The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
This particular book has been on my TBR (to be read) list for what seems like an eternity. I think I may have even picked it up once, got a few pages in and then put it back away. I can’t be completely sure how long ago that was or for what reason I never continued. Anyway…I joined an online book club on one of the GoodReads community groups (Sweeter Reads), and this particular title was added as one of the four group reads for the month of February. So I figured I would give it another try.
This is a story about Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. According to what I’ve recently read (and VERY VERY little of what I remember from years of Catholic school), in the original story in the Bible, Dinah is only barely mentioned…the more familiar chapters revolve around Jacob and his twelve sons. This particular book is a work of historical fiction, but told in the voice and perspective of Dinah, herself. It follows her life from early childhood through to old age. The Red Tent tells her story and that of Jacob’s four wives; Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah. The novel focuses on the ancient traditions of womanhood and the previously unmentioned role women played in biblical society.
I absolutely loved this book!
Because it’s been so very long since I’ve studied the bible/the Old Testament, I’m not going to comment on the accuracy or lack there of to this story compared to the bible version. My review is solely based on this book, as a work of fiction, assuming one would have no previous knowledge of the bible version of the same story.
It was definitely a slow starter for me and until I got to about page 100, I wasn’t sure I was going to complete it. There was so much back story, so many names, so many long descriptions…that I started to feel like there was no “story” unfolding. But then it just took off for me and I fell in love with Dinah and her life . Around 1/3 of the way into the book, I really felt Dinah get her voice and I really felt her perspective unfold in a wonderful way.
I loved getting the inside perspective of the red tent and insight into the lives and stories of women, who were otherwise hidden and barely considered….especially by the men in their lives. Reading about the traditions and ceremonies to commemorate a young woman’s coming of age and the celebrations of womanhood was a totally unique and interesting experience for me.
The writing was just lovely. Even though at times, some of the descriptions started to feel a bit long winded, the characters and their relationships were written so beautifully. You actually feel what these women are going through…the joy, the suffering, the loss, the betrayals. The Red Tent sort of reminds me of the writing style of the book A Fine Balance…which is another historical fiction that has a slow build with detailed descriptions, culminating into a beautiful story.
Once I was into the second half of this book, I was quite shocked at just how much I was loving the story and how engrossed I was compared to how I felt when I had first started it. By the time I finished, I was so glad I finally decided to pick this book up.
My review: 5/5 Stars.