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Library Journal Review
Eco, an Italian philosopher and best-selling novelist, is a great polymathic fabulist in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire, Joyce, and Borges. The Name of the Rose, which sold 50 million copies worldwide, is an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library. In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate heresy among the monks in an Italian abbey; a series of bizarre murders overshadows the mission. Within the mystery is a tale of books, librarians, patrons, censorship, and the search for truth in a period of tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. The book became a hit despite some obscure passages and allusions. This deftly abridged version, ably performed by Theodore Bikel, retains the genius of the original but is far more accessible. Foucault's Pendulum, Eco's second novel, is a bit irritating. The plot consists of three Milan editors who concoct a series on the occult for an unscrupulous publishing house that Eco ridicules mercilessly. The work details medieval phenomena including the Knights Templar, an ancient order with a scheme to dominate the world. Unfortunately, few listeners will make sense of this failed thriller. The Island of the Day Before is an ingenious tale that begins with a shipwreck in 1643. Roberta della Griva survives and boards another ship only to find himself trapped. Flashbacks give us Renaissance battles, the French court, spies, intriguing love affairs, and the attempt to solve the problem of longitude. It's a world of metaphors and paradoxes created by an entertaining scholar. Tim Curry, who also narrates Foucault's Pendulum, provides a spirited narration. Ultimately, libraries should avoid Foucault's Pendulum, but educated patrons will form an eager audience for both The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before.-James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
This edition includes Eco's illuminating commentary, Postscript to the Name of the Rose. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Book Review
Fueled by bookish ingenuity instead of flesh-and-blood vitality, this brilliant Borgesian-Nabokovian historical--part pageant, part whodunit--shines with a distinctly dry light: Eco is a professor of semiotics (at Bologna University) with a versatile style (admirably handled by translator Weaver) and an awesome knowledge of the Middle Ages The story concerns a series of murders at a mythical Benedictine abbey somewhere near the Ligurian coast in 1327. The master detective is a wise and tolerant Franciscan scholar, Brother William of Baskerville, while a young Benedictine monk, Adso of Melk, plays the part both of narrator and inevitable sidekick/apprentice-sleuth. The dense and finely spun mystery eventually revolves around the last remaining copy of Aristotle's second book of the Poetics (now lost), his writings on comedy. And this precious manuscript is not just a deadly weapon--its pages have been dusted with poison by a fanatical blind monk--but its imagined contents come to symbolize humanity's ultimate defense against the bigotry and political horror swirling around in the world outside the monastery: lethal feuds between Emperor Louis IV and Pope John XXII; the Inquisition; witchhunts; pogroms; the Albigensian crusade; Fra Dolcino's bloody uprising and its far more savage suppression. Finally, then, when the manuscript is deliberately burned, the apocalyptic conflagration suggests the triumph of a very 20th-century terrorism that aims to mangle mind and body: the insidious obscurantist, Jorge of Burgos, may have been exposed, but a once-peaceful monastic microcosm now lies in ruins. . . and Brother William is doomed to die in the plague of 1348 (which may be meant as a parallel to nuclear holocaust). Eco has the learning to paint an ornate medieval panorama, the inventiveness to fill it with elegant conundrums (labyrinthine architecture, recondite Latin allusions, etc.). But his characters are stiff and two-dimensional; they talk too much, if eloquently; and Eco may ultimately be less a novelist than a preacher. Still: a rich, fascinating failure--with clever, tapestry-like appeal for a limited, historically-minded audience. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.