I ended up reading the illustrated/photographed edition of this book, something which majorly contributed to my enjoyment or fascination. I’m not completely sure I’d have given this book the same grade if it weren’t for the photos of real-life old paintings, ruins, museums, fields and sights that show up helping us feel we’re there even more than the words can display. I guess that’s the power of a book with pictures. Photos are worth 1,000 words in journalism. And that doesn’t mean the pictures were the only thing of value in The Da Vinci Code. I found this book to be incredible.
One of the most popular and influential books since its publication almost 20 years ago, this review is for anyone who hasn’t read the book but has heard of it. My dad picked it up one day last Fall and got through the whole thing super fast. When in my reading slump, he gave it to me and he then told me I would get through it in three days. Wasn’t really the case; I was busy with work and some of the first quarter of the book felt too ahead of itself. But I am happy to say my dad was right that I would love it.
So why? To start, the book opens up with an old historian named Jacques Saunière, in the Louvre being shot to death in the middle of the night. Officer Vezu Fache is called in, and written in his blood on his chest is:
O, Draconian devil!
Oh, lame saint!
P.S. Find Robert Langdon
Robert Langdon, a Harvard history professor in Paris on business, is woken up from his sleep and told he has to head out to the Louvre right this minute. Someone who also shows up is an agent named Sophie Neveu who is actually the estranged granddaughter of Saunière. Langdon is mortified. He was supposed to meet up with this man but had never met him prior. And it seems Officer Fache is looking towards trying to pin the crime on him. Or someone has planted insurmountable evidence against both Langdon and Neveu. They find themselves having to evade the cops and figure out the codes Sophie’s grandfather left. Because this murder, as well as the subsequent murder of three others high up in the Christian church that also just happened, may be the cause of a secret that if revealed could change the world and destroy religion, and is going to be the toast of the media when everyone wakes up from their sleep.
Now, I am not a historian. When I was in primary school, history was my least favourite subject. As a little kid, I didn’t see its value. That all changed when I got to high school, don’t you worry. I guess, in seventh grade, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and how it shaped Canada as an English and French country and how the people back then lived just wasn’t captivating subject matter. Throughout The Da Vinci Code, however, I learned so much about how our history has shaped trends we take for granted, like where the spades, hearts, jacks and diamonds of cards come from, the origins of saying left-wing and right-wing, why we think of demons and equate them with sharp horns, a monumentally infuriating war men staged against women that caused in millions of murders, how Christianity was melded with Paganism, and so much more. I am aware beforehand there are a lot of takedowns against this book, fact-checking and debating. I can’t help but wonder if Dan Brown wrote in talks about Langdon’s fictional editor saying there’d be picketers for the publication of a history book, foretelling this exact same thing happening to him. But I’m going to ignore the fact-checkers and let myself see a book as thought provoking and mesmerizing as any work of art you’d come across at the Louvre. Only here it’s better, because it’s actually exciting.
Let me get this out of the way. In Langdon and Sophie’s predicament, knowing they have a very big likelihood of staring down the end of a gun, their thoughts would be a little more jumbled. Or maybe I’m not used to reading about educated historians running from the cops and deciphering riddles as they do so to try and clear their names. The book is heavy on fun facts, showcasing guess-what’s about religion and famous places in France before we’ve even followed Langdon, Sophie, and the other characters like Silas, Aringarosa and Collet enough to really care about their plights. But we do eventually learn to care once we figure out this book is not going to hit the brakes. Yes, there are pauses so we can hear a past story like one of Langdon’s lectures, but we hear this as characters make a run for it and get surrounded or do the surrounding. We then realize whoever is behind this is willing to commit murder simply to keep an illusion going for the betterment of their perceived perfect society. The first 100 pages may be the time we start digesting and wondering if we’ll really enjoy this book. Then the next 360 dive into the quest head-first, and I couldn’t put it down.
Some readers may question the fact Saunière leaves such oddball and thoroughly brain-teasing clues, or how he completely trusts his granddaughter to see a mission this important through even though she has been avoiding his calls and letters for years. So at this point it’s safe to say I don’t think The Da Vinci Code is a perfect book. I have criticisms here and there.
But with one of the most delightfully fast paces a book has ever graced pages with almost right off the bat, the sense of major hatred and corruption going back centuries beneath the surface of the chase, plus a welcoming feel that keeps us informed about the intricate history that must be followed to be understood, and an ending that does not trip up like other historical fiction books I’ve read have done, Dan Brown surpassed all my expectations and turned me into the thing 13-year-old me would have fallen asleep listening to a devoted lecture on. I am thrilled my dad recommended The Da Vinci Code to me.
The complex book Greenwood by Michael Christie was a book I felt sophisticated readers would love but not reluctant ones. I became invested in the family history, but its terrible beginning act made me feel it was way too demanding a book to ever recommend to those not fully committed to reading a deep story. What’s different here isn’t the pictures. It’s that it’s a book that’s part murder mystery, part fugitive thriller, part blow-up about brutal forgotten or unknown history. Even if some story elements were made up, according to the author all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals are accurate. It’s works like these that prove the importance of remembering and highlighting what some could see as obscure history. This is a book, if you don’t have it already, that is really worth your money.