This is a fascinating breaking of the mold for any novelist, in that Eco incorporates elements of high quality comic book graphics within the novel itself. The story’s concept is that antique book dealer from Milan, Giambattista Bodoni – Yambo, has lost his episodic memory due to a stroke. While he can remember everything he has read, all the memories of his life experience are gone. His family, his past, his name are all a blank. And one thing he seeks most emphatically is to regain the mental image of the girl he loved since his student days.
Yambo retreats to his childhood home of Solara in the countryside in hopes of possibly recovering his memory. He immerses himself in old books, newspapers, vinyl records magazines and comic books from his childhood in hopes of jarring hidden memories loose. In the process, he also immerses himself in old family history of his father and grandfather, some it poignant and painful. Some of this includes gripping experiences of growing up in Benito Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.
In the course of this inner journey, Yambo discovers a long lost, and very rare Shakespeare First Folio from 1623, and the shock of its recovery ushers in a myriad of lost memories. The convention of the comic book graphics weaves into Eco’s plentiful references of both scholarly research and popular culture to deliver a fascinating literary experience. In this book, one element cannot exist without the other. The lush graphics and evocative prose created a unique and distinctive reading experience which was for me like no other. Since the character is a collector of rare books, and the world of collectible books is part of the milieu, I feel this novel should to be read in hard bound edition with its high quality color plates. It is a book lover’s book.