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am 6. Februar 2000
This is an interesting book, often well written, occasionally addictive, but it reads like a first novel - the glue shows through. The book's greatest strength is the character of William of Baskerville - Eco has created a funny, likeable, flawed hero who is able to hold together an uneven book. Adso is quite well drawn, but there are numerous inconsistencies in the characterisation of the young narrator. Sometimes he reveals a precocious intelligence in his dialogues with William; other times he is unbelievably dense -how could he fail (even under great stress) to differentiate between a book in Greek and one in Arabic script?
There are several long descriptive passages. Some of these are extremely tedious, adding nothing to plot, character or the fascinating ideas Eco is exploring. One or two such passages can be useful in adding "local colour" but Eco overdoes it. He doesn't integrate the various elements in the book: he spends a few pages developing plot, then cuts and pastes a few pages of history, philosophy or church politics; then returns to the plot. The quality of the writing in each section is good, but at times one could be forgiven for wondering if it is a text book or a novel. The previous book I read on medieval heresy was a history book, yet the plot was stronger and more compelling than Eco's despite the fact that the former was restrained by historical fact.
The above criticisms aside, Eco clearly has a great imagination and a witty, playful personality, The book has a beautifully written ending, many delightful passages and left this reader wanting to know even more about some of the many topics dealt with in the book.
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