Having never read Geraldine Brooks, and being rusty at best when it came to the story of David, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to really appreciate this book. Fortunately, the author did such a fantastic job of weaving in all of the relevant back stories and personal histories of the characters that I didn’t feel I had to use so much of my brain that the book became less than pleasurable. (I do like to learn and use my brain but if a migraine headache is avoidable, that is preferable.)
As for David, I hadn’t realized what a contradiction he was as a person and king. The author did well in relating his constant conflict between ruthlessness and benevolence, making us very aware that he was, in fact, a very flawed human being. Who know what his life would have been like without the good council of Natan, the profit or Avigail, his second wife… For such a powerful ruler, he certainly seemed unable to navigate the complex politics and relationships of the throne though he prevailed on the battlefield. I found myself frustrated and angry with his lack of discipline toward his sons. Also, and not uncommon for a book written about this period, I found myself disgusted by the treatment of women.
Natan, on the other hand, was the perfect prophet and voice of reason for David and his inner circle. I enjoyed the way he worked both his prophetic visions and human insight into advice and planning meant for the greater good of David as well as the kingdom.
I did find that changing some of the names to the more authentic Hebrew versions made for a bit more confusion at the beginning of the book. I would also caution that there are scenes of rape and violence that are, though not gratuitous, vividly depicted.
Overall, I thought The Secret Chord was a great book and I would happily read this author again in the future.
My rating: 4.5 stars