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The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

The Secret Chord

by Geraldine Brooks

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7044713,451 (3.76)87
  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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A decade after winning the Pulitzer prize, Geraldine Brooks writes the story of history’s most famous harpist, poet, and warrior, David. The story is narrated by prophet, Natan (Nathan), who we first meet when David slays his father for his refusal to give the band supplies. David is ready to kill Natan as well, until his vision shows that David will win a throne, as well as a generational line that will last for centuries. Natan continues his service to David and is always there to be his conscience. This author portrays David as both hero and villain. He was a man who rose to power and maintained it according to his motto of doing whatever is necessary. He became a powerful king who excelled at political machinations, but wrote poems and played the harp with incredible sensitivity.

I initially had a bit of a problem with the translation of the names but there is a handy guide at the beginning of the book that helped. For example, Plishtim are the Philistines and God is referred to as “The Name”. This isn't a Sunday School retelling of the happy shepherd boy who slayed Goliath. It's an incredibly violent book, filled with rapes, murders, betrayal and destruction. David is complicit in many horribly distasteful acts, including the murder of Bathsheba's husband, Uriah, so he wouldn't know that David had impregnated her.

The book started very slowly for me but once I got about a quarter of the way through, the story became much more compelling. Geraldine Brooks does a magnificent job of transforming history into fascinating fiction. ( )
  Olivermagnus | Aug 9, 2017 |
What I knew about King David came from long-ago Sunday School lessons: he killed Goliath with a sling shot; he became king of Israel by overthrowing Saul; there was that whole thing with Bathsheba, and some sketchy business with the death of Uriah (Bathsheba's husband); and he was the father of King Solomon.

As she is known to do, Brooks takes those few details (true or not, from the Old Testament) and expands them into a detailed and brilliant story. Told through the eyes of the prophet Nathan (author of said Old Testament stories), Brooks dives into the life of David from shepherd boy to the anointed one of The Name to his fall from grace to his death.
It is not always a flattering story and God was a vengeful god in the Old Testament, but it rang true. It had elements of what we know life was like during that time, what people believed, and how kings behaved.
It's no easy task to bring to life a realistic fictionalized retelling of the most celebrated Jewish hero, King David. Brooks, being Jewish herself, has outdone herself. Extensively researched, but using the Biblical text as a stepping point, she is free to interpret her characters how she wishes.
A superb retelling of an heroic but flawed character. Beautiful language, spare prose with a rich depth, creating vivid memorable characters and settings.
I listened to this as an audiobook, narrated by Paul Boehmer. For the first coule of chapters, I found his voice and accent distracting and almost gave up. But after awhile I became absorbed in the story, and eventually found his skill in depicting the various characters wasin large part why I was so engrossed by their tales. ( )
  Jawin | Jul 15, 2017 |
Natan is the prophet to King David, his body taken over by The Name, he forsees the future. When David was an outlaw in his youth Natan projected that he would become a great king uniting nations but as time goes on Natan's visions are not so pleasant for David. In order to be an effective monarch David has to be ruthless and so it is with his sons. As David ages they fight for supremacy but Natan has already seen who will succeed and go on to greater glory.

This is an interesting period to consider as David is not a well-known historical character, there is little record outside the Holy writings, however Brooks has fashioned a compelling tale. Great research has gone into the background of life in the Near East 3000 years ago and this is skilfully knitted together with fact and religious texts. A thoroughly enjoyable read with an unusual and refreshingly different setting. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
I admired this book more than enjoyed it. The research done for it was impressive and the writing was superb. And yet. I felt like Geraldine Brooks tried so hard to show the flawed sides of David that she ignored how unrealistic she was making Nathan. Yes, he constantly chastised himself for his own flaws, but I felt like she was giving both Nathan and David a pass and assumed we'd feel compassion for them, or at least some connection. By the time Solomon appears, I wasn't able to forgive Nathan enough to see him as any kind of father/educator/moral compass. And David never really did come alive enough for me to feel anything but shock and horror at his actions. I realize she was denied the ability to give her "characters" any consequences because she was bound to the biblical narrative, however, I wasn't able to see anything worth caring about in either of them. ( )
  mfabriz | Jun 26, 2017 |
A very fine retelling of the story of David, one of those characters most of us from a Judeo-Christian background know a bit about, but would find difficulty in putting it all together. With her usual writing skill and gift for storytelling, Geraldine Brooks does this for us and uses the device of telling the story through the eyes and voice(s) of the prophet Natan. It is very easy to empathise with Natan (it must be very hard not knowing what you have prophesied until someone else tells you) and the story flows well. Like another reviewer I had some difficulty when there were several timelines moving at once, but this soon worked itself out. The characters throughout are memorable. Overall a really good read from which I learnt quite a bit. Recommended. ( )
  johnwbeha | Jun 15, 2017 |
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"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
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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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670025771, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:48:43 -0400)

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