Monday, December 27, 2010

Review of The Red Tent

I first read The Red Tent ten years ago when it was first published, and remember absolutely loving it. As a Jewish woman who knows very little about Judaism, the Bible, and the history and stories associated with both, I found The Rent Tent extremely educational at the time. So when my book club of smart, beautiful and intelligent women decided to read it for our next book, I was looking forward to seeing whether my perspective would have changed so many years later.

The Red Tent
follows the tribe of Jacob, his four wives, and their many many children, all of whom are sons except for Dinah, the only daughter born to Leah. Dinah is the narrator and tells the story of Jacob through the eyes of a young girl living with him and his family (families) in a camp of sorts in the Israeli desert (long long long before it was Israel, of course). Dinah grows up hearing the stories of her mothers, and sitting with them in the red tent during the 4 days that they're menstruating. Those four days are their days of rest, when they all sit together on straw mats and eat good food and don't have to cook and clean for the men of the camp. Sounds kind of nice, no? As for the plot, well, I'm not going to summarize it beyond this description -- y'all can read the Bible for that (although in fairness, Anita Diamant focused on Dinah and fleshed out her story because in the Bible she is only mentioned briefly, and we never really learn much about her or her life).

I still enjoyed The Red Tent the second time around, and realized that there was much of the plot that I had forgotten. Reading it as a mother in her early 30s compared to a bright-eyed graduate student in her early 20s meant that the parts about childbirth and motherhood resonated much more strongly for me. And it's the perfect book club book for a bunch of 30-something women. Having said that, there was something about it that was kind of annoying, like it was trying too hard to be this perfect feminist novel. I felt like Anita Diamant was writing it as much for her audience as to tell the story.


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