The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco (book review) – murder mystery in the abbey

This book fell into my hands while wandering through the second-hand section of a bookshop in The Netherlands. I’d heard about Umberto Eco before, so when seeing “The name of the Rose” and its beautiful cover, I could not resist buying it. I started reading it that very afternoon.

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In a nutshell

“The Name of the Rose” is a historical murder mystery, it action taking place in the 14th century, in a distressed Italian abbey. Brother William of Baskerville and his disciple – Adso of Melk – were invited to the abbey to solve a murder mystery.

The story is narrated from Adso’s point of view, who carefully documented the events that happened during the entire week spent at the abbey. Once they got there, strange things started happening and the mystery was increasing with every new death…  Sounds intriguing, right?

Overall impression

Regarding my opinion on the book … I enjoyed it A LOT! And it’s for sure a book that I would like to re-read at some point in the future. I particularly liked how the abbey was depicted as an isolated micro-universe, with its own network of relations and interests. The kernel of the micro-universe was the library, a labyrinthian and mystical place where only the chosen ones were allowed to enter.

Sherlock from other times

Brother William reminded me of Sherlock Holmes, he is the detective type that solves puzzles and is able to put together all the details to solve the mystery. I found out later that the name of the character was actually inspired from one of Holmes’s cases – The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Structured and sprinkled with philosophical topics

I also liked that the book is structured in many parts. Every day represents a chapter, and each chapter is split into sub-chapters representing the canonical hours. This made it easier to understand and follow the narrative story.

Given that the story is situated in the religious world, there were some philosophical and theological discussions touched upon. I personally did not enjoy those parts of the story, but fortunately there weren’t many. And the 14th-century language style can make it a bit difficult to read at first, but you will get used to it quite quickly.


I will end this review with a quote from the book, a quote I find thought-provoking not only in the context of the story but also for the day-to-day life of book enthusiasts:

“Books are not made to be believed, but to be subjected to inquire. When we consider a book, we mustn’t ask ourselves what it says but what is means … “

I would like to hear your opinion on Umberto Eco’s books! Which one of his books would you recommend to read next?

If you would like to buy books or other (non)bookish things, please consider using one of these links: Amazon | Waterstones | Carturesti. Thank you!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


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