The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

January 2007

I’ll say off the bat, this isn’t one of my favorite Eco novels. Maybe it’s the modern-day setting, maybe my expectations were too high—whatever the reason, I found it hard to really care about what was happening in the book. The protagonist suffers a stroke and spends most of the book not remembering anything about himself, so it’s kind of hard to identify with him—or indeed feel much of anything for him—since he’s essentially a blank slate.

Things pick up in the second half of the book when he returns to his childhood home and immerses himself in the books of his youth; I found the flashbacks to the past far more engaging than the goings-on in the present. As for its good points, the illustrations that are scattered throughout the book certainly add visual interest, and the entire novel is—in true Eco style—completely saturated with literary and historical allusions, so it’s kind of fun to try to “spot the reference.” Still—it’s no Foucault’s Pendulum.

Further reading…