Geraldine Brooks is brilliant at taking dusty historical research and bringing it to life by animating obscure figures in flesh and blood. In this case her subject is King David. Outside of his appearances in the Bible, we know little about him. Yes, he slew (or is that slayed?) the giant Goliath, yes he played the harp and sang divinely, but what else?
Through the eyes of his friend, the courtier and prophet Natan, we get an intimate portrait of David the man and of the era in which he lived: 1000BC, the Second Iron Age.
Just as Brooks herself did as a foreign correspondent in the Middle East, when she spent a lot of time talking to the wives of powerful men as a way of understanding local politics, Natan too talks to the women in David’s life to understand his motives and desires: his mother and two wives.
We follow his life’s arc from obscurity to fame, as a king, despot and patriarch in an almost Shakespearean sweep: he is a very flawed human being. In some of the narrative’s most dramatic scenes, he fails as both a father and a ruler, with women paying the price for his decisions. These episodes give the character of David the kind of rich moral complexity which allows Brooks to shine, deploying all her skills as a storyteller and as a chronicler of human folly, vanity and excess.
The Secret Chord
by Geraldine Brooks
A unique and vivid novel that retells the story of King David’s extraordinary rise to power and fall from grace, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of People of the Book, Year of Wonders and March, Geraldine Brooks.
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.
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning March, Year of Wonders, and the non-fiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Previously, Brooks was a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Bosnia, Somalia, and the Middle East.
Born and raised in Australia, she divides her time between Sydney and Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. She lives with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons, Nathaniel and Bizuayehu.