Thursday, September 2, 2010

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent: A Novel by Anita Diamant
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: September 1997
ISBN: 9780312427290

Source: Library (book club set!)

The Red Tent: A Novel

Dinah is just a name, mentioned almost in passing in the bible, a swift and lonely reference to a real woman, a daughter of Jacob among many sons.  But in this novel, Dinah is a woman among her mothers, a girl who grows up learning all she needs from those mothers in the red tent.  Her life is destined for tragedy, as laid out in her violent biblical history, but those moments do not make up the whole of her life.  In this book, we get a glimpse of what it must have been like to be a woman in biblical times, a look at the sisterhood and motherhood bonds that tie all women together.

Things I Liked:
I really loved how much we "learn" about some of the women in the Bible.  I'm fairly familiar with the stories from the bible, including Dinah's story, but I'm always interested in knowing more about women in the Bible.  This story brings Dinah to life and we grow up with her and her mothers in a world that doesn't pay much heed to women, but that have to acknowledge their power and influence.  In our club meeting, we focused almost exclusively on the world of the red tent - where women go when menstruating and to have children.  To have this place where they gather monthly as women and celebrate being who they are - I loved it!  I loved that it isn't considered shameful or annoying or anything most of us consider our periods today.  It was obvious that women had a vital role in that time, even if it wasn't a visible one.

But the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive.  Sons did not hear their mothers' stories after weaning.  so I was the one.  My mother and my mother-aunties told me endless stories about themselves.  No matter what their hands were doing - holding babies, cooking, spinning, weaving - they filled my ears. p 3
Things I Didn't Like:
Having my own particular views about the people in the Bible made me less eager to read this author's views, particularly about religion.  The way she portrays some of the people I honor for their strength of character and religious devotion as fools and worse really annoyed me.  Really, for a story so surrounded by religious belief, there is surprisingly little of it.  Our club also discussed how less than thrilled we were at all of the fairly explicit material.  I had to essentially skip the first two chapters because I didn't really want to read about it.  The beginning of the story moved very slowly for me and sometimes I wanted to put it down.  It definitely picked up when Dinah's story finally did. 

Women of Genesis books by Orson Scott Card (though, I've never read them)

s-factor: !@
not a lot

mrg-factor: XXXXX
ad nauseum, there is also a lot about menstruation and birth

v-factor: ->->->
there is definitely some violent stuff that happens, most of it brief

Overall rating: ***

It seems I have read a lot of "really liked this about it, but really hated this" books lately. What about you?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. Eh. I don't usually hate books. They either earn an "eh," or a "hmph," or a "wow!" The one I can think of totally hating was the Princesses of Bamarre. As a child, I was outraged by the ending, and hated it with a passion. Almost everything else about it was nice.

    I wear my heart on my sleeve, can't ya tell? ;)

  2. The Red Tent is one of my favorite books ever. At first glance, I didn't expect much out of it, but I was completely enthralled throughout.

  3. Oh man this one of my favorite books of all time so it's interesting to see your take on it. Great points though. That's why I love books, because everyone has their own opinion about them and they make for such great conversations!

  4. Lauren, how interesting! I read Bamarre (as an adult) and really enjoyed it, especially the ending. Go figure :)

    Stephanie, it surprised me as well with how much I enjoyed parts of it.

    Amused, that's one reason I love book groups - we get to sit around and discuss our opinions and hear others. It especially helps when we don't like a book much to hear from people who loved it!

  5. I started out enjoying The Red Tent, but found a lot of the character portrayals quite stereotyped as the book progressed and so lost interest.

  6. Andie, huh, that's definitely something I didn't notice. That's another thing I like about discussing a book with lots of opinions.


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