Monday, March 8, 2010

Review: The Red Tent

By Anita Diamant
321 pages

Plot in a nutshell: The retelling of the story of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah in the Bible.

Review in a nutshell: I couldn’t put the book down, but wanted to because it seemed like the author was trying to challenge everything I believe about the Bible. Maybe I’m just paranoid.

This book was great, but so great that I am scared to pick up another book for fear that the new book won’t be very good.

The Red Tent tells the story of Jacob’s family through the eyes of Dinah, the only daughter mentioned in the Bible that is born of Jacob. Dinah’s story is told in Genesis 34. Dinah’s story is one of the longer stories in the Bible about a woman. It was interesting to read this fictionalized account.

The book starts out before Dinah is even born. Dinah tells of how Jacob married four sisters. The reader can tell from the start that the major theme of the novel is sex and childbearing. This book is really sexual. It’s almost like Judy Blume’s Forever, only with Bible characters.

Because the book starts with a detailed ancestry, it is hard to keep track of all the characters. There are so many servants and wives and friends and cousins that it is impossible to remember them all. The important characters show up pretty much constantly, though. But most of the names are hard because they are foreign sounding.

Like The Jewel of Medina, I think Diamant was trying to make some scandalous statement about the Bible by writing The Red Tent. The book suggests even though Jacob worshipped God, that there was a lot of other pagan things going on at the same time in his family.

I felt like I was reading something dirty and bad when I read this. I don’t want to be na├»ve enough to say that the Bible is perfect and nothing bad happened in it. I know it isn’t true, but to suggest that everyone was horny all the time is really uncomfortable for me in so many ways.

In the end, Joseph is portrayed in a pretty negative light as well. Joseph is one of the people I really admire in the Bible and that was probably the biggest problem I had.

Other than those issues, Diamant has a writing style that makes it impossible to put the book down. You know a lot of what is going to happen in the book, but you still want to read on further.

This is one of those books to read if you are in a reading slump and just need something you don’t want to stop reading. For me, I love and hate it at the same time.


Anonymous said...

I think that she was intentionally trying to challenge the stories from the Bible. By re-telling it from Dinah's perspective, I think that she was trying to tell us that there was only one viewpoint told in the Bible and that perhaps, there is a different version?

I liked this book BECAUSE it challenges some of the stories in the Bible and because it was forcing me to think about things that I had been taught - and that is important to me.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review ! This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. But after reading your review I might have to get off my duff and read it !!