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The Secret Chord: A Novel Hardcover – October 6, 2015

3.9 out of 5 stars 492 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Praise for The Secret Chord

The Secret Chord—a thundering, gritty, emotionally devastating reconsideration of the story of King Davidmakes a masterly case for the generative power of retelling. . .some of the magic here has to do with setting and timefor 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 

“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

“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.”  
USA Today

“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 Guardian
 
“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.” 
Philadelphia Inquirer

 “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.”                                                                               
—Haaretz.com

“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.”
ALA Booklist

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First edition (October 6, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670025771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670025770
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (492 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Biblioholic Beth TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 27, 2015
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
King David. A man like any other, though one who triumphs and fails in spectacular fashion. One whose life lives on in the words of the Bible. Yet, there is so much more to a life than what any Bible can capture - particularly a life such as his. In "The Secret Chord", Geraldine Brooks attempts to show the reader who David may have been as a person. Not just what was captured in the Bible, but his whole life. His motivations, his character, his flaws...everything that defined who he was. Written from the perspective of his ever-present courtier, Nathan (Natan in the book), "The Secret Chord" largely succeeds in its goal.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Secret Chord," by Geraldine Brooks, is a novelization of King David's life, narrated by Nathan, who counseled the sovereign for many years. As the scorned youngest son of Yishai, David spends most of his days tending his father's sheep in the wilderness. Samuel proclaims that David, whom his older brothers ostracized, is destined to become the future king of Israel. The young man's victory over Goliath brings him great acclaim, and initially, King Saul takes the boy under his wing. David not only distinguishes himself on the battlefield, but also composes beautiful music, plays the harp, and sings with divine inspiration. Unfortunately, Saul becomes jealous of David and turns against him in a murderous rage.

The author focuses on David's sensuality, fiery temper, vindictiveness, and violence towards his enemies. Nathan, a seer who reveals his visions to David, informs him that he will lead his people but will not build the Holy Temple with his bloodstained hands. In addition, Nathan warns David that he is destined to pay dearly for his poor judgment, excesses, and transgressions. Those who are familiar with the Bible will find little new in these pages, with one glaring exception. Although Brooks would have us believe otherwise, there is no conclusive evidence that David's relationship with Jonathan was anything but platonic. The author takes literary license when she creates a love triangle between David, Jonathan, and Michal, one of David's wives and the daughter of King Saul.

Brooks's writing is readable but undistinguished. Her efforts to sound biblical sometimes backfire ("Pursue! For you shall overtake and you shall rescue!"), and her characters' occasional use of foul language is jarring.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Geraldine Brooks is Pulitzer Prize winning author and she continues to keep her writing standards high. "The Secret Chord" is a book about King David. One does not have to be Old Testament fan, there are so many stories about King David - just think of the story about David and Goliath. I loved this book from start to finish. It is probably the only book, carefully researched that describes the life of one of the giants of the past from his childhood until his death.

Everything about David is contradiction. From the way he was conceived to the last day of his life. David was raised in a large family and despite of his name that means "Beloved", it was probably only his mother who gave him at least an inkling of love. His father and his brothers banished young David to the mountains to tend to the sheep so he can be out of site and minimize rift within the family that his existence alone seemed to cause.

So from humble shepherd boy, we get to learn about the hero who conquered Goliath and became one of the King's favorite soldiers. David was a quick learner and more importantly he was a survivor. He manages to find his way to king's court and even get married off to one of his daughters. But envy knows of no limits and once again, David finds himself falling out of King's favor and having to flee to exile. His skill as a warrior and drive eventually lead him to become a King himself. David is shrewd and understands that having offspring is the way for him to secure his succession. So with a string of political marriages, he manages to have a large family with multiple wives who give him many sons and one daughter - Tamar.
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