Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Red Tent

The latest book I read was for the book club I'm in.  The book is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant.  The book is set in Biblical times, and the narrator is Dinah, only daughter of Jacob/Israel, sister to the brothers who make up the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  The book attempts to retell the stories of the family through the point of view of the women.  The red tent of the title is the women's tent where they retreat from male company during menstrual cycles and childbirth.

While I can't say that I loved the book, I loved reading it because it kept me thinking, questioning, pondering the whole time I read it.  I went to the book of Genesis and the Bible Dictionary over and over again to find out if things in the book really did come straight out of the Bible.  I was so surprised how much of the plot came right out of Genesis.  I definitely felt guilty that I didn't know these stories better.

Diamant wanted to portray famous, Biblical characters as realistic, very flawed individuals.  To me, this was good and bad.  The good was that it gave insight into these people's actions that I hadn't considered before.  For example, I never realized that the sons of Israel came from four different mothers.  The beloved Joseph was the only child of Rachel (until Benjamin much later).  To me, that shed a whole new light on his brothers' jealousy and treatment of him.

However, I couldn't get on board with Diamant's portrayal of the characters' flaws.  If I didn't believe the Bible to be scripture, I probably would not have felt that way.  But knowing that Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph were prophets of God, I just couldn't agree with Diamant's characterization of them and their wives.  Of course they had flaws, were human, made mistakes, but not so deeply as this book made them out.  She painted them so off that there were hardly any redeeming qualities in characters like Issac, Rebecca, the adult Joseph, and even Jacob.

Another thing I didn't like much about the book was, sadly, the main character, Dinah.  I enjoyed the book a lot more when she was living with the whole clan because there was less time to focus on Dinah herself.  When it was all about her, I thought she was dull, and didn't care much what was happening to her.

Also, if you're not a fan of love-at-first-sight, this book will annoy you.  There are too, too many instances of it.

But I recommend reading it if you're familiar with the Bible.  I feel like it's pretty rare to find a book that really makes me think as much as this one did.  And I loved going back to the Bible and rereading (or maybe reading for the first time) these stories in a new light. 

2 comments:

  1. Have you ever read the Women of Genesis books by Orson Scott Card? Those are also from the women's point of view and give an interesting perspective.

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    1. I haven't read it. Do we have it on the Kindle? It sounds good.

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