Fiction Presented as Fact
Though it is a fictional story, Brown claims – both in the book and in interviews – that it is based on fact. However, while Publishers Weekly says the book is “exhaustively researched,” it includes so many erroneous statements that it prompted one reviewer to refer to the novel as an “atrociously researched mess.”
The problem, it seems, is that some people have taken the story to be true. Indeed, Brown has encouraged this confusion by insisting upon the book’s historical accuracy. Asked in an interview how much of the novel is based on fact, he replied: “All of it.”
Brown has argued that historical arguments are themselves suspect because history is written “by those societies and belief systems that conquered and survived.” This is a cop-out. It is disingenuous for Brown to present his book as factual and then hide behind questions like “how historically accurate is history itself?” He should stick to fiction.– Source: Breaking the Code, by Maurice Timothy Reidy, Commonweal, Sep. 13, 2003. Last accessed online, March 28, 2006.
So error-laden is The Da Vinci Code that the educated reader actually applauds those rare occasions where Brown stumbles (despite himself) into the truth. […] In the end, Dan Brown has penned a poorly written, atrociously researched mess.
– Source: Dismantling The Da Vinci Code By Sandra Miesel, Crisis, Sep. 1, 2003. Last accessed online,March 28, 2006
The book is an incredible rummage sale of accurate historical nuggets alongside falsehoods and misleading statements. The bottom line: it is a shame the book does not come coded for “black light” like the pen used by Saunière in the book to record his dying words. That way readers could scan the book under black light and see which “facts” are trustworthy and which patently not. And perhaps even more importantly (if a black light could do this!), show the gray area where the author is dealing with very complex issues with a broad brush that misrepresents in service of sensational effect.
People should enjoy this book as fiction, but certainly not consider it to be uniformly historically reliable.
This list is by no means exhaustive but only representative. We would need a full editorial and bibliographic full-press to present the “black light” edition, which neither you nor I have the time to do, and which would make it something other than a novelistic thriller. However, these examples should serve sufficiently to refute Brown’s prefatory statement, presented under the headline “Fact” in boldprint: “all descriptions of …documents, and secret rituals in this novel are accurate.”
– Source: Margaret M. Mitchell, PhD, in Lake Magazine, Fall 2003, quoted in the “further reading” section of Not InDavincible, by J.P. Holding. Last accessed online, March 28, 2006