Newest Review: ... the story of Jacob and his sons. She is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis) as being 'defiled' by a prince who loved her, but it is only a br... more
Way, Way Back Many Centuries Ago....
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
Member Name: tinkerbell18
The Red Tent - Anita Diamant
Advantages: Brilliant, interesting story; well written
Disadvantages: A little sad at times
The basic premise of the Red Tent is the story of Dinah and the lives and traditions of her family - especially the female traditions of the family. As the only girl in the family, it is Dinah's responsibility to learn all the traditions that have been passed down over many generations so that she in turn can pass them on to her daughters. Oh and Dinah lives in Canaan, has 3 step-mothers, her father's name is Jacob and one of her twelve brothers is called Joseph...
Now this may sound familiar to some of you; Dinah is a minor character in the story of Jacob and his sons. She is mentioned in the Bible (Genesis) as being 'defiled' by a prince who loved her, but it is only a brief mention and Dinah is very much a background personality. And considering the achievements of Joseph and their father, this could be considered understandable. In the Red Tent Anita Diamant tries, and in my opinion, succeeds in almost literally giving young Dinah a voice (the book is written in first person).
The book begins with how Dinah's parents met and got married, as well as how Jacob also met and married his other wives, before returning to Dinah's present. Throughout the earlier stages of the book, there are 'flashbacks' as told by Dinah about her family's recent history; how they have lived, how her father built a successful farm, the birth of each of her brothers, and the arrival of her, a daughter to pass those essential traditions and tales on to. And where did Dinah learn these tales? In the Red Tent where women go together during menstruation and childbirth; a world apart from men (if only for a week).
As a child, I have always loved Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat (a musical to those of you who may not know); the Red Tent allows me to explore that world more, and from a different point of view. I don't know how closely matched it is to the Bible, but from what little I know, the characters, the timeline and the main events matched. Anita Diamant just went on and built Dinah a life that we can experience and imagine. Dinah's life is interesting throughout; at times it is a happy life, at other times it is heart-breaking and at times it can leave you wondering what on earth just happened.
I wouldn't say this is a happy story. I'd say I found it fascinating rather than happy. It was interesting to learn all the customs, and see Dinah's story unfold. Also, the differences between lands (such as Canaan and Egypt), their traditions, peoples and customs were intriguing and detailed; this gave an insight into the world of Dinah, and Joseph - minus the singing of course. It is a beautifully written book that kept me gripped from close to the beginning. Even when the situation looked dire, I could not put the book down (which wasn't good considering I was supposed to be writing an essay!). I could picture Dinah's world clearly and it was refreshing to see that era from a different perspective - especially a woman's perspective.
Overall, I'd say this book is worth a read. Don't worry about it being religious - other than the worship of some idols at times (again highlighting some of their traditions); there aren't many religious mentions in the book. It is a story of a young girl's life, learning the ways of her mothers and finding her own path in the world. The book is suitable for older teenagers and adults, as there are some slightly graphic moments (more gory than anything else), but you can always read it before giving it to a younger reader - and it gives you an excuse to read the book yourself! Just perhaps have some hankies, a good drink, comfy chair and some free hours to curl up with this book!
Summary: A brilliant twist on an old Bible story