The Secret Chord

The Secret Chord

Book - 2015
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"A page turner. . .Brooks is a master at bringing the past alive. . .in her skillful hands the issues of the past echo our own deepest concerns:  love and loss, drama and tragedy, chaos and brutality." - Alice Hoffman , The Washington Post

A rich and utterly absorbing novel about the life of King David, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of People of the Book and March.
With more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now , Brooks takes on one of literature's richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David's life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him--from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.
Publisher: New York : Viking, c2015
ISBN: 9780670025770
Branch Call Number: BRO
Characteristics: xiv, 302 p. :,map ;,24 cm


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Feb 02, 2018

In a way, I'm the perfect audience for this: biblical stories are not second nature to me (I did not remember that David came after Moses, for example), but I know enough of the broad outline of the Torah/Bible that I'm not completely in the dark. In other words, I understood David's overall importance but I'm not attached to a specific vision of him or the people who inhabit his story.

The book is told from the point of view of Natan (Nathan), his seer and one of his counselors. Having seen David murder his father, Natan is all too aware of David's frailties. But whether he can hear the prophecies emanating from him or not, Natan also *knows* that David will be the man to unify and transform their people from a group of tribes constantly in danger of being plundered to a strong nation that is feared and later respected by its neighbors.

The tension that drives the story of David is that he must do "whatever is necessary", however ruthless, in order to serve the Name. And there is much that Natan knows the Name can allow, whether it's his passionate affair with Yonatan, son of Shaul (and brother of his first wife Mikhal), his indiscriminate murder of all villagers who stand against him, or his general intemperance and lust. All of that is balanced against the way in which he can measure a man (or woman) and, as Natan says, meet them where they are instead of demanding that they meet him on his terms. But unlike his treacherous son Abshalom, he doesn't make a show of it as a glad-handing politician; he genuinely wants to be genuinely loved and respected.

What the Name- and Natan- finally cannot overlook is the crime he commits against both Uriah and his wife Batsheva when he rapes her and then causes Uriah to be killed so that his sin won't be discovered. When Natan famously tricks him into cursing himself, David does public penance, but he's finally gone too far to be forgiven without paying the four-fold price he himself decreed was due. Unfortunately, the price was four of his children: Batsheva's first born, his lecherous, incestuous son Amnon, his only daughter Tamar, Amnon's victim and Tamar's full-brother, the vengeful, ambitious Abshalom. His saving grace, and why Natan stays with David: Shlomo (Solomon), his eldest son with Batsheva, whom both she and Natan foresee as having the vision to eventually lead the nation David established, who can finally transform "whatever is necessary" into "what is just".

Oct 23, 2017

on 2017 reading ballot

Beatricksy Jun 25, 2017

The moral discussion of David's character is always fascinating, but there's a distinct lack of his faith, except in odd chunks here and there. One might expect more of that element in a tale of his life, Maybe it just makes it more accessible for non-religious historical fiction fans? But I still maintain, as I did while reading it, that the non-religious historical fans are probably not going to pick this one up easily, assuming it's religious, while the religious crowd that picks it up is going to be sorely disappointed because it's basically non-religious. Also, it's really, really violent. Like reading about the Borgias in Jerusalem instead of Rome. Good luck with that.

Dec 06, 2016

I really liked the story but the delivery was a bit ponderous. Still worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction based on Old Testament stories.

I am almost finished. Enjoying it, but what a dysfunctional family! Some disturbing violence.

Aug 19, 2016

Old Testament stories can be so strange and this is quite the story. I didn't love the book or any of the characters but I am glad to have read it. I like learning history and customs of those ancient times and Brooks is always a careful writer.

Aug 08, 2016

This is book was an amazing read for me got me back into reading fully and glad for it geraldine brooks is an amazing writer from the betreyals to secrets this book really shows how women really do affect so much in this world and just in men in general!!!.

Wolfespearl Jul 26, 2016

Interesting, but not one of Brooks' better novels. She tried to compress a great deal of history into a modest novel. The characterizations fell short, falling victim to plot, and didn't always seem credible. It was a large undertaking on the author's part, and although readable, is not highly recommendable.

Jun 20, 2016

Not your Sunday School version of King David, except for his musicianship. Still, a stunning version of the story, with the courage to read between the biblical lines to create a complex man in complex times. Told by Natan, his prophet, who is almost as complex as David. I was completely pulled into Brooks' version of the story, finishing it in less than 24 hrs.

PimaLib_StephanieM Jun 13, 2016

A bit disappointing. It's well written and researched like every other novel she has published but it was far too plot-driven for me. Usually, she weaves plot and character development together for a fully engaging story but not so this time. We know the basics of David's story already and the fictionalized details are interesting but I never felt like I was inside a character's head for more than a minute at a time. You hear lots of Nathan's perspective but even that was static and two-dimensional. Good enough to finish (I have no qualms about quitting books I'm not enjoying) but not great. P.S. If you've never dabbled in the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament, I imagine you will be bored senseless.

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