Book: The Secret Chord

secret chord book cover*I received a free copy of this ebook through netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

I was very excited when I got access to this book. I have read Geraldine Brooks’ March, which is the story of Mr. March from Little Women while he is at the war. I really enjoyed her taking a character and giving a new voice to him. I knew most of the basics of King David’s story, so I was interested to see her take on it.

The book is from the perspective of the prophet Nathan and David is already King. Nathan is chronicling David’s past from speaking with others from his past, getting stories of his childhood, his defeat against Goliath, and becoming close with King Saul. Nathan is also recalling his past with King David, as he met David as a child who’s family had been killed and began prophesying. David spared him and brought him into his royal court. The current time of the story is right before David commits his grievous sin of adultery.

From the description, there are a lot of jumps in time. At times, this made the book very confusing. Sometimes it wasn’t clear if Nathan was speaking with someone or if he was recalling his own memories. Some of the interviews he had and his own memories overlapped. Once the story caught up with itself, it read a lot easier.

Overall, I thought Brooks’ did a great job depicting the story of David, the man. She paints David as passionate and fiery, but also deeply spiritual and poetic. I loved that she often brought up the music and songs David created. It fit very well with scripture as he is known to have created most of the book of Psalms. Although the timeline was confusing, I liked the story’s perspective told from Nathan. It allowed Brooks to give a more honest portrayal, as he foresaw what was to come.

One of the strengths of the book was Brooks’ portrayal of the female characters, such as David’s mother Nizevet, his first wife Michal, and Bathsheba. Each of them was mistreated in a way or cast out by their husbands, as wives were treated like property. They shared their story with Nathan, and he expressed sympathy for each of them. However, these three female character were not depicted as weak. They were still strong in the ways that they could be strong. I appreciated that they were all given such a strong voice where most Biblical women do not have one (not counting Esther and Ruth).

One of the downsides of the books was the violence and language. I expected most of the violence, since the Old Testament had a lot of war. David fought lots of battles to gain his kingdom, and they were very gruesome. I prepared myself for that. I did not prepare for the very violent incest/rape scene. I am usually not squeamish, but I had to set the book down for a second to keep reading. I didn’t think the scene was necessary in that detail and greatly impacted my feelings on the book.

I also did not expect the profane cursing. I understood what Brooks was trying to do. David’s men were soldiers and they probably had their languages’ equivalent of dirty slang and curses. But I couldn’t handle the use of ‘f***’ in the context of the book. That wasn’t a word that was even created until the 15th century. Using modern curses for a story set in David’s time just didn’t work for me. She should have been more creative then that.

Overall, I would rate the book 3 out of 5. The book had great moments and the writing was still very strong, although I don’t think it is Brooks’ best work.

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