Book Review: THE SECRET CHORD

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“I have had great length of days, and been many things. A reluctant warrior. A servant. A counselor. Sometimes, perhaps, his friend. And this, also, have I been: a hollow reed through which the breath of truth sounded its discordant notes.

Words. Words upon the wind. What will endure, perhaps, is what I have written. If so, it is enough.” Geraldine Brooks, The Secret Chord

Publisher Synopsis:

With more than two million copies of her novels sold, New York Times bestselling author Geraldine Brooks has achieved both popular and critical acclaim. Now, Brooks takes on one of literature’s richest and most enigmatic figures: a man who shimmers between history and legend. Peeling away the myth to bring David to life in Second Iron Age Israel, Brooks traces the arc of his journey from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

The Secret Chord provides new context for some of the best-known episodes of David’s life while also focusing on others, even more remarkable and emotionally intense, that have been neglected.  We see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age. Brooks has an uncanny ability to hear and transform characters from history, and this beautifully written, unvarnished saga of faith, desire, family, ambition, betrayal, and power will enthrall her many fans.

My Recommendation:

Geraldine Brooks is a rare writer who is able to employ both gorgeous prose and spellbinding storytelling. Though some scenes in THE SECRET CHORD moved me to revulsion, or even tears, I could not look away. Many passages in my copy of the book are underlined for their potency and elegance. Brooks writes most lyrically when she describes David’s musical talent–arguably his most redeeming quality.

“It’s a kind of sorcery, a possession of body and spirit. Yet a wholesome one. And there is one chord, one perfect assembly of notes that no other hand can play. The sound of it–pure, rinsing sound, void, so that your spirit seems to rush in to fill the space between the notes.” 

In THE SECRET CHORD, King David’s story is told through a reliable narrator, which allows the reader to see a legendary ruler in all his unvarnished capacities. If we had heard David through his own voice, there may have been excuses, justifications, or omissions from his brutal history. Seeing David through a servant or advisor gives the entire picture, and that portrait–for all its beauty and glory–is blood-stained, torn, and decaying, even as the King makes his ascent.

Fans of WOLF HALL will be enthralled by this unflinching depiction of biblical royalty. The loyal and humble narrator, who helps the reader understand a time that feels both far removed and close to home, enchants. I give THE SECRET CHORD my highest recommendation.

I have one copy of THE SECRET CHORD to give away. Please comment below with your favorite work by Geraldine Brooks, or your favorite work of historical, epic, family drama by Monday, October 12th  at 9 PM ET. (US only, please.) Please share on social media, and good luck!

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14 thoughts on “Book Review: THE SECRET CHORD

  1. Bonnie K. says:

    My favorite of Geraldine Brooks is the People of the Book. I shared on twitter. I am really excited to have the chance to read The Secret Chord.

  2. schmelzb says:

    Geraldine Brooks is a special writer. Your review of her latest title has me intrigued. The conflict and mystery created by David and her narrator will resonate with me as they did with you. Thank you both for finding interesting historical figures for your great writing. When our book club (ladies you know) discussed “People of the Book” we had a Seder plate and jelly beans to reflect the multi-faceted characters, setting, and the foods revealed in her book. You know I would love to win and read “The Secret Chord.”

  3. East of Eden is one of my favorite epic family stories. I loved Wolf Hall so I’m looking forward to this one too! Thanks.

  4. KathyW says:

    Oh it’s a toss up. I love all her work but the first book I read of hers was Caleb’s Crosssing. That introduction led me to another and then another until I had to patiently wait on The Secret Chord. I’m really looking forward to reading it.

  5. Rhonda says:

    I find each of her books,to be so beautifully written hard to choose.

  6. My favorite would have to be Year of Wonders–it was one of the books that fueled my passion for writing historical fiction (plus, I’ve always had a strange fascination with the plague;) Thanks for the lovely review and a chance to win The Secret Chord, Erika.

  7. erikarobuck says:

    And, the winner is…Beth! (Random.org has selected YOU!) Thanks so much to all who participated and shared.

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