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.
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.
'A skilful reimagining ... gracefully and intelligently told.' - KIRKUS REVIEWS
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.
'Brooks evokes time and place with keenly drawn detail ... with the verve of an adroit storyteller ... Ambitious and psychologically astute.' - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
'In her gorgeously written novel of ambition, courage, retribution and triumph, Brooks imagines the life and character of King David ... the novel feels simultaneously ancient, accessible and timeless.' - BOOKLIST
Longlisted for the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction 2016
Shortlisted for the Indie Book Awards 2016
Shortlisted for the ABIA Awards 2016
Selected as an AUSTRALIAN WOMEN'S WEEKLY Great Read
Geraldine Brooks is a master at bringing the past alive. - The Washington Post
Brooks evokes time and place with keenly drawn detail ... with the verve of an adroit storyteller ... Ambitious and psychologically astute. - Publishers Weekly
a thundering, gritty, emotionally devastating reconsideration of the story of King David - New York Times Book Review
Mesmerising - The Australian Women's Weekly
George R.R. Martin's got nothing on the biblical chroniclers of David, King of Israel ... This is the original GAME OF THRONES. - Miami Herald
THE SECRET CHORD is powerful storytelling, its landscape and time evoked in lyrical prose ... Brooks has crafted from THE SECRET CHORD a compelling read, contemporary in its relevance. - The Guardian Australia
A skillful reimagining ... gracefully and intelligently told. - Kirkus Reviews
Rich and imaginative ... David is as compelling as he is contradictory. We feel his desires and understand his mistakes. - Minneapolis Star Tribune
“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” The Secret Chord is the fifth novel by Pulitzer prize-winning Australian author, Geraldine Brooks. David, son of Yishai (Jesse) the Beit Lehemite (Bethlehemite): a shepherd boy, a warrior, an accomplished harpist with a beautiful voice, a composer of psalms, a husband, father, lover, and second King of the United Kingdom of Israel; the significant events in the life of this charismatic figure from the 10th century BCE are related by Natan (Nathan), prophet and part of David’s retinue from the tender age of ten, whose perspective is that of one both present and prescient. Natan says: “I have set it all down, first and last, the light and the dark. Because of my work, he will live. And not just as a legend lives, a safe tale for the fireside, fit for the ears of the young. Nothing about him ever was safe. Because of me, he will live in death as he did in life: a man who dwelt in the searing glance of the divine, but who sweated and stank, rutted without restraint, butchered the innocent, betrayed those most loyal to him. Who loved hugely, and was kind; who listened to brutal truth and honored the truth teller; who flayed himself for his wrongdoing; who built a nation, made music that pleased heaven, and left poems in our mouths that will be spoken by people yet unborn”. He also tells us “They knew his flaws. Indeed, I think they loved him all the more because he was flawed, as they were, and did not hide his passionate, blemished nature” The subject matter that Brooks selects for her novels may well be one which a reader would not normally choose, but with this author, the reader is, nonetheless, rewarded with an eminently readable story. Brooks is skilled at making a historical subject come to life by telling the story from the perspective of one closely involved in events, and this book is no exception: all those battles, all that slaying, all the lay withs and begats that cause the eyes to glaze over when read in their original form are made into a riveting read. (For readers who have forgotten their bible stories [or never read them], Wikipedia is a great quick reference on David’s life.) The small details of everyday life, the biblical–sounding language and archaic spelling of character names give the text an authentic feel. And as always, the depth of research that Brooks has done on her topic is apparent in every paragraph. Her descriptive prose is often truly beautiful: “It was as if the harp were a loom, the notes he drew from it a bright thread forming a glorious pattern….his large strong hands could draw forth a breadth of sound that one did not generally associate with the gentle harp. He could make it speak with a thousand voices, soft or stormy” and “His face – his beautiful face – was sunken and scored with lines, the hollows beneath his cheekbones scooped out as if a sculptor had driven his thumbs too deeply into the clay” are two examples. Passages like “It was the kind of thing that corrodes, like a drop of lye fallen upon linen. You don’t see the effect at first, but in time the fibers weaken and fray, a hole widens, and the garment is spoiled. Only if the drop is washed away directly can the damage be gainsaid” and “… the timbre of David’s voice was a thing apart. It had the tingling urgency of the shofar, and yet was not shrill. It could engender awe, as a high wind howling dangerously through mighty branches, or bring delight, as an unexpected trill of sweet birdsong” make this work of historical fiction a joy to read. Once again, Brooks does not disappoint. With thanks to TheReadingRoom and Hachette Australia for this copy to read and review
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. In 2016 she was appointed Officer in the Order of Australia for her services to literature.
Geraldine Brooks lives in Massachusetts with her husband, author Tony Horwitz, and their two sons.