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In a way, I'm the perfect audience for this: biblical stories are not second nature to me (I did not remember that David came after Moses, for example), but I know enough of the broad outline of the Torah/Bible that I'm not completely in the dark. In other words, I understood David's overall importance but I'm not attached to a specific vision of him or the people who inhabit his story.
The book is told from the point of view of Natan (Nathan), his seer and one of his counselors. Having seen David murder his father, Natan is all too aware of David's frailties. But whether he can hear the prophecies emanating from him or not, Natan also *knows* that David will be the man to unify and transform their people from a group of tribes constantly in danger of being plundered to a strong nation that is feared and later respected by its neighbors.
The tension that drives the story of David is that he must do "whatever is necessary", however ruthless, in order to serve the Name. And there is much that Natan knows the Name can allow, whether it's his passionate affair with Yonatan, son of Shaul (and brother of his first wife Mikhal), his indiscriminate murder of all villagers who stand against him, or his general intemperance and lust. All of that is balanced against the way in which he can measure a man (or woman) and, as Natan says, meet them where they are instead of demanding that they meet him on his terms. But unlike his treacherous son Abshalom, he doesn't make a show of it as a glad-handing politician; he genuinely wants to be genuinely loved and respected.
What the Name- and Natan- finally cannot overlook is the crime he commits against both Uriah and his wife Batsheva when he rapes her and then causes Uriah to be killed so that his sin won't be discovered. When Natan famously tricks him into cursing himself, David does public penance, but he's finally gone too far to be forgiven without paying the four-fold price he himself decreed was due. Unfortunately, the price was four of his children: Batsheva's first born, his lecherous, incestuous son Amnon, his only daughter Tamar, Amnon's victim and Tamar's full-brother, the vengeful, ambitious Abshalom. His saving grace, and why Natan stays with David: Shlomo (Solomon), his eldest son with Batsheva, whom both she and Natan foresee as having the vision to eventually lead the nation David established, who can finally transform "whatever is necessary" into "what is just".
The moral discussion of David's character is always fascinating, but there's a distinct lack of his faith, except in odd chunks here and there. One might expect more of that element in a tale of his life, but...eh. Maybe it just makes it more accessible for non-religious historical fiction fans? But I still maintain, as I did while reading it, that the non-religious historical fans are probably not going to pick this one up easily, assuming it's religious, while the religious crowd that picks it up is going to be sorely disappointed because it's basically non-religious. Also, it's really, really violent. Like reading about the Borgias in Jerusalem instead of Rome. Good luck with that.
I really liked the story but the delivery was a bit ponderous. Still worth reading if you enjoy historical fiction based on Old Testament stories.
I am almost finished. Enjoying it, but what a dysfunctional family! Some disturbing violence.
Old Testament stories can be so strange and this is quite the story. I didn't love the book or any of the characters but I am glad to have read it. I like learning history and customs of those ancient times and Brooks is always a careful writer.
This is book was an amazing read for me got me back into reading fully and glad for it geraldine brooks is an amazing writer from the betreyals to secrets this book really shows how women really do affect so much in this world and just in men in general!!!.
Interesting, but not one of Brooks' better novels. She tried to compress a great deal of history into a modest novel. The characterizations fell short, falling victim to plot, and didn't always seem credible. It was a large undertaking on the author's part, and although readable, is not highly recommendable.
Not your Sunday School version of King David, except for his musicianship. Still, a stunning version of the story, with the courage to read between the biblical lines to create a complex man in complex times. Told by Natan, his prophet, who is almost as complex as David. I was completely pulled into Brooks' version of the story, finishing it in less than 24 hrs.
A bit disappointing. It's well written and researched like every other novel she has published but it was far too plot-driven for me. Usually, she weaves plot and character development together for a fully engaging story but not so this time. We know the basics of David's story already and the fictionalized details are interesting but I never felt like I was inside a character's head for more than a minute at a time. You hear lots of Nathan's perspective but even that was static and two-dimensional. Good enough to finish (I have no qualms about quitting books I'm not enjoying) but not great. P.S. If you've never dabbled in the Hebrew scriptures/Old Testament, I imagine you will be bored senseless.
I enjoy the details of how life was in a different time and place. Mostly when I read her books I'm reminded how much life was not fun if you unfortunate enough to be born female.
I did not feel this book was of the caliber of Ms. Brooks' other novels. It was more melodrama than character study and did not tell me anything about David and his family and courtiers that I didn't already know from an honest and curious study of the Christian Old Testament.
3.5 stars. A gritty, sometimes brutal, fictional account of the life of King David and his relationships with the people closest to him. Beautifully written, lots of complicated (and extremely flawed) characters, plus a very interesting story made for a page-turner of a read despite a heck of a lot of violence.
Whoa, this wasn’t a story of the Biblical King David I was expecting! He’s wildly successful in the battle to become king, but he also is arrogant and his low points are spectacular, too. Brooks has chosen his prophet, Natan, to tell the story—a much more reliable historian than David. Battling family, claiming wives he desires, outsmarting foes describe David as does his remarkable ability to play the harp and sing. If I were to use one word to describe David, it would be “contradiction”. I love books that take the “holy” out of holy people and show them to be people with faults as well as strengths. I’ll be interested in hearing how this book is received among conservative Christians who see the Bible as literal. I’m not looking at reviews until finish writing my one. I wish I had read this book in traditional format rather than on the Kindle. There is such a cast of characters to keep track of, it would have been easier to page back to the list of characters in book form.
Taken as the story of a dysfunctional family (with family being extended to an entire kingdom), this story of King David offers us the human side of a king who has a flawed relationship with his wives, children, generals, and God. As he ages, his relationships all suffer greatly to the detriment of all.
I highly recommend The Secret Chord to lovers of well-written literature.