Friday, 10 May 2013

Book Review: The Da Vinci Code: Courting Controversy????


THE DA VINCI CODE by Dan Brown... The book that generated worldwide discussion only to be rivalled by The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie... The book that was only outsold by The Harry Potter Series... The book that captivated all who came in its wake... 

This is not a review about the much - publicised flaws or its religious implications, but rather a critical look at the book as well as the author... 

A lot has been said about the storyline... so let me present just a short precis of the story here. My review is not about the story per se... 

The book starts with the murder of the curator of the Louvre in Paris. Apparently, the victim has scribbled in French and Mathematics upon the floor in his own blood. Below the french and numbers is written "PS: Find Robert Langdon" in pure english {Note that point: more later} 

The book moves on from that point with revelation after controversial revelation based upon historical artefacts {some pretty famous ones at that!}, that leave the reader gasping for breath. The beauty is in the way the clues connect to each other, and in the pace at which they are revealed. However, the real pull is the facts upon which these clues are based {note that point: more later} 

The clues lead the protagonists from one artefact to another, starting with the stunning revelation that the curator was a member of the priory of sion, a famous secret body. It is a trail that leads across nations, interspersed with episodes of altercations with the police breathtakingly unfolded in the pages that follow - in a chase that forces the protagonists as well as {albeit for a very short time} the readers to re-think the very basis of religion... A truly stunning use of peoples’ imaginations combined with writing skills to produce an effect that is guaranteed to leave the reader spell - bound! 

The pace at which the book is written is truly excellent, as well as the writing style. The brain is naturally attracted by secret societies and such, and Brown has used them well. No arguments on that score. The book flows through from the first page to the last quite effortlessly, with nary a slack period in between. It is unputdownable from the first page to the last. The characterisation is good, but not quite of the calibre that is expected from a class author. This is particularly evident in the way the characters of Langdon and Bezu fache {note that point: more later} 

But the real differrence is felt when you read Angels and Demons... {note that point: more later} 

The book is certainly worth a read- but my advice to readers would be to read it again after a gap of a few days. It is only then that the flaws begin to hit you with telling force... Those who have not read it, please do not read beyond this point. The story has not been revealed, but I do not want to prejudice you... 


I have said earlier that the book will leave you spell - bound. Well, it did me too. I read it once, then a second time and then a third... and started questioning. So much so that I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail as well as The Templar Revelation. The one good thing was that I learnt one hell of a lot regarding European history as a result! I have singled out a few points above, and let me elucidate upon my hints further: 

1) The major flaw in the story that few people have noticed is this one.  The pace of the book rests on the fact that the protagonists have to run from the good as well as the bad guys. But, why should the good guys suspect Robert / Sophie? Just because of the line "find Robert Langdon?" If Sauniere had to write the name of the murderer, why coudn’t he have just penned Robert Langdon Killed Me??? The very fact that he had written a cryptic message {the Vitruvian Man clue} in french + art should have guided the police towards some much deeper facts! 

2) The basis of the book is upon 2 fundamentals : the hunt for the holy grail / The Lord Jesus Christ, and the use of  world - famous art objects {The Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper, The Mona Lisa, The Madonna of the Rocks etc} and the famous name of Leonardo de Vinci. the combination of the 2 was a guarantee for commercial success. Such is the implication on the brain when 2 long-held and deep beliefs are questioned in a sensational manner, that the flaws remain hidden; the flaws dont register on the mind. 

Is the author justified in using our beliefs to his own advantage? I do not think so, although I sure that the opinion on this one will 50 - 50. We are talking about a venerated historical figure The Son of God here,; someone who gave his life for his people. Call me old-fashioned, but somehow I dont quite like the idea. (Yes, despite that I did read the book... human nature???? Or...????) My only thought: what would be our reaction if someone came out with a similar sensational fictional work on our cultural past? (Amish Tripathi? I did not read him...  I had this experience behind me; I made the judgement call on that...)

3) The character of Robert Langdon in this book comes across as different than the one in Angels and Demons. It is almost as if we are dealing with 2 different people. Logically, a person who has had a similar experience would adjust faster to circumstances. Secondly, the basic nature of a person does not change. You cant have the same person showing radically different behaviour under a similar set of circumstances. This is a tenet that has been laid out in many an psychological theory. He is constantly amazed by the revelations in the code- and he is a world - renowned scientist! The two facts do not gel together 

Overall, the book comes across as only a work of sensationalism of an average quality. The saviour of the book is the pace - relentless and fast. The plot, despite its many shortcomings, full of twists and turns. However, the net feeling is that the theme was not as well developed as well as it could have been done... 

All in all, read the book by all means - but keep in mind that it is only fiction

Disclaimer: This review first appeared on; It was written by myself some 4-5 years ago. 

No comments:

Post a Comment