Wednesday, May 25, 2016

THE SECRET CHORD by Geraldine Brooks

Before reading this novel, here’s what I knew about King David:  he killed Goliath with a slingshot, and he fathered Solomon, who gained a reputation for wisdom.  This book jogged my memory with the knowledge that he played the harp and purportedly wrote about half of the Psalms.  What I didn’t suspect is that, according to author Geraldine Brooks, he was probably bisexual.  I love historical fiction that introduces a little controversy.  In any case, David committed a substantial number of serious transgressions in battle and otherwise, slaying civilians right and left, stealing other men’s wives, and looking the other way when one of his spoiled sons raped and disfigured David’s only daughter.  The villainous son and abused daughter were half-siblings, but still….  The narrator of this novel is Natan, who has the gift of prophecy and walks a fine line between saying too much and not giving David fair warning so that he can prepare for the trials and tribulations ahead.  According to Natan, David may be God’s chosen king, but God does not cut him any slack for his myriad and horrific misdeeds.  I liked the author’s fluid writing style, but the subject matter here is not in my wheelhouse.  I enjoy reading about flawed characters, but most of the men in this novel lean a little too far in the direction of evil.   The women, on the other hand, are primarily victims of David’s whims, and besides, he may have preferred men anyway.  King David may have brought unprecedented peace to the region, but the price in terms of human lives lost was exorbitant.  Then again, the Bible’s veracity as a historical document is highly suspect, so none of this stuff may have ever happened.  Whether the fiction here is historical or not, it was not up my alley.  

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