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The Da Vinci Code (D. Brown)

2004-09-06 3 min read Books marco

Imagine the disappointment that I felt when I bought ‘Holy Blood, Holy Grail’ and found out that ‘The Da Vinci Code’ (TDVC) was a mere novelization of the former!
I thought Dan Brown had outdone himself, collecting information as U. Eco had done for ‘Foucault’s Pendulum’. As a matter of fact, TDVC read like what Foucault’s Pendulum would have wanted to be. Where the latter lacked in a compelling reason to exist and was essentially a manifesto of rationalism (BORING!), the former looked into the exact same historic thread, revealing the same masterful connections in a bright shining light.
TDVC is a novel of deeply historic concern. Based on actual research, the author follows a hero and his heroine on a quest for the Holy Grail. As usual in Brown’s books they meet just for the purpose and didn’t know each other prior to the story’s beginning, which is set in the Louvre.
From the Louvre, the plot ripples all over France, reminding me of the later novels of the Mr. Ripley series. In the end, we find out that Jesus Christ had a family, that they fled Palestine for France, settled there, and created a lineage that goes on to this day.
Now, the historic facts behind this plot line are all taken from Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which is written as a documentary book. The embellishments in the plot are typical Dan Brown: a heroine in distress, an erudite and good-looking hero, a conspiracy that tangentially involves our new-formed couple, but sucks them into a vortex of danger, death and disillusion.
If you had analyzed things, you would have come up with exactly this scenario. Mr. Brown’s evolution as a writer goes from the seriously overwritten Deception Point to the streamlined Digital Fortress; from there to Angels and Demons, where religion is discovered as a new and compelling theme. In all these books, though, plot lines are tactical and not strategic. There is a certain lack of thematic uniformity (read: message) that makes all those books interesting reads, but not compelling ones.
Thematic continuity is certainly the dominant character of Holy Blood, Holy Grail. On the other hand, the strict documentary nature of the book relegates is to the realm of non-fiction readers. And the story is just to compelling to be put on the same shelf as the latest self-help tome or the newest business theory.
Combined in TDVC, historic fact and formulaic novelization combine into a killler package. TDVC has both the romantic interest that binds the female readership as well as a reason to keep you interested in the story. Well done – but very, very hard to repeat.