Book Review 5

After taking a long break due to my finals exams, I’m going to continue writing this book review series. Originally, I intended to stop reading books that do not concern my studies, but I just couldn’t help it. I have lots of spare time even during the exams season (long periods on the train, taking a break from studying, etc) and apparently I managed to finish 10 books during the period between the last post and this one. Ten! I’m surprised at myself, because I usually take about 5 to 7 days to finish a regular-sized novel.  Does this mean that I spent less time than I should have on my studies? Definitely. Or maybe not, it depends on my test scores.
Now onto the book.
The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
There is a community library near my dorm which I like to visit and use as a study room. I just can’t study anything in my own room because of many distractions (TV, computer,…) , and I simply can’t concentrate. So I use the library. Speaking of libraries, Japanese ones are way, way better than those in Thailand. Even though my district is not a large one or even one near central Tokyo, the library for this district is huge and it contains books on a wide range of subjects. I even found textbooks on Statistical Mechanics, which I think no one apart from students would read. There is a small section of foreign books, both fiction and non-fiction, and I found this book there. I think I’ve heard Umberto Eco’s name mentioned somewhere, so I decided to check it out and give it a try.
The Name of the Rose is a novel about a murder mystery in a Christian abbey in medieval times. The telling of the story is done by an apprentice to a priest who travels to this abbey, reminiscent of Watson’s narrative of Sherlock Holmes. While this priest, William, is visiting,  a series of seemingly unconnected murders happen, and the abbot asks for William’s help in finding the culprit. The investigation involves trips in secret libraries, rigorous interviewing of most of the abbey’s personel, and various happenings during the night.
As a novel with a central mystery storyline, this book was quite suspensful and interesting enough for me to finish it without too much effort. However, the murder investigations are spaced with many philosophical discussions between characters. The interpretation of God’s message by using art, the internal conflict of a priest’s vow of celibacy, and the poverty of Christ, among other numerous arguments. There was even a debate on whether Jesus laughed or not! If philosophy is your cup of tea, that’s fine,  and this book can be read just for the discussions. The arguments get more and more detailed, with a character representing a particular sect’s point of view. This is the frustrating part. There are Dominicans, Benetictians, Franciscans, Pseudo Apostles, Minorites, and more sects or groups of sects with their distinct beliefs. How am I supposed to remember the differences among these 500 (a minor exaggeration) sects? I gave up keeping track of them when I got about halfway through the book. As this book was written by a historian, historical accuracy and details are emphasized. While rich, detailed backgrounds are essential to most novels, this one’s details were too much for me to handle.
Rating : 8 out of 10

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