The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
Published November 1, 1997 by St. Martin’s Press
Genres Historical Fiction, Fiction
Buy on Amazon http://amzn.to/21hdAvL
The Red Tent is based around the main character of Dinah, whose life is only hinted at briefly in the Book of Genesis in The Bible. Although the book is told in Dinah’s point of view, we get to know many of her relatives very well.The book consists of 3 parts; “My Mother’s Stories”, “My Story” and “Egypt”. The first part of the book we learn the story of Dinah’s mothers; Leah, Rachel, Ziplah and Bilhah, who are the four wives of Jacob. They adore Dinah, as she is the only daughter among the family and they allow her to spend time inside the red tent and among the women, even when she is a child. The second part tell the story of Dinah’s life from her youth until she is married herself. And the third part, tells of her adult life in Egypt.
First, I did enjoy this book, although in the beginning I found it to be a bit odd. But the further I read, the more I realized that the author had actually done her research. I hold a degree in Anthropology, so I was familiar with many of “ways” of women that were described in the book. However, I do have a few criticisms. I am aware that this is a book of historical fiction that is loosely based off the life of Dinah, who is mentioned in the Book of Genesis in The Bible. However, as a Christian, who has read Genesis many times, there were a few things that were odd to me, because they weren’t accurate and the author easily could have made them accurate. First, Bilhad and Zilpah are not Laban’s daughters only Leah and Rachel are. Bilhad is mentioned as Rachel’s maid and Zilpah is mentioned as originally Laban’s maid and then she became Leah’s maid. Rachel is completely barren in the Bible and Bilhad becomes Jacob’s wife after Rachel offer’s her to him and she bears a child. Zilpah becomes Jacob’s wife after Leah can no longer bear children and then bears Jacob children. I know, I know; these are small details, but they immediately caught my attention while reading the book. This book is based off Genesis 29-30 in The Bible.
Obviously, the rest of the story is completely fiction and I believe the author did a good job with the book. The way she writes about the characters, I felt like I really got to know both Dinah and her mothers. It’s interesting to read a historical fiction novel about this time period after studying it in school. There were a few things about the author’s writing that I didn’t particularly enjoy, such as talking about the boys and men having sex with sheep; was that really needed? And instead of referring to breastfeeding as breastfeeding or taking to the breast, she continually uses the word “suck” to describe breastfeeding. This just became slightly annoying. Alright, enough criticisms. If you enjoy historical fiction, I believe you will enjoy this book. I found it to be a bit slow in the beginning, but once you get to Part 2, I found that it had a nice pace. And it’s the only book I have read that focuses on women during this part in history and I really enjoyed that perspective. The author writes with a lot of detail and again, I felt like I got to know the characters, as well as the countries that were described in the book. I also enjoyed the ending. I was very curious as to how this book would end but I think the author did a great job bringing the story all the back around at the end.