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The Island of the Day Before (1994)

by Umberto Eco

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7,185671,288 (3.32)167
A 17th Century Italian knight recounts his adventures during a siege in the Thirty Years' War and afterwards in naval espionage against the British. In between, he describes the salons of Paris, lessons in fencing and reasons of state, and gives his thoughts on writing love letters and on blasphemy.
  1. 10
    Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time by Dava Sobel (polutropon)
    polutropon: Sobel gives a less fantastical account than Eco of the quest to accurately determine longitude at sea, though it's surprising some of the proposals that Eco didn't have to concoct for narrative purposes.
  2. 11
    Cloud Atlas: A Novel by David Mitchell (hippietrail)
  3. 00
    Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon (paradoxosalpha)
    paradoxosalpha: Both are big beefy novels written in the waning of the 20th century, and concerned with the exploratory push of European powers (in early modernity and the Enlightenment, respectively), as well as the relationships between objective and subjective worlds.… (more)
  4. 00
    The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: There's an interesting connection to be found here.
  5. 01
    Ex-Libris by Ross King (P_S_Patrick)
    P_S_Patrick: These books have some common themes, so may be enjoyed by the same people, but where Ex Libris is more of a "biblio-mystery", The Island of The Day Before is more of a general novel. Both books focus to a certain degree on the Age of Discovery, in the 17th Century, and the Longitude problem. They feature the historical conflicts, ships, and sailing, but this is perhaps where the similarities end. The Island of The Day before is better written, but whether you prefer the plot of one or the other will be due to personal preference. If you have an interest in the period, and enjoyed reading one, then I could recommend the other as a potential future read.… (more)
  6. 03
    Nation by Terry Pratchett (tronella)
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» See also 167 mentions

English (46)  Spanish (7)  French (5)  Italian (3)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  Swedish (1)  All languages (65)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
Only read an eighth, like the language and writing, however the plot… couldn’t find it ( )
  vdt_melbourne | Sep 19, 2023 |
This book fits the pattern I've come to expect in Umberto Eco's writing: an excellent story lost in a haze of random thoughts, obscure references, and all together too many words. I would love it if someone took this book's concept and turned it into the brilliant book that it deserves to be. ( )
  blueskygreentrees | Jul 30, 2023 |
I was intrigued by the title and assumed eventually I would understand it. Eventually it made sense. It's about the International Date Line. While the concept has existed for centuries it has long been the subject of disputes especially which side of it something was on. Umberto Eco takes the ambiguity and runs with it. As the author is a well-respected scholar we can assume some if not much of what he'll be telling us about might actually have happened and this is likely a mixture of fact and fiction. And since much of the disputes over the International Date Line were based in ecclesiastical arguments the author probably knew more about this than most.

In the first quarter of the book it's hard to figure where this is all going. Nothing about the date line yet, just setting up a back story. I almost wish an editor had told the author to get the story moving. It does go a long way to letting you know the prime character didn't want to go on this journey, he's forced into it. It does set up two parts of the puzzle, the trip and more importantly how he's ineffective at letting the woman who has captured his heart know he's the one for her. The trip he's forced to go on is France's attempt to spy on what they believe is a rival country's attempt to solve the problem of latitude. If a ship is able to determine its full position, not just longitude, that country's fleet will have a major advantage over its rival's. He's been selected because he's shown some aptitude for understanding science, at least 17th century science.

The ship he is sent on is shipwrecked and after days floating with little hope of rescue, he encounters a ship, which once he gets himself aboard, he discovers there's no crew. Strangely he finds what appears to be unusual cargo. A room full of clocks, another filled with exotic birds, maps, water, provisions, but no crew and more importantly no boats which he might use to get to an island in the near distance. He soon realizes he is not alone. There is someone else on board who seems to be hiding from him and yet leaving traces to let him know he's not alone. He finds the phantom who turns out to be a learned aged Italian cleric who is able to explain where the crew went, what the ship was looking for and the mysterious island. The crew took the boats to get to the island where they were overcome by local natives who turned out to be cannibals.

Being marooned our main character has lots of time for day dreaming where we learn he has an evil brother, Roberto, who is angered because he believes he is entitled to the family's lands and wealth rather than the absentee brother. Roberto followed him to Paris and learns of his brother's love interest. She of course is beautiful and wealthy so Roberto masquerades as his brother who he has seen was interested in the lady. This story interweaves with the main narrative.

