Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks is gifted with the uncanny ability to speak in tongues not her own. David, the second King of Israel, was "the first man in literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age." In this novel, Brooks writes in the voice of prophet Natan who stayed by David’s side through his long life, from the moment Natan exhibited his channeling of a voice not his own--the voice of the source of all things, called ‘the Name.’ This is particularly fitting, since Brooks’ skill in reading the past mirrors Natan’s gift to read the future.

While the Bible is the original source for much of David’s story, Brooks used the works of more lately scholars, e.g., Robert Pinsky’s The Life of David, and David Wolpe’s David: The Divided Heart, to paint a picture of a complex and lavishly gifted man who failed to rein in the passions that all men harbor and to which some fall prey. It is a powerful tale of bravery and woe, justice and corruption.

Through it all, we see the state of Israel taking shape, despite the tendencies of a "strife-prone people quick to fan grievance, to take sides and foment revolt." David lay a calming and just hand on the remains of many a defeated and bereaved enemy, and ruled fairly…until vigilance over his passions waned in the full throat of his power.

If David’s story predates Herodotus by half a century, it is the oldest piece of history ever recorded. Brooks brings back to life the characters and their environment, the violence and the adulation, the resentments and the love with such richness that we can smell zaatar on roasting bread and taste the bite of goat-cheese feta. Brooks’ own perspective is rich with understanding and generosity for both the greatness and the failures of man. David’s last son, Solomon (she calls him Shlomo), upon learning the details of a battle, would say, "there is nothing new under the sun;" all had happened before, if one looked back far enough in time. And so it may be.

This is the tale of how an abused and neglected boy overcame his origins, slay Goliath, and became an uncommon warrior and king. And it is the story of how power will corrupt, lest one guards with unceasing vigilance one’s baser instincts. Brooks points out in her Afterword that the story of David may not be just a parable but must define an actual figure "for no people would invent such a flawed figure for a national hero." David lives in these pages at least.

I am very pleased to be able to offer an advance reading copy of this title to one interested reader of my blog (U.S. residents, please). Sign up below and I will email the winner to ask for a mailing address. The book will come to you direct from the publisher, Viking Penguin. I will close this giveaway on September 30, 2015. Tell your friends. I look forward to hearing from you.

A winner has been chosen. Thanks everyone.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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