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The Island of the Day Before

The Island of the Day Before

3.7 8
by Umberto Eco

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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.
Donna Seaman
ow baffling and dangerous sea travel was before the invention of longitude. How precious this discovery would have been to rival nations with global ambitions, such as Holland, France, Spain, and England. Why, it was the arms race of the Renaissance! And, Eco suggests, the holy grail for spies, including the dreamy young hero of this imaginative novel, Roberto della Griva. We first meet Roberto in what we learn is a typically ludicrous situation. Shipwrecked in the South Pacific, he finds refuge not on land, but on an oddly outfitted and mysteriously abandoned ship. Roberto quickly settles into an indulgent routine of writing highly romanticized love letters and imbibing large quantities of aqua vitae, but he regains clarity of mind just often enough to realize that he isn't alone after all. His elusive shipmate turns out to be Father Caspar, a brilliant man who has unlocked the very secrets of time and distance that Roberto was supposed to secure. As Roberto and Caspar conduct experiments and attempt to reach a nearby island, we learn the story of Roberto's life, a captivating tale that features delightfully blasphemous intellectuals and amusing speculation on the absurdity of the Thirty Years' War and the consequences of the rise of scientific thought in a world dominated by politicized religion. After the somewhat heavy-handed "Foucault's Pendulum" (1989), Eco has returned to the sort of erudite humor, suspense, stimulating philosophy, and cunning wordplay that made "The Name of the Rose" (1983) so popular. And, once again, translator William Weaver has done a superb job.
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

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
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Meet the Author

Umberto Eco (1932–2016) wrote fiction, literary criticism and philosophy. His first novel, The Name of the Rose, was a major international bestseller. His other works include Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of the Day Before, Baudolino, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, The Prague Cemetery and Numero Zero along with many brilliant collections of essays.

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

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