“The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana” by Umberto Eco

I loved reading this book. Like many dealing with the process of aging and death, it is more about living and experiencing the world than a lot of books dealing with younger and healthier protagonists. Yambo, the man character, wakes from having a stroke. He has no memory of the people in his life, or the events, but he can recall the books that he has read. He attempts to heal and recover, and come to terms with a world that is both alien and uncomfortably familiar to him.

I’m a sucker for books about books, but this really filled a craving that I hadn’t know I even had. I now wish for more books that show a reconstruction of self through memories and feelings attached to beloved novels. Even though gender, age, and culture separate me from Yambo, I truly felt as if I saw myself in him. I blame the garage sale comic books of my childhood for at least part of my resonance with this. Perhaps, even, being so removed has made it a more pleasant experience for me. I remember an exploration a fellow student made into an older character who had a similar conclusion to Yambo, in a short story class many years ago. As teenagers, the entire class was fascinated with the concept. But our much older teacher, sighed heavily and said that things like that really just exhausted and tired her.

So, depending on your concepts of mortality, age, and infirmity, this book may delight or astound or exasperate or threaten or exhaust you. But regardless, I recommend it: you’ll love the books, if nothing else, and Eco’s prose always satisfies.


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