Geraldine Brooks || The Secret Chord

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The Secret Chord is an historical novel about a man who really existed, king David (you know, the biblical one who slew Goliath with a stone). His life is being written down by his oracle, Natan. To be honest, I’m not that into historical novels. They tend to be slightly on the factual side which I personally find rather boring. Brooks fortunately rarely succumbs to enumerations of facts.  Historical novels about kings building and defending their realm also tend to be slightly into long descriptions of bloody and cruel battles. That unfortunately does go for The Secret Chord. I was quite relieved that Brooks restricted the number of battles being meticulously described. Novels about ambitious men finally tend to contain a more than average number of explicit scenes of a sexual nature. Those scenes are more than explicit in The Secret Chord: excessive rapes are being described into detail. My poor stomach found those scenes rather difficult to take in. The Secret Chord is salvaged by its beautiful, poetic language (in those scenes that are not about battles or rape).  The descriptions of Israel, as far as I know a rather dry and desolate part of the world, make you want to go and live in this beautiful bountiful country. David’s life is not just being written down, Natan practically writes a love story. He admires his strong king and is willing to look past the more negative sides of his personality.  It takes Natan some time to realize that his king is just a man. As the oracle Natan speaks his mind, Natan the man mostly just looks away and shuts up. For the reader it has become quite evident that David is a shrewd and intelligent leader of people with a strong mind and a weak body. Once acclaimed king David cannot resists hubris, greed and some tyranny.  I found that I started to get annoyed by Natan’s holier than holy attitude.  Though playing a major part in David’s life as the oracle, he takes his responsibility as a man, as a friend hardly serious. He usually shuts up and looks away. Only towards the end, when David has become feeble and his succession has to be taken care of Natan does act. He makes sure that David’s youngest son Shlomo, the only decent one amongst the brood, is proclaimed the future king by David.  I suppose I got annoyed by Natan, because The Secret Chord lacks any character development. David and Natan are who they are, they have been typecasted as the king and the oracle. Brooks shows us the king, not the man behind the king. I myself would have some more insight into the man and less into the king.



About booksandliliane

I am an avid reader and love to share my love for literature. I have my own opinion on books that have been shortlisted, laureated by critics or are pushed on us by bookstores. I will try and explain why I like or do not like a book. Hopefully influencing you in your choice of books to read.
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