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The Secret Chord: A Novel Hardcover – October 6, 2015
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Praise for The Secret Chord
“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
“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. . .some of the magic here has to do with setting and time—for sensory dramatics, it’s hard to compete with the Iron Age Middle East. . .but Brooks’s real accomplishment is that she also enables readers to feel the spirit of the place.”
—The New York Times
“There’s something bordering on the supernatural about Geraldine Brooks. She seems able to transport herself back to earlier time periods, to time travel. Sometimes, reading her work, she draws you so thoroughly into another era that you swear she’s actually lived in it. With sensory acuity and a deep and complex understanding of emotional states, she conjures up the way we lived then. . .Brooks has humanized the king and cleverly added a modern perspective to our understanding of him. . .[Her] vision of the biblical world is enrapturing.”
—The Boston Globe
“The David that bursts off the page in this chronicle is a larger-than-life commixture of virtues and flaws. . .I may be late to the party on the amazing Ms. Brooks, but The Secret Chord won me over. Its storytelling magic is as timeless as the tale it tells.”
—The San Francisco Chronicle
“It’s this David – gifted artist, vainglorious alpha male, conflicted husband and father – that we meet in The Secret Chord, the beautiful, subtle, grave new novel by Geraldine Brooks. . .The Secret Chord paints [a] fresh portrait of King David. . .For Brooks, David is interesting not for his status as the most beautiful man in art history, but, rather, for his matrix of contradictions. . .in this telling, he is the Bible’s ultimate Machiavellian.”
“Rich and imaginative. . .Thanks to Brooks, David is as compelling as he is contradictory, with the writing in The Secret Chord as lyrical as the lyre that David plays.”
—The Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Deeply sympathetic. . .Brooks offers new perspectives on a character whose story has captured the Western imagination for millennia. . .she breaks from the biblical version by giving voice to the voiceless women in David’s life: wives and lovers, a daughter, a mother -- the beloved and the scorned.”
—The Chicago Tribune
“A compelling read, contemporary in its relevance. . .The Secret Chord is powerful storytelling, its landscape and time evoked in lyrical prose.”
“The best historical fiction. . .Brooks gives the whole king his due. . .It’s a tall order to breathe life into such a human being, and she manages it admirably.” -—NPR
“In The Secret Chord, Brooks does what she does best: bring psychological realism and dramatic arc to a subject we scantly know from history and myth. . .The result yields a gripping tale of a ruler’s stresses and sacrifices, his triumphs and shames. The Secret Chord reads like a Shakespeare history play with a dash of Machiavelli.”
—The Dallas Morning News
“[A] deeply imaginative exploration of this once powerful but deeply flawed ruler. . .Brooks is a gifted, engrossing storyteller. Like March and People of the Book, The Secret Chord is studded with action, interesting characters, sweeping timelines and moving scenes filled with drama and conflict. . .a timely and universal exploration of the limits of loyalty, the seductive and corrupting influence of power, and the intersections between sin and faith, punishment and redemption.”
—The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“George R.R. Martin’s got nothing on the biblical chroniclers of David, kind of Israel. Incest? Treachery and murder? Marriages for love and political alliance? This is the original Game of Thrones. . .Each of the members of David’s court comes into sharp relief.”
—The Miami Herald
“Like her beautiful descriptions of David as worshipful musician, Brooks' surface details befit the ancient story. Her delicate rendering of the spare, sun-pierced land is a painful foreshadowing of its still-embattled importance.”
“The Pulitzer-Prize winning author has succeeded in humanizing a mythic figure, breathing life, emotion, and literary resonance into a midrash that transforms David the King into David the Man.”
“In her gorgeously written novel of ambition, courage, retribution, and triumph, Brooks imagines the life and character of King David in all his complexity. . .The language, clear and precise throughout, turns soaringly poetic when describing music or the glory of David’s city. . .taken as a whole, the novel feels simultaneously ancient, accessible, and timeless.”
About the Author
Geraldine Brooks is the author of four novels, the Pulitzer Prize–winning March and the international bestsellers Caleb’s Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. She has also written the acclaimed nonfiction works Nine Parts of Desire and Foreign Correspondence. Her most recent novel, Caleb’s Crossing, was the winner of the New England Book Award for Fiction and the Christianity Today Book Award, and was a finalist for the Langum Prize in American Historical Fiction. Born and raised in Australia, she lives on Martha’s Vineyard with her husband, the author Tony Horwitz.
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Top Customer Reviews
I will be frank - I came to this book not because I was really all that interested in David. I grew up in a religious household, and am familiar with him, but I am not what I would deem "religious" these days. I actually decided to read this book because I had loved Brooks' "People of the Book" and wanted to read another of her books. So that perspective may color my review. I am not interested in exact historical accuracies as compared to the Bible (though from what I remember, she did an excellent job with that as well). I *am* interested in learning more about what makes people function, and such a large character as King David is no different.
Brooks starts the book by creating the opportunity for Natan to write David's history. Not only does David give permission for Natan, he sends out orders to those who might resist speaking to the prophet. As was usually the case, there was more to David's agreement than was originally apparent...but that comes later (I don't do spoilers). From there, the book covers David's whole life - from conception to his pronouncement of Solomon as king, and everything in between. It is honest and unflinching about David's faults, while still celebrating his accomplishments.
As a book, it is very well written. The prose might be a bit wordy or slow for some, but it seemed to fit the subject well to me. King David is believed to have composed a large part of the Book of Psalms in the Bible, and as such, would have been the worse for wear if the writing had been too heavy-handed. And while David is the largest part of the book, those around him shine as well. Their characters have been fully fleshed out and contribute to the book as a whole.
Honestly, I wasn't sure what I would end up thinking about the book. While I went in knowing it was centered around a character in the Bible, I was hoping it wouldn't be...pushy...about the religion. It was far from that. Yes, his beliefs do figure largely into the book, as was necessary, but it never veers into preaching territory. Brooks had a very fine line to walk in that regard, and she did it quite well. Overall, I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed the novel. I stayed up late to finish, even knowing the eventual outcome. Kudos to Brooks for delivering such an excellent story, based on someone many people might have different opinions about, without crossing into either woe-is-me or pushy territory. Definitely a book I will recommend to others, Christian or not, simply for the amazing story contained within.
The story was well researched and brought to life the life and times of the Old Testament, bloody battles, adultery, family feuds and strategies that founded Israel . I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and recommend pushing through the first few chapters and know you will enjoy the ride.
Having studied the biblical text many years ago, I found myself returning to it to refresh my memory. Doing so, while reading the novel definitely added to my enjoyment. I liked that the author transliterated Hebrew names and some of the Hebrew words from the "Book of Samuel".