Cover: Michael J. Windsor
reviewed by: Lynard Barnes 9/22/2004
Summary: Excellent entertainment.
Tread Lightly Dan Brown
Which he does.
Tread lightly that is.
To grab a quote from the innumerable internet message boards which have discussed this book:
“As George Gershwin wrote in “PORGY AND BESS”:
‘The things you’re lible
to read in the BIBLE
it ain’t necessarily so.’
(Posted on the Orlando Weekly Message board September 9, 2004).
Gershwin also treaded lightly. But “The DaVinci Code” is pure genius. This is an entertaining novel chocked full of historical fact and historical what-ifs. The point most overlooked in the internet posed discussions about the book is that it is a mystery. A good mystery.
The story starts with the murder of Jacques Sauniere, curator of the Louvre Museum in Paris. Robert Langdon, a researcher-writer of esoteric history, is yanked into the investigation because his name is a prominent part of the murder scene. Naturally suspicion falls on him. Well, not so naturally actually. Lieutenant Jerome Collet of the Judicial Police, or DCPJ-a man with fused nerves primarily attached to his career-is the driving force behind getting Langdon. As a mystery, “The DaVinci Code” keeps the intrigue going until we discover that our primary suspect is having heart-to-heart cell phone conversations with Lieutenant Collect. The process of elimination leads us to the real villain about two-thirds of the way through the book. But Brown keeps us on the edge even after we have identified the master-mind behind the conspiracy of murder.
The very well crafted murder-mystery keeps the story moving. The main character, Langdon, is less sympathetic than the secondary character, Sophie Neveu (New Wisdom?). Sophie is the renegade agent from the DCPJ Cryptology Department who forces Langdon into action to defend his innocence. Without Sophie there would be no action-or story, for that matter. The history would still be there, but would be rather bland by itself.
“The DaVinci Code” throws some little known history in your face and forces you to form an opinion. That’s the genius of the book.
In 1990 this reviewer read Trevor Ravenscroft’s “The Spear of Destiny” and wrote a review for a history class. What makes this memorable, and pertinent here, is that the professor who read the review issued this warning: be careful of authors who combine fact and fiction-or words to that effect. In a broad sense, all history is fiction and fiction is, by s intrinsic definition, history. To really push an agenda or a perspective, the best vehicle is fiction. Why else do we write fiction? Unlike the efforts of the Erich von Dänikens’ and Zecharia Sitchins’ of pop-history (the later being a scholar as well as a popular historian), couching a different world-view in a work of fiction does not rally the forces of conventionalism. Normally.
Well, THE DA VINCI CODE has managed to generate conventionalism based rebuttals in the form of an ABC-TV Prime Time hour, which aired on November 3, 2003, and the book “Breaking the Da Vinci Code” by Darrell L. Bock, Phd, and Francis J. Moloney, among others. What is being questioned, argued is whether Jesus of Nazareth really did have as his wife, Mary Magdalene. Then there is the whole secret societies question. This is, as the rebuttals say, old stuff. But as Dan Brown so deftly points out, the Catholic Church spent 1,400 years or so suppressing speculations on the life and ministry of Jesus, and the last five hundred years in a civil battle over whether the individual really needs a priest, i.e., corporate representative of Jesus, to communicate with God. Heavy stuff indeed.
Purely as a work of entertaining fiction, THE DA VINCI CODE is definitely worth reading. If you’re looking for history or even historical context, you should go elsewhere. THE DA VINCI CODE very effectively pushes the alternate history of Christianity. It fails, naturally enough since it is a work of fiction, to provide the foundations upon which the alternate view is based.