Review: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

Finding a historical fiction novel set in the ‘ancient world’ always seems to be a challenge for me.

In my experience, the historical fiction genre is saturated with books from the Tudor, Regency, and Victorian eras, so when I find a historical fiction novel set in another era, I’m usually on board to give it a shot.

THE SECRET CHORD is one such novel….something different set in a unique period of time.

In this book, the author follows the live of David in Second Iron Age of Israel. She highlights his life from obscurity to fame, from shepherd to soldier, from hero to traitor, from beloved king to murderous despot and into his remorseful and diminished dotage.

She does a fantastic job at highlighting not just the larger more well known events of David’s life, but the more obscure and unknown details as well.

We get to see David through the eyes of those who love him or fear him—from the prophet Natan, voice of his conscience, to his wives Mikal, Avigail, and Batsheva, and finally to Solomon, the late-born son who redeems his Lear-like old age.

This was an interesting book not just because of the period in which it is set but because of the way Brooks puts David’s life on display. I especially like the way the author showcased David’s love interests and unexpected affairs.

The way his affairs were portrayed made him more real and complex….clearly a man with inner conflict. He was so much more than ‘the man who fought the giant’…..he was clearly ‘human’ and relatable. I think many readers will enjoy David and learning about his life….Brooks has a wonderful way of humanizing him and making him likable.

I especially enjoyed learning about David through the eyes of others. I thought it showed how complex he was.

Brooks has a very lyrical way of writing. There were some beautiful passages throughout the novel. I have heard such good things about her other book PEOPLE OF THE BOOK, and it seems from other reviewers that it is her signature style. I would read PEOPLE OF THE BOOK based on how beautifully she writes.

While there were things that I loved about this book, there were times when I struggled to get into the story. This is one of those books that gets better the more you read. I would say the first 50-100 pages were a little slow going for me. That and there was a lot of ‘war’ and conflict throughout the novel.

I was so into the romantic parts of the novel that I found the war parts distracting and would rather focus on the romance than the other parts of David’s life.

It wasn’t a terrible novel by any means but I just felt like it took a little too long to get to the meat of the story and then when we got into the ‘good parts’, there was a lot of reference to war that I felt took the reader out of the rhythm of the story at times.

So would I recommend this book to a friend? Yes. I think the content, lyrical story telling, and time period all make this book worth reading. Stick with it, I know the first part is a little slow but the rest of the novel is totally worth reading.

Challenge/Book Summary:

Book: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks 

  • Kindle Edition, 316 pages
  • Review copy provided by: Author/Publisher in exchange for an honest review

This book counts toward: NA

  • Hosted by: NA
  • Books for Challenge Completed: NA

Recommendation: 3 out of 5

Genre: historical fiction

Memorable lines/quotes: NA


One thought on “Review: The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks

  1. I received this book as a Christmas present last year but have yet to read it! I loved People of the Book so I’m not sure why I’ve put this one off. Sounds lovely though.

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