Best Book of the Week!
The characters in Biblical stories have always provided fodder for fiction but are particularly popular since Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent. They can be interesting for me not because they’re telling something familiar but because they are not, since I have one of the spottiest Christian upbringings on the planet. This situation was caused by a combination of my parents’ lack of application and my own fundamental lack of interest from a very young age. I’ve always been fine with it except when I crashed and burned over Christian symbolism in graduate school. However, halfway through Brooks’ remarkable The Secret Chord, I was driven to Wikipedia and found I only knew two David stories, David and Goliath and David and Bathsheba.
The Secret Chord is about the life of David from the point of view of his prophet, Natan. When David asks Natan to write up his victories, Natan refuses, telling him that anyone can have their victories commemorated, but Natan wants to leave behind a true relation of David’s life, the good and the bad, so people in the future will understand him. David agrees and even gives Natan a list of people to interview.
Natan also remembers his own interactions with David, whom he met right after the rebel David murdered Natan’s entire family because his father refused aid to his men. It was then that Natan made his first prophetic utterance, the words of which he couldn’t even remember.
This is truly a fascinating novel, beautifully written, that presents us with the complex man, including his glory and flaws. Brooks is wonderful at conveying his charisma and his faults, so that you feel for him in his sorrows even as he brings many of them on himself.
Brooks uses the names and place names of the time, lending authenticity to this colorful re-telling. The Secret Chord evokes a convincing time and place.