Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown

I read this book in spite of my instinct to ignore all of the hullabaloo that followed its release, but a few too many people whose opinions I generally trust told me I should read it, so I picked it up at a garage sale. I may not be listening to the next recommendations of those people who told me to read this.

I can't say that I don't understand why so many people were fascinated by this book; its presentation of facts (false facts or true facts, I'm not differentiating) was captivating. I would have loved to have fallen into this book as completely as everyone else seemed to. I'm not sure whether I found doing so difficult because it's now more than three years since its publication and because I've seen too many news blurbs about people (especially tourists) who take everything in the book literally, or whether it was mainly the style of the writing.

I'm leaning towards: style. I was so fed up with the choppy chapters, the constant shifts in point of view, the refusal to let narrative flow naturally, and the unevenness of the characterization that I almost put the book down about halfway through. Brown uses chapters to indicate a point of view switch--but not consistently. Within chapters a few times, he also switches POV's on readers (which isn't difficult to follow because there's a section break). I found the shorter chapters made it harder to keep track of all the characters, and I certainly didn't feel that I needed to be shown the story from every character's point of view.

Brown, besides being heavy on his adverbs, couldn't let a story unfold without a few false starts. He'd hint that there was something coming, a story to be told, but then he'd refuse to tell it. It felt like a cheap suspense-building tactic, and I thought it could have been better.

Also, the characters are supposed to be smart, but it didn't feel like that thoughout the whole book. They'd have consistent memorization-smart and mini strokes of brilliance (because the plot couldn't continue if they didn't) and then they'd go and do something incredibly stupid like stealing an armored truck from a bank when they know the cops are after them--and really, really close--and not even consider that the truck (of course) is trackable. And even though Brown tries to explain away sudden shifts in behavior through plot after the fact, it doesn't really work. Sometimes, too, the characters' reactions to overly narrated dialogue seemed weird. (Sophie gives Langdon "surprised looks" at the stuff that comes out of his mouth, even when it's nothing extraordinary.)

Overall, I'd have to say that despite the fun Indiana Jones-iness of the whole thing, you can do better. I don't know what to recommend instead, but you can do better. If you have to know what happens at the end of this story, go rent the movie. (I say that without having seen the movie, but being of the opinion that in this case, the movie is probably better than the book.)


Laston Lastof said...

t seen movie or read this book ...
considering both to be a huge waste of time ...though one has to ocnsider the forethought of Ritchie Cunningham in his picking up thee rights to the movie ... that boy can certainly smell money in a franchise if nothing else...
Laston Lastof

Julie said...

Hi Jena,

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am enjoying reading yours! When I got to this post I couldn't resist a comment even though you wrote it a year ago. I felt the Exact! Same! Way! about this book. The writing was simply awful. What killed me the most was when the author attempted to generate suspense by withholding information from the reader that the main character was privy to. I believe there was a spot where he gets a letter or finds a document of some kind, and he reads it but we are not told what's in it. Cheap shot.

Lala said...

People should read this.

Jena said...

I've seen the movie since writing this review. Skip them both.