Guidall gives a polished, Masterpiece Theatre–worthy sheen to Eco's odd, funny tale of Yambo, a man who discovers that while remembering the plots and details of all the books and films he's ever read or seen, he has no recollection of his own life or his name. His sonorous tones are soothing, lending Eco's prose a certain hushed aura, but there is something strangely off about the marriage of the Italian author's intellectual mystery story and Guidall's rolling British cadences. It is as if Guidall's Oxbridge enunciation were thought necessary to gussy up Eco's novel, something it is distinctly not in need of. Overemoting, Guidall turns Yambo into a ham actor rather than a slightly comic figure befuddled by a world full of mysterious and alluring signs. Guidall does do a solid job capturing the quicksilver changes in emotional temperature of the volatile protagonist, who is unable to comprehend the confusing new world he finds himself in. Even in this, though, Guidall is more like an actor professing befuddlement than someone actually finding himself disoriented by his mind's empty spaces.
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*Starred Review* Eco, best known for the popular medieval murder-mystery tale The Name of the Rose (1983), continually tests himself and his devoted readers by composing, one after another, deeply cerebral novels teeming with erudition and offering plotlines into which he weaves (almost pours) learned discussions of history, religion, and philosophy. What saves his fiction from aridity and pretension, however, is his compelling storytelling and greatly sympathetic characters. His new novel, demonstrating this combination of traits to the fullest, is about a middle-aged man, an Italian rare-book dealer, who falls into a state of amnesia and must attempt to recover his memory. In other words, he seeks to relearn who "I" is. Yambo--the man's nickname--spends several weeks in his old family home in a rural village, sorting through the accumulated artifacts of recent family history and his own childhood. Surely these comic books and illustrated children's weeklies will prove to be a successful therapy; he desperately hopes they will prompt his memory. The novel's literal level almost sports the pacing of a thriller as Yambo pieces his past together, and on a more metaphysical level, it addresses provocative and never outdated or irrelevant questions about the integrity of one's identity and the irresistible attempt to estimate, while still a part of the community of the living, one's lasting imprint on the global slate. Brad Hooper
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