to me that's a strong sign it's time to move on.

The actual core mystery plot, and even the two main characters, were interesting and fun to read about but the author spends so much time on the minutiae of 1300s Catholic politics that I had trouble staying focused. I almost nodded off more than once. In the end I had to skip paragraphs just to keep from drowning in the sea of text rife with untranslated Latin, tangential names and places and nuanced theological argument about tiny aspects of Christianity that only a monk would fret over.

The worst part is that I feel like I'm actually a softer audience for this book than most. I have a grasp on the history and Catholic theology (being ex- myself), I can appreciate a smattering of Latin, I can even find interest in the abuses pre-Reformation Catholicism and its heresies. The trouble is that none of this painstaking historical table setting really matters that much to the main story.

It's almost like reading two books - one an exciting story of a Holmes/Watson style duo investigating a medieval serial killer around a labyrinth of forbidden knowledge (almost in the vein of Dan Brown), the other a very dry log of a group of Biblical scholars arguing. In fact the only reason I read as much as I did was that the murder mystery part was just compelling enough to get me through the mind numbing parts that seem to switch on every other chapter.

Reading the synopsis online I'll admit I might be bailing right as it was starting to climax, but ultimately I couldn't bring myself to keep slogging through it to dig out a few gems when I've got other books to read.