Book Review: Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

I couldn’t have picked a more difficult book as my first review.  This sat on my bookshelf for twenty years before dusting it off and having another go.  I started it four times and each time abandoned it because I had no idea what I was reading.  I thought I was just stupid – not literary enough to appreciate the language, not educated enough to know what he’s actually on about.

The last time I picked it up, I gave myself a deadline – it had to be finished by Christmas or I wasn’t going to get that Kindle!  So with immense patience, I began to labour through the long, dense descriptions, with the distinct feeling that the book seemed to start about five times.  It then got exciting for a while.  I was quite pleased with myself for staying with it, despite the variety of languages I couldn’t translate, the characters that remained unappealing (particularly the female characters) and the historical context of the 1970’s that seemed to have nothing to do with anything (if it did, I missed something, which isn’t unlikely.)

There was even a bit of a murder-mystery going on but it was abandoned all too soon for endless conversation, in which the author did the one thing I simply loathe:  using characters as a mouthpiece for relaying huge, vast chunks of historical/scientific/religious information.  The plot, what little there was of it, died on its feet.

Somewhere, lurking inside this book, is a really good movie, just as The Name of the Rose was so well-filmed.  But you’d have to dig deep and I don’t think anyone would care enough.  By the time I got to the fantastic (apparently) denouement, I was bored to death and found myself skipping through it because it was all so trite.  I love reading a book to shore up the education I never got and I got quite excited by some of the ideas and conspiracies;  by the time I got to the end, however, I was left quite blank.  None of it stayed with me and my disappointment is keen.  The best I can say about this book is that at least I’ve read it.


About susannahjbell

I am a writer of science fiction and other strange and surreal works. I mostly write novels and the occasional novelette. My published works include A Doorway into Ultra, the Fleet Quintet and the Exodus Sequence. I live in London in an attic flat but really want to live in a tree. I wanted to be an astrophysicist but would settle for an alien abduction. I write because I don’t know what to read.
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