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The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Postby diamondlil » Sun August 31st, 2008, 12:20 am

Normally when I think of historical fiction as a genre, for me it is generally going to be about royalty of the years after about 1000AD and usually British, but not exclusively. However, I recently read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, set in ancient times in Mesopotamia, Canaan and Egypt, and am really glad that I expanded my range of times to accommodate this book.

The Red Tent is the story of Jacob's daughter Dinah. She is mentioned in Genesis in the Bible and in Chapter 34 we are told the story of what happened to her. What Anita Diamant has done is filled in the outlines as provided in the Old Testament, telling stories of what it was like growing up as the only daughter of Jacob (who came to be regarded as one of the major characters of the Old Testament – no less than the father of Israel), of her life with her mothers, what it was like to practice as a midwife in those times.

Jacob had four wives, two of whom were named as sisters in the Old Testament, and the other two being their servants. Diamant names them all as having the same father, but only two of them (the beautiful Rachel and her older sister Leah) were acknowledged by him. What this means for the Dinah we come to know is that all four women are both her mothers and her aunts. During Dinah's childhood we come to know the four women, each of whom have different skills and hold different places in Jacob's heart. We hear the stories of the Red Tent, where the women withdraw each month at the new moon for rest and fellowship, we hear the stories of the births of children, and of some deaths in childbirth of both mother and children. Most of all we are treated to what it may have been like to live in fellowship as a woman with other women in Old Testament times.

Eventually, as Dinah grows she begins to follow one of her aunts and begins to train as a midwife. This brings her to the city of Shechem where Dinah's life changes completely. In the Bible, once we hear of the events as they occurred at Shechem we hear no more of her, and here Diamant takes Dinah on a journey that leads Dinah to eventually live in Egypt.

The story as written by Diamant is touching, and surprising, and gives plenty of thought provoking suggestions of how life may have lived in ancient times. The use of the household gods throughout the story surprised me a lot, but I can see how Diamant builds on what we have been told in the Bible and taken her story to this point from those references. I was so interested in this story I did find myself referring back to the Old Testament to try and work out which parts of the story were directly from there, and which parts were enhancements.

I loved this book and would rate it as 5 out of 5. I was sorry when it ended, but I am sure there will come a time in the not too distant future where I will find myself revisiting the life and times of the only daughter of Jacob.

User avatar
Susan
Bibliomaniac
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Susan » Sun August 31st, 2008, 12:48 am

"diamondlil" wrote:I loved this book and would rate it as 5 out of 5. I was sorry when it ended


I was sorry when it ended also. I wish this author had written more biblical novels.
~Susan~
~Unofficial Royalty~
Royal news updated daily, information and discussion about royalty past and present
http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/

User avatar
diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sun August 31st, 2008, 12:55 am

Have you read any of her other books. I haven't yet, which kind of surprises me seeing as I loved this one so much.

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Susan
Bibliomaniac
Location: New Jersey, USA

Postby Susan » Sun August 31st, 2008, 1:09 am

"diamondlil" wrote:Have you read any of her other books. I haven't yet, which kind of surprises me seeing as I loved this one so much.


No, I haven't. I really liked the way Diamant brought Biblical times to life. The Last Days of Dogtown sounds as if it could be interesting.
~Susan~
~Unofficial Royalty~
Royal news updated daily, information and discussion about royalty past and present
http://www.unofficialroyalty.com/

Ash
Bibliomaniac
Location: Arizona, USA

Postby Ash » Sun August 31st, 2008, 2:30 pm

I am in the minority, I am the only one I know who didn't like this book. Its weird, because I love twists in familiar stories, and books like Lamb and Quarrantin and The Preservationist are among my most loved examples. But this one just struck the wrong chord for me. I liked it at first, then it just started getting I dunno, I got bored. Then, there was also the factor that if the author told me one more time what the red tent was, the book was going through a wall!

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Kailana
Reader
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Contact:

Postby Kailana » Sun August 31st, 2008, 9:03 pm

I really liked this book when I read it! It was rereleased for an anniversary and my friend bought it for his mother. When she started it she mentioned to me how much was liking it so far, but I haven't really talked with her to see if it was all good!

User avatar
diamondlil
Bibliomaniac

Postby diamondlil » Sun August 31st, 2008, 9:06 pm

"Ash" wrote:I am in the minority, I am the only one I know who didn't like this book. Its weird, because I love twists in familiar stories, and books like Lamb and Quarrantin and The Preservationist are among my most loved examples. But this one just struck the wrong chord for me. I liked it at first, then it just started getting I dunno, I got bored. Then, there was also the factor that if the author told me one more time what the red tent was, the book was going through a wall!


I do know a couple of other people who didn't like it, so you are not totally alone!

User avatar
MLE (Emily Cotton)
Bibliomaniac
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favorite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Postby MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun August 31st, 2008, 10:28 pm

I positively loathed the book. Ms. Diamant had no idea what a subsistence herding lifestyle would be like. I raise animals and pack with them, so I have a much better idea. The thought of every female of bearing age in such a lifestyle spending 3-5 days a month sitting around crouched on straw is preposterous.

I also did not like what she did with the Biblical story. It seemed like she was getting 'in-your-face' with the reader's ideas just to stir up a little interest, but offense is a poor substitute for imagination.

User avatar
LCW
Compulsive Reader
Location: Southern California

Postby LCW » Mon September 1st, 2008, 5:01 pm

I didn't like this book either. I never cared about the characters and I didn't like how it contradicted the Biblical story in parts. If I remember correctly even the color of the goats Jacob took was wrong. I just didn't think that was necessary when it was so clearly stated in the Bible. But overall the worst part was the story just didn't grab me.
Books to the ceiling,
Books to the sky,
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them. --Arnold Lobel

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EC2
Bibliomaniac
Location: Nottingham UK
Contact:

Postby EC2 » Mon September 1st, 2008, 9:17 pm

I enjoyed this one but then it's not my period or area of knowledge and I know from the way I wallbang an awful lot of medieval stories because of awareness that if you know about herding and have a good grounding in Biblical studies, it might not prove satisfying.
As I recall it was a 9 out of 10 for me, but it's a while since I read it and the absolute specifics have gone out of my head.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com


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