The novel is a murder mystery thriller woven around some old theological debates in Christianity. The story belongs to the fourteenth century. At that time, the Christian religion was being molded into its present shape by various opposing factions. These factions were engaged in a power struggle with each other and with the Roman political administration. A famous and ancient abbey in Rome is witness to six murders and its abbot wants to uncover the murderer before an important religious discourse that is scheduled to be held at the abbey soon. William along with his scribe, Adso( who is also the narrator in the novel) is given charge of unraveling the killer.
The Roman Catholic church had to establish itself as the main branch of Christianity after putting down various offshoots of the religion. The religion has evolved into its present form through a prolonged power struggle. The book is a thrilling murder mystery with this religious turmoil as backdrop . It is interesting to note how the church tried to control free thinking and attempted to keep knowledge under strict bounds, out of reach of the common man. The library in the novel is a symbol of this vast learning of free thinkers which the church monks tried to control.
The book is a first person narrative by Adso. It reads like an epic. The main narrative is liberally interspersed with elaborate discourses on various religious tenets. Descriptions in the book are also very lengthy. These discourses and descriptions seem to be very specific to the fourteenth century and this may make the reader impatient as they do not relate to the main narrative strongly. Other wise the plot is gripping and proceeds with scientific precision.
The details, regarding characters and places furnished in the novel are too specific to the time the plot is set in. These were too contextual, I was unable to relate to these details and therefore they became a deterrent to my reading. However once I was well into the novel, I realized that glossing over irrelevant descriptions and discourses was easier and gave me a better idea of the main plot. Overall the thriller is gripping and the book is a non stop read. It is interesting to note how Christianity was engulfed in a mire of contradictory theories each struggling against the other before it became the religion it is today.
Book Reviewed by Ashmita Saha
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