The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco, translated by Geoffrey Brock (unabridged audiobook read by George Guidall; 15 hrs on 13 discs): 60-year-old Yambo, an antiquarian book dealer, wakes up in a hospital with amnesia. He remembers everything he’s ever read, everyday things like how to shave, and a certain amount of history, but all his personal life experiences are gone. He doesn’t know who anyone is, or how anything tastes or feels, or any other memory with an emotional component. The first portion is largely a string of literary references that build on each other through word association. Eventually he returns to his childhood home to read old schoolbooks and comics in order to rediscover his own identity. His memory returns very gradually, so you have to be in it for the journey, not anticipating some Big Change at any point. To be honest, I was bored for a lot of this book. I didn’t understand a lot of the references, especially later when most of them were to WWII-era Italian propaganda. The amnesia concept was fresh – rediscovering tastes and smells, for example – and the actual memories turned out to be quite interesting, but for the most part I felt like I was slogging through a bunch of navel-gazing for which I had no context. I also never figured out what caused him to get the amnesia to begin with, but that may have been revealed at a time when I’d glazed over. I am quite certain many people would quite enjoy this book, but I appear to not be one of them.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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