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The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code [Paperback]

By Sharan Newman (Author)
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Item description for The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code by Sharan Newman...

A medieval scholar examines the historical facts and myths behind the best-selling novel, including discussions on the Templars, the Holy Grail, and the "Apocryphal Gospels."

Publishers Description

Millions have been enthralled by "The Da Vinci Code's" fascinating historical speculations-and the blockbuster novel's audience has also made bestsellers of several books offering to separate the facts from the fiction.

This comprehensive, encyclopedic volume is written by an acclaimed medievalist-and takes an objective, history-based approach to the phenomenon and the questions it has raised.

"The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code" gives easy-to-find, clear answers about the people, places, and events that play roles in Dan Brown's tantalizing thriller in a lively, encyclopedic format-shedding new light on some of the deepest mysteries of the Dark Ages.

Citations And Professional Reviews
The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code by Sharan Newman has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Library Journal - 02/01/2005 page 873

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Berkley Trade
Pages   337
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.96" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.74"
Weight:   1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 30, 2005
Publisher   Berkley Trade
Age  18
ISBN  0425200124  
ISBN13  9780425200124  
UPC  071831014009  

Availability  0 units.

More About Sharan Newman

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Sharan Newman is a historian, lecturer, and writer who has won many awards, including the Macavity for Best First Mystery, and the Herodotus for Best Historical Mystery.

Sharan Newman currently resides in Aloha, in the state of Oregon.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > History > World > General
2Books > Subjects > History > World
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > British > 20th Century
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > History & Criticism > General
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Catholicism > Saints
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
8Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History

Reviews - What do customers think about The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code?

Comprehensive and concise guide, a good starting point  May 5, 2007
I like "The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code" for two reasons. One, the author Sharan Newman does not appear to have a personal agenda spurred by either religious-based outrage or insecurities, as is the case with most other authors in their `Debunking the Da Vinci Code' tirades. Two, it is one of the more comprehensive books that address most of the issues of controversy in Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code". In scope, it goes beyond the usual Jesus-Mary (Magdelene)-bloodline-Da Vinci that has become a cliché with those other authors. For Christian lobbyists, lobbyist groups and believers that were suckered into their band wagons, that's all "The Da Vinci Code" is about. But it is more than that.

Newman has the right attitude towards "The Da Vinci Code". It is fiction, and she treats it as such. She does not go out of the way, as those other authors have done (because they have treated it as a factual work), to attack the book and its author. True, Dan Brown encouraged the controversy by purporting "The Da Vinci Code" as fact, but she keeps the focus on the subjects in the book and not on the author. In short, she does not get personal but academic. For each subject, she references the details in "The Da Vinci Code" where it appears, after which she presents the actual background and brief history (before Dan Brown re-shaped it for "The Da Vinci Code") in its true context.

The book is a good read. She gives every subject its own stand-alone chapter (Priory of Scion, Templars, Mary Magdelene, Da Vinci, Opus Dei, etc.). Each is a set of basic information but as brief as you would expect in an overview. I will not debate the author's authority on the topics she addressed. (FYI, the author's background is in medieval literature and history.) True, she does not go in-depth enough, and maybe she is not thorough enough in her efforts. But she compensates with a bibliography list at the end of every chapter, citing more than several sources so that you the reader can look up for more information.

But don't rely only on "The Real History Behind the Da Vinci Code" book to address everything that's in "The Da Vinci Code". There are others out there that are like Newman's but offer a different perspective. But I recommend staying away from books that limit its scope only to Jesus, Mary Magdelene, bloodline and Da Vinci. Those reveal more about their authors' inner state: uptightness, personal outrage and impaired mindset blinded by personal convictions. Newman's book is better than that. A definite good starting point.
This book was a good idea, but I wish it had been written by an historian  Feb 14, 2007
Sharan Newman is clearly a very entertaining writer. I appreciate the style here (although at times I was longing for less of the one-liners and more of an excitingly scholarly approach) and I appreciate enormously her intentions in writing this book. But ultimately this book failed to do more than give a brief snippet addressing each alphabetised topic.

Let me give a few examples. Freemasonry is treated in six short pages. (Each page, by the way, is VERY short, with considerable space between each line - we are not talking about a taxing amount to read!) The Fibonacci series gets two and a half pages. Les Dossiers Secrets, two pages. The Dead Sea Scrolls, three and a half pages. Leonardo da Vinci, six pages. Dagobert, three and a half pages (and Ms Newman spends most of that time explaining how confusing it is when there's more than one Dagobert among the Merovingian kings, which is like writing a potted history of Queen Elizabeth II and spending half of that history telling one's readers that this queen is not to be confused with Queen Elizabeth I). And so on... and so on...

