Natan, David’s longtime counselor and prophet, proves a shrewd chronicler for his tale, and David wisely knows it. The plot ranges back and forth in time, as Natan interviews three individuals David hand-selects for him to speak with, reminisces about his years of service, and observes David’s passion for the beautiful, married Batsheva and its consequences. But this isn’t David’s story alone. Stitched onto the familiar biblical framework are insightful interpretations of his wives and family members.
The language, clear and precise throughout, turns soaringly poetic when describing music or the glory of David’s city. Brooks’ preference for biblical Hebrew names emphasizes the story’s origins, and, taken as a whole, the novel feels simultaneously ancient, accessible, and timeless.
The Secret Chord is published today by Viking in hardcover ($27.95, 320pp). This review first appeared in Booklist's August issue.