Category Archives: Umberto Eco

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco

So… the latest Savidge Reads Big Reads (nee Savidge Big Weekenders) and one which as I mentioned on Monday I very nearly came to give up on. However despite my initial struggles with The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco I carried on (struggling) right until the end. Was it worth it? In honesty the jury is still out on that for me to be I don’t think I have ever felt so confounded by a book or so annoyed that I found a book so difficult.

The Name of the Rose is set in 1327 in an Italian monastery where Monks are dying in mysterious ways. In a time where the Catholic Church is dividing and differing Catholic communities are accusing each other of heresy emotions are running high. Brother William of Baskerville and his companion, and the narrator, Adso arrive after the first death and turn detective and sidekick as they try to unravel the mystery. Now this makes it sound like your average historical murder mystery but it is so much more than that.

Umberto Eco’s novel is undoubtedly a masterpiece, however for me it was an alienating one. Unlike when I read The Blind Assassin a few weeks ago the hard work didn’t seem to pay of with The Name of the Rose. I am not a religious person, I have nothing against it at all – the Non-Reader is Catholic, but I do find the history of religion interesting. However when the history of it is told for five pages a chapter and the same stories of heretics and the anti-Christ are reworded and repeated making what would be a great 250 page mystery into a 500 epic even a die hard theologist would have trouble with this book.

The prose is stunning though in all honesty I think Eco might work by the rule of ‘why use one word when I can use a paragraph’. The interspersed Latin I found slightly pretentious and a bit ‘look how clever I am and you aren’t’ which slightly alienates a reader, well it did me anyways. I don’t want a book to make me feel stupid. Now bare in mind I know some Latin, my mother being a Latin, Classics and English Literature teacher, I am not even someone who has no knowledge of it and I found it grated on me and to only then be reworded in English just seemed like more words to bulk up the book.

I also never felt I got to know the characters as there were so many of them and though I did really like Brother William of Baskerville and Adso as characters I never quite felt on side with them because sure enough one of them would soon be spouting paragraphs of Eco-isms and I would be put of them for a fair few pages. As for all the other characters well with all the similar names I would sometimes think that they were talking to a character that I would suddenly realise had been dead for a few pages. Back to the positive however I thought the book had moments of genius, the mystery and suspense was wonderful when it was in the book and not being shrouded by Eco-isms. Joining William and Adso as they ventured through the dark twisting labyrinth of corridors, secret passages, turrets and the amazing library of the monastery did have me on the edge of my seat. I just wish the whole book had been like that, that would have been superb.

I would give the book 2.5/5 it wasn’t awful (I hate giving bad reviews – I try and see the best in all books, especially when I have always wanted to read them and when the Non-Reader has bought me a book… a very rare event) and had moments of spell binding brilliance but to me it was as my mother (it’s normally my Gran that is famous/infamous on this blog) said only yesterday “oh I thought that book was a really good mystery surrounded by pretentious twaddle” and I have to say I think she was right. Though don’t tell her that I wouldn’t hear the end of it! She also said “it’s one of the rare books that is better as a film” I shall find out as I have ordered it from Lovefilm to see if it makes more sense that way.

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Filed under Review, Umberto Eco, Vintage Classics

New Arrivals, Blind Assassins & Big Weekenders

A slightly late blog today but I have been work, work, working and on deadline weeks blogging, though delightful, is slightly harder to fit into my day I am here now though. Highlight of a hard day today has been two parcels, one from the delightful people at Transworld/Doubleday which I might have known was coming and one from the lovely people at Sceptre which was a complete suprise. You can see them on my coffee/fishbowl table here…

Their Finest Hour and a Half – Lissa Evans
I am really excited about this one, partly because its in the Orange Longlist and I really wanted to do the whole lot but just to get one is a delight. The other reason is because its sounds quite different. “It is 1940. France has fallen, and only a narrow strip of sea lies between Great Britain and invasion. The war could go either way and everyone must do their bit. Young copy writer Catrin Cole is drafted into the Ministry of Information to help ‘write women’ in propaganda films – something that the men aren’t very good at. She is quickly seconded to the Ministry’s latest endeavour: a heart-warming tale of bravery and rescue at Dunkirk. It’s all completely fabricated, of course, but what does that matter when the nation’s morale is at stake? Since call-up has stripped the industry of its brightest and best, it is the callow, the jaded and the utterly unsuitable who must make up the numbers: Ambrose Hilliard, third most popular British film-star of 1924; Edith Beadmore, Madame Tussauds wardrobe assistant turned costumier; and Arthur Frith, whose peacetime job as a catering manager has not really prepared him for his sudden, unexpected elevation to Special Military Advisor. And in a serious world, in a nation under siege, they must all swallow their mutual distaste, ill-will and mistrust and unite for the common good, for King and Country, and – in one case – for better or worse…”

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano
This young man (26 years old) has had a huge hit with this already in 34 countries and won awards that authors such as Umberto Eco has won, stand him in good stead. “He had learned his lesson. Choices are made in a few seconds and paid for in the time that remains. A prime number is inherently a solitary thing: it can only be divided by itself, or by one; it never truly fits with another. Alice and Mattia also move on their own axes, alone with their personal tragedies. As a child Alice’s overbearing father drove her first to a terrible skiing accident, and then to anorexia. When she meets Mattia she recognises a kindred spirit, and Mattia reveals to Alice his terrible secret: that as a boy he abandoned his mentally-disabled twin sister in a park to go to a party, and when he returned, she was nowhere to be found. These two irreversible episodes mark Alice and Mattia’s lives for ever, and as they grow into adulthood their destinies seem irrevocably intertwined. But then a chance sighting of a woman who could be Mattia’s sister forces a lifetime of secret emotion to the surface. A meditation on loneliness and love, “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” asks, can we ever truly be whole when we’re in love with another?