Back to the ship. The cleric explains how the ship was on a mission to test a method for determining latitude. The mission leader, Dr Byrd, explored whether a substance secreted by wounded animals has a mysterious power to be in communication with others located at Greenwich who will be doing something at noon every day, allowing a form of synchronization. He keeps the animal both wounded and alive. Gruesome. This is but one theory derived from various views of the heavens and the cosmos. Did the earth revolve around the sun or vice versa? The cleric also has his own poor man's chronometer which turns out to be impractical. Was Galileo a heretic or someone able to see what others could not. They believe the island they see is Solomon Island which no one has been able to locate. They believe it is the site of International date line and thus getting to it means being able to reach yesterday. Now does the title make more sense?

If you like thought experiments and the search for evidence to prove one view or another this book will keep you thinking. ( )
  Ed_Schneider | Apr 17, 2023 |
I really liked The Name of the Rose. This one, not so much. The author himself emerges at the end and calls it a series of intersecting or skewed stories, and that just about covers it. ( )
  JudyGibson | Jan 26, 2023 |
Weakest fiction effort by Eco to date (2012). Marred by a lack of plot direction and character development. The ending isn't too great either. Average Eco is still better than the fiction rabble out there, so I would still recommend this novel.

For all those that rate Eco's fiction in terms of Name of the Rose, he ain't gonna write that book again, he's not a crime fiction writer. It was just a genre he was playing with at the time. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eco, Umbertoprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boeke, YondTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franssen, MaartenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Krone, PattyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Saarikoski, TuulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weaver, WilliamTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Is the Pacifique Sea my Home?

John Donne,
Hymne to God my God
Stolto! a cui parlo? Misero! Che tento?
Racconto il dolor mio
a l'insensata riva
a la mutola selce, al sordo vento . . .
Ahi, ch'altro non risponde
che il mormorar del'onde!

Giovan Battista Marino,
“Eco,” La Lira, XIX
Dedication
First words
I take pride withal in my humiliation, and as I am to this privilege condemned, almost I find joy in an abhorrent salvation; I am, I believe, alone of all our race, the only man in human memory to have been shipwrecked and cast up upon a deserted ship.
"Eppure m'inorgoglisco della mia umiliazione, e poiché a tal privilegio son condannato, quasi godo di un'abborrita salvezza: sono, credo, a memoria d'uomo, l'unico essere della nostra specie ad aver fatto naufragio su di un nave deserta."
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Disambiguation notice
The 6 hour audiobook edition read by Tim Curry is an abridged edition and should not be combined with complete editions of the book. Thank you.
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Wikipedia in English (2)

A 17th Century Italian knight recounts his adventures during a siege in the Thirty Years' War and afterwards in naval espionage against the British. In between, he describes the salons of Paris, lessons in fencing and reasons of state, and gives his thoughts on writing love letters and on blasphemy.

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Book description
Umberto Eko trešais romāns. Romāna darbība risinās vienā no aizraujošākajiem periodiem cilvēces intelektuālās attīstības vēsturē – 17. gadsimtā, kad ķīmija un alķīmija joprojām ir cieši savijušās, savu filosofisko pasaules redzējumu formulē Renē Dekarts un pārsteidzošus atklājumus astronomijā piesaka Galileo Galilejs. Grāmatas galvenā varoņa iekšējie pārdzīvojumi norit uz šī baroka laikmeta zinātnes, metafizikas un kosmoloģijas ideju fona. Roberto della Grīva, jauns itāļu augstmanis, ir vienīgais izdzīvojušais pēc kuģa bojāejas vētras laikā. Viļņi viņu aizskalo pie cita kuģa, kura apkalpe ir noslēpumaini pazudusi un kurš noenkurots netālu no skaistas salas, kas paliek nesasniedzama, jo Roberto neprot peldēt. Pilnīgā vientulībā viņš atceras savu dalību Kasāles aplenkumā un dzīvi Parīzē. Ilgodamies pēc mīļotās un apsēsts ar ideju par iedomāto ļauno dvīņubrāli Ferranti, viņš ir pārliecināts, ka visas nedienas beigtos, ja vien izdotos sasniegt Iepriekšējās dienas salu...
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