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17 August 2015
Review: THE SECRET CHORD, Geraldine Brooks
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, YEAR OF WONDERS and MARCH comes a unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David's extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace.
1000 BC. The Second Iron Age. The time of King David.
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.
With stunning originality, acclaimed author Geraldine Brooks offers us a compelling portrait of a morally complex hero from this strange age - part legend, part history. Full of drama and richly drawn detail, THE SECRET CHORD is a vivid story of faith, family, desire and power that brings David magnificently alive.
Note - this book is not crime fiction, although without doubt crimes are committed.
Reading it is part of my quest to widen what I read: to go beyond crime fiction.
I have already read the Pulitzer Prize winning PEOPLE OF THE BOOK by the same author.
When I was a child I had a jigsaw puzzle that showed a young, handsome David slaying Goliath of Gath with his slingshot. That image of David, son of Jesse of Bethlehem, ancestor of Jesus Christ and the reason why he was born in Bethlehem, has stayed with me for well over 60 years. But the picture of David in THE SECRET CHORD is a long way from the sanitised image of my jigsaw puzzle.
The description and account of David in THE SECRET CHORD is seen through the eyes of Natan, David's courtier who at times has prophesied events in David's life, and been at his side for decades. David has commissioned Natan to interview his mother and other family members to learn about the early events of David's life. The king will decide how much of what Natan writes down will be revealed. Natan is well aware that he is treading a dangerous line: the king is volatile and could well turn against him, and his family are not going to be willing to reveal deep secrets willingly.
Eventually we learn David's life history, taking us right through to the declaration of his heir. According to the author "David is the first man in literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age." I was staggered at how violent his life was, how much time was spent in waging war, and how his family almost self-combusted.
A fascinating read.
My rating: 4.5
About the author
Australian-born Geraldine Brooks is an author and journalist who grew up in Sydney's western suburbs. In 1982 she won a scholarship to the journalism master's program at Columbia University in New York. Later she worked for the WALL STREET JOURNAL, where she covered crises in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans. In 2006 she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for her novel MARCH. Her novels CALEB'S CROSSING and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK were both NEW YORK TIMES bestsellers, and YEAR OF WONDERS and PEOPLE OF THE BOOK are international bestsellers, translated into more than 25 languages. She is also the author of the acclaimed non-fiction works NINE PARTS OF DESIRE and FOREIGN CORRESPONDENCE. In 2011 she presented Australia's prestigious Boyer Lectures, later published as THE IDEA OF HOME.
Geraldine Brooks lives in Massachusetts with her husband, author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.