The Island of the Day Before

The Island of the Day Before

3.7 8
by Umberto Eco, William Weaver

View All Available Formats & Editions

Umberto Eco, one of the greatest storytellers of all time, continues to enthrall readers with this exquisitely crafted novel that celebrates the romance, war, politics, philosophy, and science of the baroque period in all its lush and colorful detail. 513 pp.


Umberto Eco, one of the greatest storytellers of all time, continues to enthrall readers with this exquisitely crafted novel that celebrates the romance, war, politics, philosophy, and science of the baroque period in all its lush and colorful detail. 513 pp.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this tale of an Italian nobleman shipwrecked in the South Pacific in 1643, Eco's storytelling abilities and his love for esoteric historical detail, so beautifully balanced in The Name of the Rose, are sadly out of kilter, with the arcana overwhelming the plot. As part of a cabal instigated by French Cardinal Mazarin and his protg Colbert, Robert della Griva has been traveling in disguise on an English ship whose mission is to discover the Punto Fijo, the means by which navigators can plumb ``the mystery of longitude.'' Cast adrift during a storm, Roberto fetches up against another ship, the Daphne, whose crew has mysteriously vanished. Although the vessel is moored only a mile from an enchanting island (the two may be on opposite sides of the date line, giving the book its title), Roberto, a nonswimmer, is as marooned as though in mid-ocean. The text consists of a third-person narrator's retelling of Roberto's manuscript recounting his adventures on the ship and such previous experiences as his participation in the siege of Casale and life among the erudite of Paris. There are some magical descriptions of Roberto's moonlit solitude aboard the Daphne, but the introduction of a third story line involving his imaginary evil twin hopelessly tangles a narrative already overloaded with lengthy exegeses on such obscure 17th-century devices as the Powder of Sympathy and the Specula Melitensis. Eco's postmodernist gameshe directly addresses the reader, explaining how little the narrator knowswear thin, and some delightfully secondary characters who appear too briefly only remind us how unfocused the novel is. Perhaps Eco himself was aware of the novel's faults when writing itfor his narrator criticizes Roberto's tale as ``narrating so many stories at once that at a certain point it becomes difficult to pick up the thread.'' Author tour. (Nov.)
Library Journal
Eco, an Italian philosopher and best-selling novelist, is a great polymathic fabulist in the tradition of Swift, Voltaire, Joyce, and Borges. The Name of the Rose, which sold 50 million copies worldwide, is an experimental medieval whodunit set in a monastic library. In 1327, Brother William of Baskerville arrives to investigate heresy among the monks in an Italian abbey; a series of bizarre murders overshadows the mission. Within the mystery is a tale of books, librarians, patrons, censorship, and the search for truth in a period of tension between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. The book became a hit despite some obscure passages and allusions. This deftly abridged version, ably performed by Theodore Bikel, retains the genius of the original but is far more accessible. Foucault's Pendulum, Eco's second novel, is a bit irritating. The plot consists of three Milan editors who concoct a series on the occult for an unscrupulous publishing house that Eco ridicules mercilessly. The work details medieval phenomena including the Knights Templar, an ancient order with a scheme to dominate the world. Unfortunately, few listeners will make sense of this failed thriller. The Island of the Day Before is an ingenious tale that begins with a shipwreck in 1643. Roberta della Griva survives and boards another ship only to find himself trapped. Flashbacks give us Renaissance battles, the French court, spies, intriguing love affairs, and the attempt to solve the problem of longitude. It's a world of metaphors and paradoxes created by an entertaining scholar. Tim Curry, who also narrates Foucault's Pendulum, provides a spirited narration. Ultimately, libraries should avoid Foucault's Pendulum, but educated patrons will form an eager audience for both The Name of the Rose and The Island of the Day Before.James Dudley, Copiague, N.Y.
From the Publisher


"As wonderfully exotic as only Eco can contrive . . . An astonishing intellectual journey."--San Francisco Chronicle

"A masterpiece . . . intellectually stimulating and dramatically intriguing."--Chicago Tribune

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.68(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

UMBERTO ECO (1932–2016) was the author of numerous essay collections and seven novels, including The Name of the Rose,The Prague Cemetery, and Inventing the Enemy. He received Italy's highest literary award, the Premio Strega, was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur by the French government, and was an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Brief Biography

Bologna, Italy
Date of Birth:
January 5, 1932
Date of Death:
February 19, 2016
Place of Birth:
Alessandria, Italy
Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Island of the Day Before 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book! Obviously the guy who gave it one star has no clue what semiotics is. This is one of the books I would take with me if I would be cast away on an island for the rest of my life, and only allowed to take ten books with me.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
For all Eco lovers out there, this is a must-read. I must say I did enjoy this book, however it took me a very looooooonnng time to read this book. I wasn't compelled to take it everywhere with me and read every second I could as I did with other works by Eco. This book jumps back and forth in the main character Roberto's time and reality. There were very interesting statements made in the book that made me think (I suppose that is Eco's philosophy/semiotics background). The idea of being a castaway upon a ship is intriguing in itself, however I kept asking myself, 'Why doesn't Roberto just sail away on the ship back to civilization?' This is definitely not a 'mindless' novel. If you didn't care for the movie 'Castaway' with Tom Hanks, you probably won't like this book. But if you love 'Castaway' (like I do) you will surely love this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eco spins a marvelous tale that doesn't let up until the last page. This book will have you anxiously turning pages, and wanting more. Few authors have the ability to write this kind of complex prose. Yes this book is long and confusing at times, but the payoff is worth it. If you want a challenge with a wonderful reward, curl up with 'The Island of the Day Before.'
carlosmock More than 1 year ago
Roberto de la Griva is an Italian nobleman from the 17th century. After a leisure living experience in Paris, he is accused of treason by Cardinal Richelieu's advisors and sent on to travel the Amaryllis to the South Pacific to discover the means by which navigators can understand the mystery of the "longitude." He is supposed to spy on the Dutchmen and report back to Richelieu. After a violent storm, Roberto finds himself shipwrecked. Swept from the Amaryllis, he manages to pull himself aboard the Daphne-anchored in the bay of a beautiful island. The Daphne is fully provisioned but the crew is missing. As he resolves to write a diary we learned from his youth: Ferrante, his imaginary evil brother; the siege of Casale which cost him his father's death, and the lessons given him on fencing, blasphemy, and the writing of love letters. Soon he discovers that he is not alone on the Daphne-Father Caspar Casale, a Jesuit and scientist, is also obsessed with the problem of longitudes. Roberto and Caspar perform certain experiments-to no avail. The book is 503 pages and it basically deals with the mysteries of life and death: "I am not urging you to prepare for the next life, but to use well this, the only life that is given you, in order to face, when it does come, the only death you will ever experience. It is necessary to mediate early, and often, on the art of dying, to succeed later in doing it properly just once." (p. 132). Unfortunately the book is narrated by an unknown person, the point of view being universal and confusing. To quote the narrator: "We will remember, I hope-for Roberto has borrowed from the novelists of his century the habit of narrating so many stories at once that at a certain point it becomes difficult to pick up the thread." (p.423) And that is why I would stay away from this book. It is as boring as it is confusing.