Title: The Secret Chord
Author: Geraldine Brooks
Opens: …A man alone in the room…
Blurb: a unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace. Set 1000 BC in the second Iron Age. Anointed as the chosen one when just a young shepherd boy, David will rise to be king, grasping the throne and establishing his empire. But his journey is a tumultuous one and the consequences of his choices will resound for generations. In a life that arcs from obscurity to fame, he is by turns hero and traitor, glamorous young tyrant and beloved king, murderous despot and remorseful, diminished patriarch. His wives love and fear him, his sons will betray him. It falls to Natan, the courtier and prophet who both counsels and castigates David, to tell the truth about the path he must take
My Thoughts: My expectations were very high, maybe too high, because in all honesty I was a bit disappointed. THE SECRET CHORD was certainly richly detailed and beautifully written, descriptive without being wordy. However, overall it just didn’t enthral me – I didn’t LOVE it. At times the story was slow moving, certainly in the beginning, and the chronological order chopped and changed as Natan related the story and for some reason decided to do this when he pleased rather than starting at the beginning and going to the end. In the end I was at times left feeling very confused. I understand that the point was to get different perceptions of David at various times of his life – but surely they could have been put in chronological order? Add to this the fact that sometimes the beautifully detailed descriptions were just too graphic, I am referring to the savagery of the battle and rape scenes here, along with some pretty horrific actions. I understand that there were part of life then – but even though I know from the Biblical David that bad things happen – and that Geraldine Brooks was fleshing out the bare bones given in the bible – I was not comfortable with it.
David’s story from the Bible is very familiar to me and he wrote some of my most favourite psalms. The David in THE SECRET CHORD was not so familiar to me. I know Brooks wanted to portray the historical rather than the Biblical David – but my heart wanted the man who humbled himself and repented – not the cruel and unfeeling man who I found on the pages of this book. The other problem I had was the use of the Hebrew versions of the names of the characters, so at once I was struggling to connect the book to the Biblical stories and characters I knew and loved. I confess I wrote a little note and kept it beside me so I could remind myself that Shaul was Saul, Slomo was Solomon, Batsheva was Bathsheba, Avshalom was Absalom and Jonathon became Yonatan. Even the narrator is Natan the prophet rather than the Nathan I am familier with. I am sure Brooks did this for authenticity – but it didn’t work well for me. And don’t get me started on all the tribes – I couldn’t even keep track of them all in the Bible!!! And yes I know the whole point is that David united them so they needed to be in the story – but boy oh boy!
In the end I stuck with the story and came to know a little better the David in the book – he was a complex character who did unspeakably horrible things but also did some wonderful things. A man who could kill without a second thought to get his own way, and then write the most beautiful poetry.
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Average – it was OK, but for one reason or another I found it a bit of struggle to stay focused and finish.
With thanks to Hachette Australia and the author via Netgalley for my copy to read and review.