Sunnyside – Glen David Gold
I knew nothing of this book until it arrived but it sounds very interesting and unusual. “From the author of the acclaimed Carter Beats The Devil comes a grand entertainment with the brilliantly realized figure of Charlie Chaplin at its centre: a novel at once cinematic and intimate, thrilling and darkly comic, which dramatizes the moment when American capitalism, a world at war, and the emerging mecca of Hollywood intersect to spawn an enduring culture of celebrity. SUNNYSIDE follows three overlapping fortunes: Leland Wheeler, son of the last (and worst) Wild West star, as he heads to the battlefields of France; snobbish Hugo Black, drafted to fight in Russia under the British general, Edmund Ironside; and Chaplin himself, contending with studio moguls, accusations of cowardice, his unchecked heart and, most menacing of all, his mother, as he pursues the goal of making a movie ‘as good as he was’. With a cast of enthralling characters both historical and fictional, Sunnyside is a heart-rending, spellbinding novel about dreams, ambition and the dawn of the modern age.”

The latter two arent out until June, so do you think its ok to leave reviews and reading until nearer the time of release? Hmmm, a puzzle and a conundrum I hadn’t thought of before.

So The Blind Assassin… no review just yet its more likely to be tomorrow that I have it up and online. I have still got about 190 pages to go but am giving myself the night off to devour the final pages. So far I am really enjoying it, I can see why other people might not though. It’s definatley a book to take your time with and though the print is quite big its misleading! So the first Big Weekender Review is running a little bit behind now… whoops!

Speaking of the Big Weekender am swapping some of the dates of the books. I am going to do Midnights Children on the May Bank Holiday instead as it sounds like its needs some extra time and patience. I think aswell I might start the books on a friday night! Oh and I also decided on the 4th book after all your thoughts so now the list looks like this…

Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 18th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 25th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 2nd May)
Sea Of Poppies – Amitav Ghosh (Weekend of 9th May)

So thats all the latest. Oh actually not quite, I need your advice, Savidge Reads Towers appears to have mice (its a Victorian house in London enough said) how can we humanely get rid of them, and most importantly… they don’t eat books do they?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare

Introducing: Savidge Reads Big Weekenders

That title makes it sound like I am hosting some sort of blogging/book festival every weekend which sadly I am not. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful event though, lots of book bloggers under one roof discussing books for a whole weekend, you could even get publishers and authors in on the act too… maybe I should trademark that? That’s actually really got me thinking! Anyway sorry I digressed.

Did you all have lovely Easters? Isn’t it nice that we still have a day of relaxation, reading and letting all that chocolate digest? I have spent most of Friday and Saturday working, no rest for the wicked if they work from home. There have been big breaks away from the computer to curl up on the sofa and read though. Yesterday I had a day off with the Non Reader which was meant to be wandering the streets and getting ‘Lost in London’ which we like to do. You can find the most delightful secret areas of London that way. However the not great weather ruined it all and so we ended up having a spring clean. I held off from a great book sort as then the Non Reader wouldn’t have seen me for a day. Today is back to the grindstone for a half day this afternoon after a lovely lunch with my ex-boss. What did you get up to both relaxation and reading wise I would love to know? I have digressed again! So The Savidge Reads Big Weekenders…

I have a TBR pile all of its own for books over 500 pages. Now I do not call these books tomes (is that spelt right?) by any stretch of the imagination they are not War & Peace, Gone With The Wind or Anna Karenina (which is still at 200 pages read – and has been since late January whoops) those are proper huge monster books, not necessarily monsters in a bad way, just slightly daunting. No the books on this special TBR piles are ones that I really want to read but then think ‘imagine the number of books I could get through instead of that one book’. So on Saturday when I was sorting my TBR piles I thought ‘Simon this is silly, you’re probably missing out on some true gems here so why not read one big book every weekend?’