My major feeling, on reading these short entries, was that Ms Newman had done a lot of secondary reading, and jotted down a few brief notes that pleased her as she was reading. I did not have the impression she knew in any degree of depth the topics mentioned. Without exception, Ms Newman appears to have read translations rather than originals, for instance - and it's obvious she has not looked at the actual source material of the Gospel of Philip, for instance, for she falls into the trap of saying that this piece of writing said that Jesus kissed Mary Magdalene "presumably on the mouth". The text does not say that, and the only presumption that the text says this is based upon translations that happily fill in with whatever suits the purpose of the translator, hardly a scholarly approach and certainly not one which can be used as a supporting argument.

I was taken aback to read that Ms Newman says "I read the sources fairly closely" when she discussed Gregory the Great. Read the sources FAIRLY CLOSELY? Good lord. When one is writing a book of this nature (i.e., a book focusing on correcting historical misinformation that is affecting so many people), one does not read "fairly closely". An amateur reads "fairly closely - a professional historian spends (hopefully) years gaining in-depth and comparative information from the primary sources, and keeps up to date with other informed writing by scholars. (Or one reads the sources with the attention, depth and speed of a fiend.) Anything less is not doing justice to the purpose.

I would very much like to have given a higher rating than three. But three is fair in view of the lack of depth and in view of the occasional historical error here. I do recommend the book as a beginning point for further study, but the further study HAS to be undertaken by the reader in order to gain anything other than a Cliff's Notes view of the topics.
Well organized and entertaining historical study  Nov 10, 2006
For the organization by topic alone, this book is a very good study for anyone who has been interested in the Da Vinci code history. The author of _Real History_ organizes the work into sections on various details of history to which the Da Vinci Code refers. Each topic is covered in sufficient detail to give the reader a sense of what is known and what is not known about the past. Bringing it all out into the light helps the reader make a more educated approach to the topics and allows them to make their own decisions about what to believe. Mrs. Newman is an accomplished author of historical fiction as well and her talent for making history entertaining is not lost here. A very good ready reference or as an historical primer, this book will find use in your library.
a mistake is a mistake is a mistake  Jun 25, 2006
I really wonder how anybody can praise Sharan Newman as an acclaimed medieval historian. Although Jewish herself she got almost all the dates about the Jews' expulsion from different European countries wrong. Apart from that she created a pope that never existed, mixed up two English queens (Eleonore of Aquitaine and of Castille), and the best friend and advisor of Constantine the Great with his confessor at his deathbed (who was a stout critic of him) just because they shared the same first name. Furthermore she bungled up the Mithras symbolism as well as the Isis-Osiris-Myth. To my knowledge Temple Church in London is one of the few buildings that never went up in flames - the templars simply gave it up because it became too crowded there. And these are just some of the major mistakes apart from the almost countless minor ones. For someone who set out to set Dan Brown right this is downright inexcusable.
I also detected the tendency to sift through all the facts but present in the end only those that fit her view of the world. Especially regarding the sacred feminine she shies away from proper scientific historical work and barricades herself behind sarcasm which does not suit a female historian at all.
In a book like this I would expect to get all the facts with the clearly marked opinion of the author as a kind of crux or essence. But Sharan Newman leaves important theories and facts out or presents only the versions she approves of - this is no scientific way to work and unworthy of a real historian who is worth her title.
The same unfortunately holds true for the books she recommends for further reading. There is a lot more good and reliable stuff around but that, alas, differs too much from her worldview, it seems. Maybe she just wants to please her American readers, spare them hard or hurt feelings, especially where religion comes in? For Europeans who seem to set higher standards regarding the accurate account of their history and are maybe less biased when reading about goddesses her work is inacceptable. There was so much potential. What a pity is was wasted and distorted like this.
Good ideas, but  Jun 25, 2006
The ideas in the book I found interesting, but that could not make me forgot about how it was written. I am not sure wether to kick the author or the editor - or perhaps both for doing such a shoddy job. I am not going to bore you with the mistakes, let it suffice that there are too many to make the book really interesting or really reliable. If someone is looking for information and ends up reading this they are worse off than before. This is only interesting to people who know the background already - but then, why would you bother reading something if you already knwo the contents.This could have done with a good editor to make it readable.

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