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'The Da Vinci Code' and 'The Mists of Avalon'

'The Da Vinci Code' by Dan Brown is one of those books that truly earns the title ‘unputdownable’. The pace of the story is breathless & keeps you turning the pages. If you love chases, clues and adventure you’ll love this book. The action is all packed into a twenty four hour period and it feels like you are living every minute with Robert and Sophie the main characters.

As well as an exciting, twisting plot the story contains an intriguing take on the Holy Grail and one plausible version of history behind the story of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and the writing of the Bible. It dwells on the importance of the sacred feminine to balance the masculine principle that has dominated the major world religions. I hear the Grail conspiracy plot rather upset the religious establishment; if this version of events were true it would make Jesus into a much more human figure- personally I can’t see that it detracts from his message of love.

The novel is only slightly marred by Brown’s rather masculine tendency to be tediously descriptive (sorry to any men reading this) especially when it comes to vehicles. Fortunately this is only a minor irritation & it’s well worth overlooking for the exhilarating plot. It is also forgivable when he imbues his writing with rich symbolism, all very engaging and thought provoking. I found the ending particularly satisfying- but I’m not going to give the game away & spoil things here!

‘The Da Vinci Code’ is quite a contrast to ‘The Mists of Avalon’. Whereas the former races us through the events of a single day, the latter takes us on a majestic journey through the lives of several generations of the women who are central to the legend of King Arthur. Arthur's enchantress sister Morgaine is one of the main storytellers and her part in the story is much more convincing than in the regular versions of the legend. Likewise the torment of Gwenhwyfar, better known as Guinevere, destined to entanglement in a tragic love affair.

I was glued to this book too, though I read it much more slowly, feeling a need to savour it. The text is denser, but very satisfying, and as I got further into it I began to spend time during the day identifying with the characters and their situations- I found myself living in an Avalonian daydream- it should carry a ‘do not read while operating heavy machinery’ warning!

Again I felt that Zimmer Bradley’s take on the Arthur legend was plausible and gave the whole story a warmth and depth that is sometimes missing in the telling of the traditional tale. The magic of Avalon is beautifully handled and for me felt very real indeed. Indeed her description of the sacred rites and of the gift of far-seeing was very convincing. If you like the tale of King Arthur and you wonder what it may have been like to be a woman at that time do read this book.

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