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The Secret Chord

by Geraldine Brooks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,0106114,241 (3.79)125
"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."… (more)
  1. 00
    Queenmaker by India Edghill (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: In these historical novels, the Biblical King David emerges as a complex, flawed man willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his ambitions. The Secret Chord is framed as the prophet Nathan's chronicle; David's first wife Michal narrates Queenmaker.… (more)
  2. 00
    The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Transcending their scriptural origins, the subjects of these biographical novels become complex, flawed human beings whose strengths and weaknesses shape their lives. The Secret Chord depicts King David of Israel; The Red Tent introduces Dinah, daughter of the Biblical Jacob.… (more)
  3. 00
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
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» See also 125 mentions

English (60)  Italian (1)  All languages (61)
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
An amazing, beautifully told story from the Bible and the life of King David. and his relationship with Natan, the prophet who speak through God. The story is told from Nathan's point of view. Although there is a lot of tragedy and violence, somehow I was able to read it. It's amazing that, as a child in Hebrew School, this aspect of life in Palestine was somehow kept from us. Geraldine Brooks is one of my favorite writers for how she captures the life and lives of the people she writes about. You learn how Saul and David were enemies and how the Philistines were always at war with the Jews and the constant machinations regarding the King, his sons and the land of Israel. A great read! ( )
  krazy4katz | Jan 20, 2020 |
I've read a fair bit of historical fiction- it's not often a great literary accomplishment, but IS a customer-friendly way of immersing yourself in the past and picking up a fair bit of background knowledge in a palatable way. I did wonder, though, how the Bible would fare in a fictionalized version, having visions of sentimental schmaltz.
This is the story of the life of King David, and I felt it was very cleverly constructed. Told by his prophet, Natan, the author manages to recount the past (as Natan interviews people from the past to complete his biography of the King) and events at which Natan wasnt actually present) through court gossip, or the visions he has (these were VERY convincingly portrayed...I guess we hear of a prophet pronouncing judgement and rarely conmtemplate just how it was for him...)
Sentimental schmaltz is entirely absent- David's life, of course, was a violent one, and the author pictures the eviscerating battles, rapes, uprisings etc very vividly. The characters come to liofe, pretty much...the flawed king, who fails to control his sons, with dire consequences; the various wives (the account of Michal's being forced back to the palace from her second husband and children is particularly memorable), the jockeying for power among the factions. And the early life of Shlomo (Solomon) as he shines as potential successor.
Does God ('the Name') come into story as much as one might expect? Would it have worked if He had?
A very well written book...the author definitely pulls it off! ( )
  starbox | Jan 17, 2020 |
This book was well-written but left me with mixed feelings. It gives an interesting look at one possible view of culture in the Near East of about 4000 years ago, but is also disturbing. I wonder how much the idea (or problem) of being alone was a problem, as in Turkish culture (seen even in popular TV shows like Sihirli Annem, particularly in episode 38 https://www.kanald.com.tr/sihirliannem/38-bolum/2567?p=3).

26 Jan. 12017 HE
Shira ( )
  FourFreedoms | May 17, 2019 |
This book was well-written but left me with mixed feelings. It gives an interesting look at one possible view of culture in the Near East of about 4000 years ago, but is also disturbing. I wonder how much the idea (or problem) of being alone was a problem, as in Turkish culture (seen even in popular TV shows like Sihirli Annem, particularly in episode 38 https://www.kanald.com.tr/sihirliannem/38-bolum/2567?p=3).

26 Jan. 12017 HE
Shira ( )
  ShiraDest | Mar 6, 2019 |
I always look forward to reading a book by author Geraldine Brooks, and The Secret Chord was another story where this author breathed life into history by telling an ancient biblical legend, the story of David. Told through the eyes of his profit, Natan, we see a young shepherd’s boy rise to be the chosen one of God. He has style, charisma and a savvy knowledge of people and their desires. He is able to gather men to him, bind the various tribes and city states of Judah together into the country of Israel.

Unfortunately David’s downfall turns out to be his family. He had been an unloved child of a drunkard, so when he had sons of own from his various wives, he pampered them and allowed no one to cross them. This in turn yielded a group of princes who were spoiled and jealous of one another. Like many great men, David could not see the weaknesses in his sons and this in turn lead to fratricide, treason and betrayal.

This story of a magnetic yet flawed warrior king is exciting, interesting and a very good read given the author’s restraints of having to follow what the bible has laid out as key points in David’s life. The Secret Chord served to remind me why I remain a huge fan of both historical fiction in general and Geraldine Brooks in particular. ( )
  DeltaQueen50 | Jan 28, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 60 (next | show all)
"It isn’t for me to argue with Scripture, but I will say that Geraldine Brooks’s latest novel, “The Secret Chord” — a thundering, gritty, emotionally devastating reconsideration of the story of King David — makes a masterly case for the generative power of retelling."
 
"Though she offers no compelling alternative read of David, the fact that she manages to faithfully reconstruct the story is itself something of a feat, as is her evocation of a highly complex character in a manner that is at once critical and also deeply sympathetic."
 
"But in making David so satisfyingly human, Brooks has crafted from The Secret Chord a compelling read, contemporary in its relevance."
 
"From the texture of wool tunics, the fragility of clay tablets, and the easy grazing of goats to the outsized pride of the men, the unquestioned subjugation of women, and the hot brutality of the nonstop battles, Brooks’s vision of the biblical world is enrapturing."
 
"In many ways, “The Secret Chord” reads like a prose poem, with battle after battle recounted in detail, but it’s a page turner of a poem."
 
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Epigraph
"Now the acts of David the king, first and last, behold, they are written in the words of Samuel the seer, and in the words of Nathan the prophet..." I Chronicles 29
"Now the rest of the acts of Solomon, first and last, are they not written in the history of Nathan the prophet..." 2 Chronicles 9:29
Dedication
To Nathaniel...
"...the isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not."
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There was an almond blossom, yesterday.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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