Wednesday, 28 October 2015

The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown; Review

Book Details:
Paperback: 592 pages
Publisher: Corgi (28th Aug 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0552159719
ISBN-13: 978-0552159715
Source: Purchased/Review/Gift


While in Paris, Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is awakened by a phone call in the dead of the night. The elderly curator of the Louvre has been murdered inside the museum, his body covered in baffling symbols. As Langdon and gifted French cryptologist Sophie Neveu sort through the bizarre riddles, they are stunned to discover a trail of clues hidden in the works of Leonardo da Vinci—clues visible for all to see and yet ingeniously disguised by the painter.

Even more startling, the late curator was involved in the Priory of Sion—a secret society whose members included Sir Isaac Newton, Victor Hugo, and Da Vinci—and he guarded a breathtaking historical secret. Unless Langdon and Neveu can decipher the labyrinthine puzzle—while avoiding the faceless adversary who shadows their every move—the explosive, ancient truth will be lost forever.

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This book wasn’t meant for me. What I mean by that is that unlike all my other stories and tales of books I’ve unwittingly, unexpectedly fallen in love with - with this.. I didn’t look for it, instead it came looking for me. I wasn’t meant to read this, as fate would have it, I did, and that’s one of my favourite tales-about-how-I-came-across-this-book anecdotes. 

Back in 2005, my sister came home from work and was complaining about some book she was reading, which was so looooong and boring and she couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I looked over at her and vaguely remember the light brown beige cover and the words Dan Brown smeared across it. On a whim, I picked it up telling my sister, “oh it can’t be that bad, I’m sure I could finish it”. What started off as me picking up a challenge, turned into me becoming so engrossed in the book that by the time I finished it, I was bullying my sister into reading it and then spending every waking minute after it, pursuing Dan Brown’s books. As part of my series on reviewing my old favourites which are back-logged in my archives, todays review is on this gem.

It’s been 10 years since I read this book and still, every year, without fail, I pick it up to re-read it and be immersed in the magic of this book. Part of the allure from this book for me, comes from the controversy surrounding it; I'm a sucker for conspiracy theories and controversy and given the nature of what this book deals with, it still faces backlash today and is banned in several states/countries/areas. That’s part of the charm for me, as crazy as that sounds, but this book and story has such an impact for so many reasons. Along with this review, I will also write that whatever views I express about the content of the book, I sincerely pray no one takes offence and is disgruntled in any way - as a reader, this is purely about an enjoyment of a story with no inclination towards anything other than that, be it involved with beliefs or religion. You all with me on that, yes? Great, good, on with the review we go!

What starts as an odd and tragic murder inside the Louvre museum upon which Harvard symbolist Robert Langdon is called in on, escalates very quickly into something much more sinister and will take all our characters on a journey you won’t believe. The reason Langdon gets involved will slowly unravel, as will the rest of the plot-lines which you may or may not see coming, I certainly did not. I didn’t know what to expect with this book at the time of picking it up, I hadn’t even read the blurb, so I literally went in blind, and I’m glad I did because the adventure became so much more exciting that way. 

The main characters we are introduced to are very likeable, Langdon, despite being a big-shot, comes across as down to earth, inquisitive, open minded, and the perfect lead to narrate the events of this story with the correct enthusiasm that will keep readers engaged. Secondary characters such as Sophie Neveu rise to prominence as her role in the book comes to light and plunges us deeper into the depths of this conspiracy and legend. We encounter so many other characters, both past and present that draw in bloodlines and legacies that will leave you with a fantastic, unbelievable ending. Whether there’s any nuggets of actual truth and proof in the work we encounter throughout the book, is left unanswered and should be taken with a pinch of salt, but take from it what you will - all I will personally say is, that it makes for an interesting story, perfect for a cold night with a warm drink. 

Dan Brown’s writing was very easy for me to get into, it may be a little slow paced at first, and like my sister, you may feel like giving up within the first few chapters, but stick. with. it. Trust me, stick with it, it’s so worth it in the end. The pacing picks up after the first 1/4 of the book and from there onwards it’s a rollercoaster, you’ll find yourself scrambling to turn the pages as there’s cliff hanger after cliff hanger in almost every chapter (which sounds annoying, but I actually really enjoyed). You’ll travel across countries and countless centuries of history, with a culmination which hits closer to home for those that live in the UK. I feel like there was enough depth and enough time spent visiting these individual aspects to provide a strong basis for the story but not too much to overwhelm or take over the true goal of this book. 

My main love for the story comes from the legend and lure of the Holy Grail, the history behind it and yes, yes the conspiracy theories that stem from it. It's interesting to say the least and to see it tied up within a fictional novel kinda gives you the best of both worlds in terms of exploring what it could mean without really trying to justify 100% that it's real - because at the end of the day, yes it raises some serious questions for religion and science. But what it does make for, is a damn good read if you let it be just that. 

I’ve read so many reviews on this book that accuses admirers of this story for being simple minded and for some, crassly, “stupid” and clearly not intelligent if they deem this a good and worthy read of your time. Okay, you know, cool you have opinions about a book which you clearly dislike, and yes, yes yes yes you can share that, *free country, fist pump, freedom of speech fist pump* but it’s not acceptable to slander other readers for their opinions and go on to ridicule them for their taste. Sure, I don’t have a degree in symbolism or religious study or even history to be able to evaluate this book with such depth to know whether or not I’m being fed a pile of bullshit crap. What I do have (aside from a bachelors degree in criminology and social science from the 4th best university in this country - any chance to throw that in there to be honest) is an open mind that’s free from hate and allows for expression in all it’s form. 

At the end of the day, this is a book, for entertainment, and though yes the nature of the book is seeped in so many things like religion and belief, I’ve treated it like a book, and taken from it what I wanted - entertainment, enjoyment, a good pass time. This book is not openly mocking religion, or slandering religious figures, or bringing any life altering and new concepts to the table - this idea of the Holy Grail and Mary Magdalene bearing a child, is not a new one; it’s been visited time and time again in different forms of literature and media. If it were anything other than that, had there even been an inkling of disrespect within the story or negativity towards Christianity or any other religion within it’s page, I’d be the first to put it down. But no. It’s not hurting anyone, so people need to chill their pants and let people love what they read and hate what they read without basing it on their IQ or need to find “real literature”. 

But surely a book that divides the masses is worth picking up to either be loved or hated right? It’s almost as if Dan Brown knew that writing a story like this would garner such attention and billions would flock (pun intended) to buy it to see what the fuss is about and end up making him millions and shoot to fame.. huh who would have thought that? *cue extreme eye roll.* Pick it up, give it a go, so regardless of whatever side of the fence you sit in afterwards, you can at least say, you got on the fence. 

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