The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks
By Elizabeth M. Marshall
In her novel The Secret Chord, historical novelist Geraldine Brooks vividly brings to life the story of King David, founder of Israel. In the book’s afternote she explains that “…David is the first man in literature whose story is told in detail from early childhood to extreme old age…outside of the Bible, David has left little trace.”
Who was this man that slew Goliath, married eight wives, and fathered, not only Israel, but nine children, the most historical of whom became the wise King Solomon? The author deftly integrates the disparate pieces of David’s personality in a way that humanizes this multi-faceted man.
He was a poet and author of the many of the Bible’s Psalms, the slayer of Goliath, a mighty warrior, killer of enemies, shrewd calculator, charismatic shepherd to his people, and finally, the integrator and unifier of the warring tribes that became the people of Israel.
Brooks brings flesh and bone to this larger-than-life man by interweaving the tug, push, and pull of David’s conflicted personality whose comfort and peace was achieved only when he played the harp.
The Secret Chord was his surprise, his “sweet spot.” It was the place where his fingers and soul followed the harp to become one. As the narrator of the story explains, “There is one chord, one perfect assembly of notes that no other hand can play. The sound of it—pure, rinsing sound, void, so that your spirit seems to rush in to fill the space between the notes…Every soul that hears it is refreshed and restored.”
Interestingly, Geraldine Brooks uses the Hebrew spellings of words such as “Beit Lehem,” Bethlehem in English. The author not only interlaces an excellent, well-written tale, but for the first time, for this reader, puts King David into non-Biblical, historical context. The Secret Chord is now on my list of favorite books and I will, in all probability, read it again and again.
The Secret Chord is available for checkout at La Biblioteca and is shelved under the call number FIC BRO.