By Anita Diamant
Based on the story of Dinah from Genesis 34, The Red Tent is “historical fiction.” Emphasis on fiction. Indeed, the author takes so many liberties with the original text, “historical” is kind of an afterthought.
The story is also billed as a “retelling of a biblical story from the perspective of the female characters.”
That’s quite an assumption. It’s also a clue. A big one. As in, if you’re looking for a re-telling that’s faithful to the original account, keep looking. Cuz this isn’t it.
Hence, those familiar with the biblical account may find this a hard sell. For example:
- Jacob, Joseph, and Sarai are virtually unrecognizable.
- Rebecca “the Grandmother” comes across as an imperious shrew whose harshness is exceeded only by her haughtiness.
And whaddya know if Tamar shows up (p. 255) via an odd little story arc that seems to exist only to reinforce a central theme: women are good and gracious; men aren’t. In fact, most of them are swine. On a good day.
Also, there are enough pagan gods and goddesses in this puppy to start your own pantheon. Here a god. There a god. Everywhere a god, god.
Much of the story revolves around childbirth, “begetting” and the “sisterhood” of mothers. Fine. It’s a noble undertaking. But the theme is stretched too thin, too often, almost to the point of ligneous.
Meanwhile, Dinah’s child by Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite is born in Egypt. “Re-mose” is subsequently raised as a “prince of Egypt” per Dinah’s “mother in law.” Dinah becomes “the foreign midwife,” Din-ner. She eventually marries a kindly carpenter, Benia, and dies in Egypt.
First published in 1997, this is another book “the critics” – who are these people? – went gaga over. We weren’t impressed. Can you say, “Meh“?
Yes, the text is beautifully written, with a luster and clarity that ably conveys the culture and social conventions of the time. But remember, this is fiction.
Unfortunately, it’s fiction that too often lurches toward overlong and overwrought. It’s also redundant to the point of tedious in places. Selah.
Our Rating: 2.5
Better Books In a Similar Vein:
Two From Galilee, Marjorie Holmes
Ben Hur, Lew Wallace
The Robe, Lloyd C. Douglas
The Bronze Bow, Elizabeth George Speare
The Jerusalem Chronicles, Bodie Thoene
The Zion Legacy Series, Brock and Bodie Thoene
Red tent photo credit: Pinterest