Monday 2 November 2015

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Fictionalised biographies are one of my favourite form of literature, and although the historical evidence for David and Solomon is very slight, there have been a couple of recent archaeological finds that suggests that a unified governing system was actually in place during this time in this particular region.

So few facts are a blessing for such a master storyteller as Brooks. She is able to weave a modern day story from the existing biblical tales about these two powerful men. She takes the rather black and white, straight up and down biblical versions of the David and Solomon stories and fleshes them out. She creates nuance, complexity and many, many shades of grey.

Instead of a simple parable about good and evil, The Secret Chord takes us on a journey to discover the man.
Early on David instructs his seer, Natan to document his rise to power. He doesn't just want to be a name in history, he desires "to be known as a man."

Part of the success here, is Brook's device of putting David's history into the hands of various 'witnesses' to retell. His mother provides s sympathetic view, his brother a less flattering version. His first wife shines a light on his character flaws and the power imbalance between men and women of that time. Another wife allows us to see his more thoughtful, generous side.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, even as it highlighted just how volatile, factional and war-torn this area has been for thousand and thousands of years.

This post is part of #AusReadingMonth and the Australian Women Writers Challenge.


  1. You know I'm sure this would be a worthwhile (and probably even enjoyable) book to read, and I do like Geraldine Brooks quite a lot I've read a few of her books, but I just have zero interest in the topic. Glad you enjoyed it though. And the cover is quite pretty.

    1. I had a similar reaction when I heard about the subject of this book, but Brooks' previous work was enough to get me to open the book and take a look....eventually. I've had my ARC for several months, but it was actually the imminent publication date that made me get started on it.
      Of course, once I got started I couldn't stop!

  2. Thanks for the review! I started reading this book, but found it very hard to get into the story even though I do think this is an interesting subject and characters to explore. I didn't get far enough to learn there are different narrators. I might try again next month.

    1. I think it's worth a second chance - Brooks really is a master storyteller.


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