Review Blog

Sep 03 2012

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

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Vintage Books, 2012. ISBN 9780099555971.
(Age: 18+) Reading an Umberto Eco novel is always a rich and challenging experience and this novel is no exception. However, it is hard to see it appealing to many teen readers. This is partly due to the style and structure of the work; set in the 19th century it reads like a novel from this era with a 'Narrator' who addresses the reader in a formal manner. It is partly due to the slow and rambling pace of the work. It is partly because the novel is teeming with real life historical figures, most of whom will be unfamiliar to teens, even those who are keen on history. It is also partly due to the rather unlikable nature of the main character who makes a living from fraudulent dealings and who is stridently anti-Semitic. This stance may well have the reader feeling uneasy and struggling to fathom whether there is an element of intended irony at play.
On the design side, the novel is beautifully presented, with frequent black and white sketches of the characters which not only complement the story but also add to the 19th century feel of the work. Eco's writing is always dense and full of intriguing ideas but this novel has a decidedly slow-burn approach which may test the patience of readers. Ultimately there is an adult feel and flavour to this novel which may make it less appealing to teenagers, even the most mature of readers.
Deborah Marshall

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