What I am figuring out by reading these Boxall books is that while I don’t always understand or like the plot–I am learning how to read literature. I feel as if I am taking a class. I am educating myself in a way I did not know I was capable of. That is why I set out to write this blog in the first place. I don’t only read for pleasure anymore, I’m actually grasping and remembering what I read.
The Name of the Rose is one of those books that I definitely did not read for pleasure but I did learn from it. I have pages and pages of notes about the novel…and I can hardly explain the plot.
I can tell you that it’s a murder mystery set in a Catholic monastery in the 1300s. I know who the murderer is in the end, but there are so many details about how the murder was solved that went right over my head.
From a literary standpoint, the authenticity is really good. Umberto Eco obviously did a fantastic amount of research before writing this. I would believe more that this had been written centuries ago–not in 1980. In fact, I had to Google this multiple times to make sure that it actually was written so recently, because I didn’t believe it.
From a reader’s standpoint, however (or maybe because it was so authentically written), the book is completely droll. Anyone picking this up as a crime novel is going to immediately put it down. The main character is obviously based on Sherlock Holmes. The archetype is obvious, and he even is named William of Baskerville. Duh. But the Catholic doctrine and the debate between the Benedictines and the Franciscans and all the others just drowns out everything else in the storyline.
Another extremely difficult barrier to the reader is that the narrator–a young novice priest travelling with William–thinks/speaks in a mix of English and Latin. He speaks Latin so fluently that there is no pause for reader context and explanation of what he is saying. You either have to 1) stop and Google everything he says, or 2) pretend like you know what he’s talking about and move on.
For example: “In fact, I now saw the girl better than I had seen her the previous night, and I understood her intus et in cute because in her I understood myself and in myself in her.”
“Intus et in cute” means inside and out, but there’s no context in the section to know that without looking it up.
Unless you know fluent Latin…you’re going to find this extremely annoying and frustrating. Sometimes I stopped and translated the phrases, but after while, I just gave up.
I learned some interesting things about the Catholic religion that I didn’t previously know, and I, at the very least, have a good 6 pages of journaling on the break down of this monster. Good enough for me. Not a book I’m going to recommend for anyone, but it was a worthy fight.