Well I started one this weekend which I have been meaning to read for ages and promised Novel Insights I would read as part of our Rogue Book Group’s Rogue 5 Challenge while she jets around the globe. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood is a book I started about four years ago, told my Gran I was doing so and she told me the ending. Being only 20 pages in I decided that I would leave it for another year or two until I forgot and fortunately I have – no one spoil it please, don’t you hate it when people do that? This is also a Man Booker winner; and after enjoying doing The Richard & Judy Challenge and then finding that randomly Farmlanebooks was doing the same thing, we have been discussing doing the Man Booker winner list together. More of that later in the week when it’s all finalised though. So I then planned the next four Savidge Reads Big Weekenders which are including this weekends…

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood (Weekend of 11th April)
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie (Weekend of 18th April)
Memoirs of a Midget – Walter De La Mare (Weekend of 25th April)
The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco (Weekend of 2nd May)

I am debating between The Comapny fo Liars by Karen Maitland and Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh after that? If anyone would like to join in that would be wonderful hence why thought would give you the list of what’s coming and we all like a challenge don’t we? I will do the review on the Monday after the weekend of the chosen book and then if you have read it you can leave your thoughts and comments too? Might make interesting discussion, this week the review will be up tomorrow (I should have finished it by then). I would also love to hear your suggestions for ones that I should consider in the future. The only criteria are they need to be more than 500 pages, maybe even 550 and yet less than 850 pages. Can’t wait to see what you suggest.

So far am 200+ pages into The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood and loving it I can already tell there is going to be a big punch in the end. Though isn’t it annoying when you start a book and tell people, or they ask you and then say things like ‘oh god no, I thought that book was awful, I liked her early stuff but that book was dire’ or ‘have you tried The Robber Bride… oh you didn’t like it and couldnt read past 100 pages, shame as its much better than that one you’ve started.’ Fills me with hope that doesn’t it? So far they are both wrong… we will see.

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Umberto Eco, Walter De La Mare

Belated Birthday Boys Birthday Books Blog

I wasnt going to blog today as have been on one of the shortest but most important deadlines of my writing career today and been literally sat at my computer pulling my hair out, fortunately it has all turned out very well the piece is loved by all. Enough of that though one thing I forgot to blog about (because I was busy being a birthday boy) was whether I got any books for my birthday on Tuesday the answer was yes… three!

Now I have to say that one of the ones I was secretly hoping for but didn’t get was The Enchantress of Florence by Salman Rushdie BUT I think until I have conquered Midnights Children I shouldnt be allowed to read it. Now please have in mind that I didn’t have a list of books that I wanted and the Non Reader doesnt really like books or reading when you see what was unwrapped…

What a great selection of books! I was really impressed. I asked how these were chosen and after I put the blurb of each one below I shall then put the Non Readers reasons. I was secretly quite, quite touched. So here we go…

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Diaz
Blurb Says: Things have never been easy for Oscar. A ghetto nerd living with his Dominican family in New Jersey, he’s sweet but disastrously overweight. He dreams of becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien and he keeps falling hopelessly in love. Poor Oscar may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fuku – the curse that has haunted his family for generations. With dazzling energy and insight Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous lives of Oscar; his runaway sister Lola; their beautiful mother Belicia; and in the family’s uproarious journey from the Dominican Republic to the US and back. Rendered with uncommon warmth and humour, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” is a literary triumph, that confirms Junot Diaz as one of the most exciting writers of our time.
Non Reader Says: It has won one of the biggest book prizes, and a prize you say is much more reliable than the Man Booker in terms of actual winner. It sounded a bit obscure whihc is very you, whist at the same time being modern. You have also picked this book up and ummmed and ahhhed about it every time we have been in the book stores in the last month.

Blackmoor – Edward Hogan
Blurb Says: Beth is an albino, half blind, and given to looking at the world out of the corner of her eye. Her neighbours in the Derbyshire town of Blackmoor have always thought she was ‘touched’, and when a series of bizarre happenings shake the very foundations of the village, they are confirmed in their opinion that Beth is an ill omen. The neighbours say that Beth eats dirt from the flowerbeds, and that smoke rises from her lawn. By the end of the year, she is dead. A decade later her son, Vincent, treated like a bad omen by his father George is living in a pleasant suburb miles from Blackmoor. There the bird-watching teenager stumbles towards the buried secrets of his mother’s life and death in the abandoned village. It’s the story of a community that fell apart, a young woman whose face didn’t fit, and a past that refuses to go away.
Non Reader Says: It’ set in your homelands of Derbyshire and a place that we both think is stunning and has a dark side. This book looks like it might be mysterious and spooky and I actually might want to read it after you.

The Name of the Rose – Umberto Eco
Blurb Says: The year is 1327. Franciscans in a wealthy Italian abbey are suspected of heresy, and Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate. When his delicate mission is suddenly overshadowed by seven bizarre deaths, Brother William turns detective. He collects evidence, deciphers secret symbols and coded manuscripts, and digs into the eerie labyrinth of the abbey where extraordinary things are happening under the cover of night. A spectacular popular and critical success, “The Name of the Rose” is not only a narrative of a murder investigation but an astonishing chronicle of the Middle Ages.
Non Reader Says: You like murder mysteries and crimes and always saying that you can guess the outcome. You like history but don’t understand religion so I thought this might teach you something. It’s meant to be a ‘classic’. Plus you have been saying to yor Gran that you really want to read it quite a few times on the phone.

Has anyone helped the Non Reader without me knowing… most puzzling!

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Filed under Edward Hogan, Umberto Eco