Monday, May 29, 2006

The Secret Supper by Javier Sierra

I had heard many things about this book before I found the Audiobook at my local library.
I tend to be more lax on my reading when it comes to Audiobooks. I have a difficult time keeping my attention on a piece of fiction (interpret non-romance) if it's in paper format, but in audio format I can read most anything. So, when I heard this book was about Da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper" I waited until it was available at my library to pick it up.

A few things I found interesting before opening the book itself were that it was written by a Hispanic author. It's not often that a Hispanic author's work is recognized nationally. The other interesting fact I learned was that the book was originally published in Spanish. As I listened to the piece I tried to imagine the words in Spanish and, for the life of me, I could not really imagine it.

Spanish is such a romantic language, so rich and alive that you would think that with all the monks and secrets roaming around in the book it would be easy to bring the pages alive in Spanish but I just couldn't find the right words to say everything that was hidden in the book.

The story takes place in the 15th century - this was news to me since I was sold the idea that this was in the same lines as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. An inquisitor is sent from Rome to find the identity of a man that has been sending mysterious notes to Rome. The notes are of heretical nature and the inquisitor is to identify the man and see what his intentions are toward the church.

Since the notes refer to Leonardo Da Vinci's latest work in a monastery, the inquisitor seeks refuge in the monastery itself. He then goes about trying to decipher the last note sent to them which is a puzzle that when solved will expose the writers name.

During Father Augustino's inquiry we learn a lot about Da Vinci's The Last Supper. Obviously without doing research of your own there is no was to distinguish what was real and what was molded to become more interesting in this work of fiction. There is definitely a connection to Dan Brown's book in that there is reference to Mary Magdalene and the Scared Feminine.

But there are other interesting tidbits like the artist using the monks as models for the apostles and a bust of Plato as the image of Simon. How Peter looks effeminate because a woman was chosen to pose for the youngest of the apostles, how the right side is illuminated thus casting favor among those apostles and those on his left are questionable. These little details are the ones that make you take a second look at the work of art and question if there is truth behind the words we read.

The whole idea of the book is to make us question these details and in doing this makes us believe that Da Vinci did, in fact, leave a certain code within the painting and that his purpose was not to destroy the people's faith but to cut out the middle man (the church) and give the people freedom of religion. There are no races against time but the book does give you a sense of urgency to discover the meaning hidden beyond each brushstroke of the painting.

Unfortunately, because of it's theme, this book will suffer from comparisons and the same reasons that made me pick up the book (it's close relationship to The Da Vinci Code theme) will make me critique it more harshly. The higher expectation will cause me to give it a lower grade even though, in general, the book was good.

Grade: C+
Format: Audiobook


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