Friday, January 8, 2016

Q&A with Geraldine Brooks

Geraldine Brooks, photo by Randi Baird
Geraldine Brooks is the author of the new novel The Secret Chord, which looks at the life of King David. Her other books include the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel March, and the bestselling novels Caleb's Crossing, People of the Book, and Year of Wonders. A former reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Wall Street Journal, she lives on Martha's Vineyard.

Q: Why did you decide to tell King David's story in the voice of Nathan the prophet?

A: [David’s story] is the first full political biography we have….I needed a narrator who was close to David and yet could see his flaws. That character, Natan, already exists in the biblical account…

And it’s tantalizing that Chronicles refers to Natan as David’s biographer—to a “book of Natan” that now no longer exists, or that we have not yet rediscovered.

Q: How did you settle on the way you portrayed David in the novel?

A: …I have tried to let the duality [between light and dark within David] exist, and to leave it to the reader to assign weight between his flaws and his admirable qualities.

Q:  How would you describe the role of women in this novel?

A: They are probably the most important element. In the biblical account, they are sketched marvelously—they’re very critical players—but we meet each of them only briefly, because the biblical account is only concerned with how they affected David. 

I’m also interested in how he affected them, and what their lives were like before and after they intersected with his. So much of the Bible and so much biblical scholarship is from a patriarchal, male view. I wanted to switch the point of view at critical places, and observe the action through women’s eyes.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: It’s another historical novel, based on the true story of a remarkable horse and a missing painting. I’m loving it, because it is a complicated, braided narrative in several time periods, a bit like my novel People of the Book. Also because it is about two of my great passions, horses and art.

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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