Saturday, May 25

Book: Baudolino, Umberto Eco Click for more info

Some books are harder work than others. For instance, the series I had been reading for the past year (A Song of Ice and Fire) was almost a pleasure to read - not much was missed and it was just easy to absorb; albeit without sacrificing depth or complexity.

Then you have a book like Baudolino, a book that, well, made me feel a little thick. I think I must have only taken in around 70% of the story - there were times when I had no idea where the characters were, or how they got there... or even who they were. And on completion I still don't know where some of the main protagonists came from.

For me the problems came from both the pacing of the book (the friend who loaned me it aptly described it as "meandering") as well as the assumption that the reader understood the politics of thirteenth century Italy and Christendom. I found this lack of connection a little frustrating at first, but after a while I soon warmed to the book and was able to enjoy it despite the holes in my understanding of it.

The book itself (or at least the bits I engaged with) is pretty good. It's essentially a biography of the fictional Baudolino, from childhood all the way to old age, and explores themes of dogma, moral corruption and self justification of obviously bad acts like lying on a grand scale. It's actually a very good lesson on how perception can become reality, and by the end of the book you begin to understand and share the in-joke the author himself is playing on you, the reader - which kind of explains why you have to throw your objectivity out of the window if you want to really enjoy this book. The multiple disparate characters bring tons to the book, and are well laid out in contrast to each other - although they might not be that deep themselves, as a collective they generate bags of characterisation.

Overall though, although I don't have any regrets in reading it, Baudolino was a slog to get through. But although it wasn't completely to my taste it was enjoyable enough and I am sure that others might appreciate even more the journey they share with him.

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