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The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

This was not as engrossing as The Name of the Rose and not as complex as Foucault's Pendulum, but The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana hit me harder and at a more personal level than Eco's other books. The theme is nostalgia and personal identity. Through Yambo's amnesia, Eco explores the way in which we construct our identities through scraps from our past: what books we've read, movies we've seen, music we've heard, experiences we've had. It also shows that what we choose to forget and how we choose to tell our own stories are just as important as what we remember and the objective facts of our lives. The honesty with which Eco traces Yambo's childhood will strike every reader close to home. Yambo's experiences are his own, but they will also call to mind the childhood and adolescent experiences of any reader. I found myself spending a lot of time in my own past while reading this book and thinking about my own personal story.

The final third of the book is a tour-de-force, a secular, pop-culture Divine Comedy that is spectacular and mind-bending. I wouldn't recommend this as your first Eco book, but if you're a fan of his other works, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is not to be missed.

5/5 stars