Book Review: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

Warning! Here be plot-spoilers, although the book is almost a decade old and I knew a lot about it going on.

Yes, I realise I’m behind the times only getting round to reading this book, but I didn’t want to read it at the time as I figured the hype might effect my enjoyment.

The plot follows Robert Langdon, a Harvard professor, who while in Paris becomes embroiled in a murder case after the dying man names him in a message. Aided by the victim’s granddaugghter, a French cryptologist, Sophie Neveu, Langdon escapes and realises that he has stumbled into a conspiracy surounding the Holy Grail.

Following a trail of clues left by Sophie’s grandfather they begin to attempt to trace the Grail, which turns out is far more than Jesus’ cup.

Artist's impression of what the Holy Grail may have looked like.

Essentially, the book’s conspiracy theory is basically this- the Grail isn’t a cup, its the body of Mary Magalene and four boxes of evidence that proves that she was the wife of Jesus and they had a kid. This was all covered up by the early church when they set up their power-base and attempted to kill anyone who’d spread the word.

Anyway, what did I think of the book?

First off, Brown really knows how to craft a good page turner. The book moves along at a fairly quick place and you can rattle through it easily. He creates a palpable sense of tension and urgency throughout.

The clues and mysteries that Robert and Sophie encounter are quite well constructed, and there’s clearly a lot of thought gone into planning the book, and making the conspiracy theory as detailed as possible. The theory, while clearly utter balderdash, but within the confines of the book, at least, it kinda works.

Why so many people jumped on the bandwagon after the books publication and seemed to buy into the theory is beyond me, though.

While its quite enjoyable and engrossing, it never seems to go any deeper than just being a bit of fun fluff, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Fun is good.

But there are times when Brown makes some howlers though- having one character think “I’m being murdered!” (direct quote) as he dies is clunky to the extreme and provoked an audible chuckle from this reader. Likewise, the fact that Robert, apparently an expert in Symbology and really smart yet on the subject of the Eiffel Tower he makes the kind of observation that an A-Level psychology student would consider trite and obvious:

“Symbologists often remarked that France- a country renowned for machismo, womanizing and diminutive insecure leaders like Napoleon and Pepin the Short- could not have chosen a more apt national emblem than a thousand-foot phallus.”

The charicterisation isn’t that good either- Sophie and Robert are poorly sketched characters, and while you get caught up in their quest if one was to be bumped off I’m not sure it would’ve had that much effect on me. Also, I can’t remember anything in his descriptions which would explain why Tom Hanks chose to have that dumb haircut in the film adaptaion.

"Dude, what's with that 'do?"

In fact, the only character I warmed to was Teabing, an English eccentric who rather annoyingly turns out to be a bad guy, he gets some of the best lines in the book and is the only vibrant character in the novel.

But these minor quibbles aside, its a fairly well crafted thriller and really helped pass the time on an incredibly long, dull night shift the other week.

Essentially, what I’m saying that I can see why this book sold so well, its a good page turner and the kind of thing that’d make a good companion on a long flight, whilst loafing on holiday or on the daily commute. Also, the story doesn’t insult your intellegence, and as I said earlier, Brown’s clearly put a lot of thought into constructing it.

Verdict: Quite an enjoyable page turner, if a little clunky in places. Light, blockbuster fluff, but on the whole competently done. 6/10

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO


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