The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
At age 60, Yambo has an "incident" which puts him in the hospital. When he awakens, he doesn't remember anything about his personal life. He learns he is an antiquarian book dealer with a wife, two daughters, grandchildren, a lovely assistant in the shop, and a best friend from when he was a child. The doctor says he can go home because he is physically fit. Now he wants to know who he is. He has all the public knowledge he ever had. He has lost his personal knowledge, though.
Staying in Milan isn't helping his memory so his wife Paola suggests he return to his childhood home in Solara. He was born in the early 1930's, so he is still a child when Italy is under the rule of fascism and during World War II.
Back in the villa at Solara he has intuitive flashes, but little in the way of concrete memories. So he digs through his personal belongings that are still stored in the attic and other places throughout the old family home. Through his childhood books, comics, and schoolwork, he begins to see who he was. Now, if only he could remember that person!
I have a friend at The Reader's Place who tells any and all that we should read Umberto Eco's work. He is one of her favorite authors. That is why I picked up this novel. Otherwise I would have kept on going to something else. It's always cool when a friend is proven right.
The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is an oddly twisting book. Yambo wonders about himself, his childhood, and his relationship to women, creating fantasies about the people he meets anew after forgetting them all. When he returns to Solara Yambo shows the reader how he sees his own, now strange to him, youth. We see his books and his love of reading. His comic books, though, reflect the times. It was interesting to learn about the Italian comics during the 1930's and 1940's. Eco recorded the changes as time went on and the comics were edited more and more to reflect the politics of the time. By the end, Yambo has part of his own mysteries worked out.
One of the themes of The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana is how our childhoods help form us as adults. We may change as adults, but that child is always there, lurking in the background, affecting us in ways we may not understand until we look back over the "big picture" of our lives. At times I got lost in the tangle of words, and at times the book drags a bit, but it pulls together into a thought provoking read.
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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