Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

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

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