Author: Dan Brown
Publisher: Corgi Books
ISBN: 0 552 14951 9
I recently decided to revisit a book I last read over three years ago- Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid this book and/or remain unaware of its story and the controversy it generated, it tells of a Harvard professor who becomes embroiled in a search for the legendary Holy Grail. It proved controversial when released for suggesting both that the Holy Grail is in fact not a cup but Mary Magdalene, and that the history of Christ himself is drastically different to the one modern Christians are told. Rarely has a work of fiction caused so much upset- I first read this book just to see why it was causing such controversy. I must confess to having mixed feelings about this book, as it certainly leads readers on a thrilling literary wild goose chase, but is also horrendously written and sometimes seems to be out just to cause the kind of controversy that sells novels. It really is the ultimate ‘blockbuster’ tale.
Before I can actually discuss the characters and story of The Da Vinci Code, I feel I have to get my ramblings about how it is written out of the way. My biggest problem with the narrative of this book is how incredibly formulaic it sounds- Brown simply fails to make his characters speak and think like real people. They often come across as melodramatic, even during the book’s more mundane scenes. Most impressively, the author somehow manages to make characters of any nationality sound American. This is a slight flaw in a novel in which just two characters are actually from the US. Despite these flaws, however, I must admit that the book does succeed in hooking its readers. Moreover, some tension is present towards the end of the novel and readers will find themselves wanting to find out where the characters’ journey will take them. The book may be awfully written, but at least it’s entertaining!
When reviewing this book, it’s important to remember it has gained fame for its controversial plot, rather than its well-written narrative or characters. The characters are neither likeable nor dislikeable and are portrayed as either stereotypical academics, such as the protagonist Robert Langdon or stereotypical religious fanatics. The reason this book has been such a success undoubtedly lies with its intriguing and well-planned plot, which is particularly effective as Brown works real people and places into its folds. Said people and places, like Leornardo Da Vinci and Rosslyn Chapel, are often mysterious or strange, meaning they are well-suited for use in a novel dealing with conspiracy theories and secret societies. Similarly, symbolism is worked into the novel in a way that does succeed in making readers momentarily question the things they see and hear in their everyday lives. This use of symbolism is particularly prominent when Langdon and French cryptologist Sophie Neveu embark on a riddle-laden quest to find the Grail created by Neveu’s late grandfather. Readers will enjoy attempting to crack the riddles and clues left by the pair, and will be pleased with the novel’s conclusion even if, like me, the story ends as they expected.
Simply put, The Da Vinci Code is a book that succeeds in giving readers exactly what they expect- a thriller. The book may be far from well-written, yet it meets readers’ expectations as this really isn’t the sort of novel read expecting to fawn over beautiful prose. At the end of the day, readers of this novel will expect an easy read, ‘blockbuster’ novel, that may or may not be well-written. The fact the novel is not well-written hinders it little, yet an improved narrative for this well-plotted book could have made it good or even great. Instead, this remains an average novel made famous by its aspersions on religion that are actually only likely to offend the devoutly religious in this mostly secular day and age.
Rating: *** (3/5)