EPS Review #79 - The Da Vinci Code

by Dan Brown, Doubleday 2003

I am guessing that fellow Exonian ('82) Mr. Brown set out to write a best-seller with as much enthusiasm as we once padded our university applications with "college suck". Take a successful book like The Name of the Rose, cut out the Latin and other confusing stuff, add some brand names, some movie references, and a green-eyed redhead. Make the puzzles easy to figure out, and invent a groovy feminist interpretation of the Holy Grail. Oh and have the skill to make it fast-paced and fun to read. You can cheat a bit on the plot if you like. Voilà!

There was only one detail that I thought I was clever to notice. In a list of secret-society grand pooh-bahs was one Nicholas Flamel. Hey (I thought), a Harry Potter reference! But then I googled him and found that he was a historical figure, a real alchemist, and not JKR's invention. Live and learn.

The other part that I liked was the drama in the church at the Temple Bar, but just because my dad and I had been there the day before, wandering among the tombs after lunch at Live Bait.

Laurie wrote: Hey - what's wrong with fast-paced and fun to read! You make that sound bad!

I replied: Nothing at all! But comparing the protagonist to Harrison Ford, and making a big deal of Range Rovers and the like reminded me of my foray into reading Danielle Steele.

Laurie replied: Listen - you want to read something second rate and very college suck try The Rule of Four

Bill wrote: Yes, it's pretty bad for sophisticates like us, but it's also hard to argue with this book's success. It's been on the bestseller list since, um, medieval times at least. So many people have read this book that it has taken on the significance of a social movement. More than just a cult, this could be the Mormonism of the 21st century. W and I saw an article in the NY Times the other day about all the tourists (pilgrims?) to Rossyn Chapel in Roslin, Scotland.

My mother wrote: Well, I enjoyed it.....a marvelous romp! You Exeter men know how to put on a good show......Thanks for the connection to Nicholas. You opened a new door for me...

Nori wrote: At last - a book that I've 'read'. The quotation marks are because I've actually listened to it on my MP3 player... I did enjoy the book though - have you read the other similar book - I think the title was Foucault's Pendulum which is in closer to The Rose in terms of intricacy.

I write: Oh yes, intricate was the right word.

Maureen wrote: This book sucked big time! I winced my way through it. How can something written so incredibly poorly remain on the best seller list for so long? It is a clear indication of the "dumbing down of America" as if President Bush isn't indication enough. Also, I don't remember Nicholas Flamel in the Harry books, where was he? I still enjoy the Dune books you turned me onto all so many years ago. I enjoyed the latest dramatization...did you see them?

I replied: Nicholas Flamel was the wizard who had created the philosopher's stone ("sorcerer's stone" for dumbed-down Americans). Harry first learns of him through a chocolate-frog trading card. If you mean the long TV dramatization of Dune (vs. the movie), then yes, I agree it was very good. Didn't get to see it all, though. I can't think of any Sci Fi as good as that these days, though you know I like Iain M Banks and Dan Simmons and Neal Stephenson.

John wrote: You kept asking me, have you read this, so I did. So it was engrossing but otherwise... I feel unclean now for having read it. And he taught English at Exeter?

Neil wrote: I thought it was crap.

Susan wrote: I've started it as my boss thinks we need a meeting of the 2 book clubs - the deep one (mine) and the shallow one.......Only in about 100 pages and, I must confess it does move along, but as Mr. Brown would be wont to say ...merde.

Tom wrote: W just finished this book. She thought the plot in the first half was gripping, but that the prose was awful ("something out of a night school English class"), and that the plot in the second half was predictable. She is curious about the accuracy of the historical details, hence this request for your expert exegesis.

I replied: It is all absolutely true.