Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Geraldine Brooks, THE SECRET CHORD

Geraldine Brooks's earlier novels Year of Wonders and March are still two of my favorites; but this one didn't resonate with me the same way. It's the story of King David, told by his prophet Natan; parts were familiar to me (the slaying of Goliath) and parts not; it's full of war and political intrigue and rape. The use of a secondary character to tell a fiery protagonist's story is often an effective device; but I didn't feel that Natan's point-of-view added as much as it might have, partly because his character did not change throughout; he begins and remains the prophet. (Often, for me, the dual change in two characters can create all kinds of good dramatic tension.) As usual with Brooks, some of the language and phrases just sing--"[I saw] the sinews of his back, taut with the strain of the pulled bow"; "her face was tilted upward, to catch a meager shaft of light." But at times I was pulled up short by certain words that felt very contemporary--"scar tissue" (mid-19th-c), the feet on the stones beating a "celebratory tattoo" (1500s), and the phrase, "Well, you might have suckered my brother but you don't fool me." I will always read Brooks's books, however, and look forward to her next.

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