This is one of those books that was so over-hyped at the time of its release, I felt compelled to avoid reading it, thinking it would be too ‘trendy’ and I’d just be jumping on the bandwagon. However, over the last few years, I’ve been trying to make my way through the BBC Big Read List from 2010 and The Da Vinci Code is on there. No big deal, there’s plenty of other books on there I’ll never read. But then a friend told me that he’d discovered a love of reading thanks to The Da Vinci Code and I thought what the hell, maybe there’s some merit to it after all.
As it turns out, I quite liked it. Sure it’s controversial in its subject matter and I can’t really be bothered debating that here. Conspiracy theories have been rife for the last 2,000 years so I don’t think I’m going to solve anything on this blog. (For those of you who don’t know – as I didn’t – the conspiracy concerns the nature of the Holy Grail, Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene, whether or not they were married, had a kid and Jesus, was in fact a normal bloke.)
It begins with the murder of Jacques Sauniere by an albino monk. Who this monk is and who he works for is part of the mystery of the book. What begins the hunt for the grail is the murder scene, with Sauniere being found in the pose of Da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’ with a cryptic code by his body. An expert cryptologist, Sophie Neveu is called in, along with Robert Langdon, an academic symbologist(?) with whom Sauniere had scheduled a meeting. From here, the mystery unfolds, keeping the reader guessing right until the end.
It’s written in a pulp fiction style, reminiscent of earlier detective novels, which in some parts works really well. In other parts, it feels as if facts and historical information are clumsily shoe-horned into the story with little relevance. It’s clear that Brown has researched this topic thoroughly, yet lots of his ‘facts’ are apparently wrong. Perhaps because of the religious themes in this book, this somehow seems to matter, but in reality, this is a work of fiction and should be taken as just that – a story. And as a story I found it enjoyable, well constructed and rather clever.
“Every faith in the world is based on fabrication… Every religion describes God through metaphor, allegory, and exaggeration, from the early Egyptians through modern Sunday school… Should we wave a flag and tell the Buddhists that we have proof the Buddha did not come from a lotus blossom? Or that Jesus was not born of a literal virgin birth? Those who truly understand their faiths understand the stories are metaphorical.”
If you like pulp fiction literature you might like The Maltese Falcon
If you like the religious element you might like A Prayer For Owen Meany