Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco ( 1985, trans by Geoffrey Brock, 445 pages.)

In March this year I read and posted in Umberto Eco's (1932-Italy) The Name of the Rose.     I enjoyed The Name of the Rose and learned a good bit about life in a medieval monastery in Italy from it.  The Name of the Rose is by far his most read  book.   Yesterday I finished his The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana and I  enjoyed it a lot also.    I really liked the subject matter of the novel as it deals directly with the role of books and remembered reading in the lives of book centered people, in theory the theme of my blog.

The main character and narrator of the book is a dealer in antique books in his sixties.   All of his remembered life he has loved books, literature and reading.    He has a stroke and he can remember nothing but the contents of the 1000s of books plus magazines and newspapers he has read.    He does not know his own wife, etc.    His wife fills him in on the bare outline of his life but there are still huge holes in his memory.   He goes to the ancestral country house of his family, a sprawling old mansion, and he finds a huge treasure trove of books, magazines, and newspapers along with all sorts of posters and such.   He begins to reread all of the books he appears to have read in his youth as well as magazines and newspapers from the 1930s and 1940s.   From these papers he is able to reconstruct the image of Fascist Italy.    He begins to reconstruct his own life from the books.    It is fascinating to see how Eco depicts this process.    

The book is  a love story about literature.    Many of the works referred to in the book are beyond my frame of reference but what matters is we can see the how literature shaped and enriched the man's life.    

This is a rich book with lots in it to entertain and edify us. Eco knows a really lot and it shows. The novel  is profusely and beautifully illustrated with all sorts of art works and poster reproductions that are integral to the story.      I would not classify it as a light read but I think those who give it the respect it deserves will be glad they read it.      I will, I hope, read more of his books.

Mel u


Suko said...

Another perfect book for The Reading Life! It sounds quite engaging, entertaining, and educational.

I've been on vacation and hiatus from blogging, but am back and will slowly but surely get back into blogging.

Mel u said...

Suko-glad to see you back and hope your vacation was great

Fred said...

mel u,

Thanks for the review. I hadn't heard of this work before. It sounds fascinating. I've read _The Name of the Rose_ and _Foucault's Pendulum_ and thoroughly enjoyed them. This seems to be another of his quirky? works.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I have not read anything by Eco, but this is one book that was recommended to me previously. I must give him a try. Sounds great

youngbibliophile said...

I haven't read any of Umberto Eco yet, but this book sounds fascinating. I think I'm going to check this book out.

Anonymous said...

Hi Mel, just responding to the message you left, I think you have covered some of the main authors from the time, but what about Rolf Bolderwood who wrote the bushranger novel Robbery under Arms, he also wrote short stories. There is also a short novel by Louis Stone called Jonah which deals more with urban poor, that might be of interest. Joseph Furphy may be another name worth checking out and even though it is poetry you might find C J Dennis' The Sentimental Bloke interesting for it's humour. If I think of some more I will let you know, happy reading and blogging.

Anonymous said...

Just bought a copy of In the Name of the Rose as I've been meaning to read it for a while now. This one looks like it would be a great read as well. Thanks for the review!

ds said...

Sold! I will look for this one. I, too, loved The Name of the Rose but confess to having had difficulties with Foucault's Pendulum--those are the only 2 of Eco's books that I can claim any acquaintace with. But you have convinced me to "meet" this one.
Thank you!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I've read The Name of the Rose and someone recently recommended this one to me. I may have to bump it up the TBR, it sounds great.