Name of the Rose
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The clues point to a dark secret inside the heralded library of the abbey. There, monks toil day after day, reproducing the classics and more modern works. This is where civilization was being saved at the time, in small monasteries which kept alive science and ancient literature. However, somethings that are hidden away in the library are not meant to be seen, and a strangely rigid library control apparatus shields certain works from William. As the murders and the obstinacy of the librarians continue, William becomes more suspicious of the abbey's leadership at large. A conspiracy begins to emerge, one dedicated to the many scriptural and architectural secrets possessed by the Italian abbey. It quickly becomes apparent to William and the reader that what is involved here is much more important than the political issues of the day.
The pure historical swath of The Name of the Rose is hard to even summarize, as it is just immeasurably grand. The reader learns of the medieval church and of a Europe torn apart by theological argument. Messiahs and prophets tour the land, with inquisitors and church officials constantly at work stamping them out. Battle between the secular and divine worlds begin to emerge, as the Popes become more and more involved in the everyday politics of Europe. Eco shows the reader how important ideas were at this time, as theological speculation was by far the most critical arena of thought in that violent era. Ideas concerning the divinity of Christ, the power of the Popes, and the importance of older, "pagan" philosophies were constantly fought over. William is a wonderful guide, as his mind is the window into the age. He is the embodiment of learned divinity, torn between the complex humanism of the ancients and the compelling reality of the present. He is a man of his time, a valuable tool for readers so much removed. The writing itself is absolutely magnificent, as every scene, every setting, every character is rendered in eminently readable caricatures.