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Tillabooks: Will's Book Blog

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. New York: Doubleday, 2003. ISBN: 0-385-50420-9

Finally, I obtained the opportunity to read The Da Vinci Code, that phenomenon of libraries everywhere. And I didn't get it from my local library, oh no. I only got to read it because a colleague at work had purchased her own copy, and lent it around the library before tossing it in the box of stuff we're shipping to the troops in Iraq.

No, although my library system (31 locations in 5 counties) has 88 copies, there are 351 holds on them! And that's just the regular edition. There are 13 spoken copies on cassette, and 101 holds on them; 10 spoken copies on CD and 109 holds on them; 20 large print copies, and 80 holds on them! And this is more than a year after the book was initially published. This is the only book that has EVER had this kind of response in libraries that I'm aware of. The number of holds just continues to rise, month after month, and has yet to even begin to decline down toward the point where the number of holds matches the number of available copies.

What's more, there are already a goodly number of books out debunking The Code (as I'll call it for short): Breaking the Da Vinci Code : Answers to the Questions Everyone's Asking by Darrell Bock, Secrets of the Code : The Unauthorized Guide to the Mysteries Behind The Da Vinci Code by I'm not sure who, Cracking the Da Vinci Code : The Unauthorized Guide to the Facts Behind Dan Brown's Bestselling Novel by Simon Cox, The Gospel Code : Novel Claims about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Da Vinci by Ben Witherington, The Da Vinci Hoax : Exposing the Errors in the Da Vinci Code by Carl E. Olson, Da Vinci Code Decoded: The Truth Behind the New York Times #1 Bestseller by Martin Lunn. Further, without going to the expense or trouble of obtaining one of these books, you can find plenty of sites on the Web debunking The Code if you look.

So, does the book live up to all the hype? Unfortunately not, at least from my opinion. The plot strains credulity right from the get go. The characters aren't particularly believable or true to life, more caricatures than real people. The basis of the plot is a mishmash of standard conspiracy theories that aren't news to most scholars interested in this sort of thing. Brown makes several historical errors obvious even to a layman like myself, probably the worst of which is his explication of "Jehovah," the name of God, on p. 309. Rather than going into it myself, just take a look at point No. 6 on this web page if you're interested.

I will admit that the book is entertaining, and almost a page turner, but I think it is the combination of sensational topic and aura of religious secrets exposed along with the frequently gruesome action and suspense that have made the book so popular with so many. Personally, I enjoyed the book, but was let down at the same time by how much less it was than what I had expected. A thriller yes, but a literary masterpiece, certainly not. Half-heartedly recommended, if for no other reason that you don't want to be the only person you know who hasn't read it!


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