Not such a Secret Chord – Geraldine Brooks’ new David story

adaptations, Book Reviews, Book Thoughts


King David is not happy at being excluded from the battlefield. Prophet Natan has an idea to keep him occupied: to tell a true, real life story of who King David is. Natan gets the go ahead, and starts to uncover the secrets that have made him who he is, including the people he has loved, his family and more.

Hmmmmm. So you know, I’m a Christian, and believe the Bible to be God’s word – and so I approach this with interest and caution. Because at best, it could be an enjoyable read and help get a bible character and story fixed more firmly in my head. But then , it could also butcher a bible story, get lots of things that aren’t true stuck in my head, or of course, just be generally terrible. I’ve only read a couple; but could remember really enjoying a Moses life story I had when I was younger, and so decided to give it a go. And it was pretty good. I enjoyed reading it – even if, really, it just felt like the Bible story with the things that are implied elaborated on.

It’s difficult to think of anything that was added really, except to go further into David’s relationships with Jonathan and various women than I really want to know about, or to explain and emphasise violence. Plus there was backstory from David’s family that was added in that was quite dramatic (I don’t know if there’s any evidence for it anywhere but I’d never heard it before.) It felt like some sensational magazine had taken David’s story, basically, and told all the details that really I don’t want to know.

That said, there were some interesting perspectives in it. It was interested to read the writer’s interpretation of what it would be like to be a prophet, and also to see it from a Jewish perspective (it explained a lot to me when I read at the end that the author is Jewish). David’s relationship with God is portrayed reasonably well – though Natan the prophet is definitely removed from the voice that overtakes him, rather than having a relationship as such.

So, it was a pretty good read. I did find myself wanting to keep going, even though I knew what was going to happen, and think it probably will have lodged the story further into my mind than before; but really, I didn’t need to know the details of the things that the Bible alludes to. The aim, I presume, was to present David as a flawed man who nevertheless was loved and used by God. It was an interesting book to engage with and encounter, too, but I don’t think I’d read it again.

Thanks to Little Brown Book Group UK for the review copy, I am extremely grateful to be able to read this book and review it, though it in no way affects my views.

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