Monday Book – The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)

This week’s guest reviewer is Wendy’s husband Jack Beck –

As Wendy was completing her best-selling memoir The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, we took a road trip through seven states visiting other small used-book stores. We took recorded books with us to listen to on the way and one was Brown’s most famous novel.

I think we had already seen the movie, so this was mostly to ‘compare and contrast’. 

I had already toured the south of France a number of times with my folk band ‘Heritage’ and was familiar with the Cathar and Knights Templar history of the region. Also, Wendy and I had visited Rosslyn Chapel a few times, so we knew the Holy Grail legends as well.

Of course the central part of Brown’s book concerns the legends about Jesus and Mary Magdalene having a child and that family line continuing to the present.

We both thought that the mystery and adventure thread throughout the book worked well and we were prepared to go along with the various questionable historical assumptions that Brown incorporated, even those that had excited people about Jesus having sex and such.

That was until the ending –

I mentioned above that we had visited Rosslyn Chapel and so we are familiar with the caretaker’s house that sits alongside it. Remember also that the site is just outside Edinburgh in the east of Scotland. 

Towards the end of the book Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu knock at the caretaker’s house and she opens the screen door – we both shrieked! No one in Scotland has a screen door – least of all near the North Sea! Then she offers them coffee – we shrieked again! Nobody in Scotland drinks coffee – they drink tea. That’s when we stopped listening!

As a footnote – The last time I visited Rosslyn Chapel, as the leader of a small group tour of Scotland, I sat inside as a chapel guide addressed us and various other tourists. Her address covered the history of the building and the family that built and still own it. I could sense a growing impatience as she neared the end and finally she said “I know, I know – you want to know what’s buried below the floor and whether it’s the Holy Grail”. She continued “The best theory I’ve heard is that it’s Elvis Presley”.

However, this is meant to be a book review. As long as you understand that it’s a novel and not intended to be taken as historical fact, then you will be carried along by the excitement of the chase and the unexpected twists.

More and Better Languages

My last few posts have been about the Scots language, so I’ll finish the series with thoughts about being a Scots speaker in the US.

I’ll start by saying I’m a fairly regular ‘code switcher’. I can easily move between speaking Scots, Scots English, British English and American English.

Here in Appalachia there’s a surprising amount of Scots words, phrases and pronunciation. It came with the early settlers who spoke ‘Ulster Scots’ and whose parents had moved to the North of Ireland from south Scotland.

I can always tell when I’m speaking to someone who doesn’t understand me by the expression on their face and that’s when I have to shift my code shifting gear up a notch.

As a child I was encouraged by teachers to drop my natural language and speak ‘properly’. The same happens here in Appalachia. Yet I eventually became multi-lingual and learned that languages can be used as appropriate to the situation. This happens all over the world and I’m disappointed that I had to hang on to my language against the odds. What helped me was an early interest in Scots songs and ballads which has continued throughout my life and actually broadened and extended my vocabulary and fluency.

I’m pleased to say that there’s now a very successful program of after school clubs here in Appalachia (Junior Appalachian Musicians – JAM)  that teaches the music and songs of the region to kids, and I’m sure that will have a similarly good outcome.

It don’t make no never mind to me/ ye dinnae hiv tae tak tent/ You don’t have to pay any attention.

See? It’s easy.