Welcome to my alphabet series! Today’s book is Dan Brown’s controversial Da Vinci Code.
Here’s what people say is wrong with it:
- Bad writing
- Disrespects Christianity
I’ve mentioned The Da Vinci Code a few times on my blog, so it’s probably clear I disagree. In terms of bad writing, I’m not excusing this – however, I would say it’s unskilled writing, not purely bad. E.g., take the opening scene:
Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’s Grand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see, a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old man heaved the masterpiece towards himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniere collapsed backward in a heap beneath the canvas.
As he had anticipated, a thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquet floor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.
I love this opening scene because for me, it holds the same tension and excitement I felt when first reading this book. Immediately, I was gripped. However, my reading habits weren’t as sophisticated back then. Reading this paragraph today, I understand what everyone meant by ‘badly written’.
Consider this instead:
Renowned curatorJacques Sauniere staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum’sGrand Gallery. He lunged for the nearest painting he could see , a Caravaggio. Grabbing the gilded frame, the seventy-six-year-old manand heaved the masterpiece towards himself until it tore from the wall and Sauniere collapsed backwardin a heap beneath the canvas. As he had anticipated,A thundering iron gate fell nearby, barricading the entrance to the suite. The parquetfloor shook. Far off, an alarm began to ring.
It’s wordy and needs editing. I’m not suggesting I know better than the publisher, but if I had written that scene, I feel like someone would have told me to bring the wordcount down. There’s a lot of unnecessary information, but this is in keeping with the tone of the book as well – you feel like you’re learning when you read it. I learnt a lot about art from this book, even if a lot of symbolism mentioned isn’t quite so accurate.
However, it’s exciting, and for me, if a book is a real page-turner, the author must be doing something right.
You probably already know the great religious reveal, but I won’t spoil it just in case. Suffice to say, I’ve never understood why Christians have such a problem with the argument Brown is making RE Mary Magdalene.
There was also controversy surrounding the allegedly inaccurate depiction of Opus Dei. The problem with controversial novels is this: the people who are offended don’t seem to understand that this is fiction and is being presented as fiction. Just before the prologue, Brown writes:
The Vatican prelature known as Opus Dei is a deeply devout Catholic sect that has been the topic of recent controversy due to reports of brainwashing, coercion and a dangerous practice known as ‘corporal mortification’.
All he does is mention that it has been reported that members of Opus Dei self-flagellate. After this page, the novel begins, and that is the point when anything Brown writes should not be taken as fact – it is a novel, after all.
The media went mad when The Da Vinci Code took off. It wasn’t long before an earlier book, exploring the same ideas as Brown, came to light: The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail.
It was claimed The Da Vinci Code ‘copied’ this book, because the core theory is the same. These claims were dismissed in legal proceedings because exploring similar ideas does not constitute breach of copyright. This is true, of course – just because Harry Potter deals with a magical school doesn’t mean it’s copying The Worst Witch. Never mind the fact that Holy Blood, Holy Grail was non-fiction and Da Vinci Code is quite clearly a novel.
The Da Vinci Code has its problems, but I invite you to give it a go and see what you think. Try not to listen to the sensationalised comments from the media – the book was not plagiarised and is not even very ‘out there’ in terms of its ideas. At its core, you have an unputdownable thriller. If you’re looking for an easy read, try The Da Vinci Code.