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The Secret Chord

by Geraldine Brooks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,4587812,879 (3.77)144
Fiction. Literature. HTML:“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 Mikhal, 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
    The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (novelcommentary)
    novelcommentary: Similar narrative idea
  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
    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)
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» See also 144 mentions

English (77)  Italian (1)  All languages (78)
Showing 1-5 of 77 (next | show all)
Why Geraldine? Why? You write historical fiction so beautifully and I have loved your previous books. Aside from the Old Testament, there is little enough archaeological evidence to support King David, and none of it indicates that David was gay. Biblical accounts indicate the total opposite. Sorry, this story line just doesn't fly with me. ( )
  milbourt | May 11, 2024 |
A story of brutal times explained in a way that made sense to those living through them. I found the prophet more interesting than David! ( )
  jemisonreads | Jan 22, 2024 |
Recommended by Nancy
Author of the people of the book
  pollycallahan | Jul 1, 2023 |
I'm not sure this is actually a 5-star read, but it is above most 4-star books I have read lately. I love historical fiction, of particular periods at least. This one recalls The red tent, as it chronicles the story of King David. As the afterword comments: "David is the first man in literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age." An interesting observation for many reasons. It considers the Bible as a work of literature, which I do also (the Old Testament, at least). It reminds us that in biblical times, a person, a warrior, even one who enjoys the privileges that royalty and wealth bring, did not generally live to the ripe old age of 70 (!). So in that alone David is a special case. Anyway, I really enjoyed the perspective of this book, the way the prophet and the delivery of his wisdom are portrayed. It delivers an unflinching, often brutal portrait of the time period, characterized by war and all its accompanying cruelties. It felt like it really could have been that way, which is just how historical fiction should be. I read this author's book March, and I shall have to read more of her work. ( )
  karenchase | Jun 14, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 77 (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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Fiction. Literature. HTML:“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 Mikhal, 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.

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