Thursday, 28 February 2008

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

A book group member loaned me this book ages ago and it finally made it to the top of my pile. If I had known it was going to be this good I would have read it sooner.

The story is told by Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob from the Old Testament. Dinah is only mentioned once in the book of Genesis and it is one verse filled with violence and tragedy as 2 of her brothers kill all the men in her city including her husband. Dinah's life goes through phases where she is a child, a daughter, a sister and then a young single career woman (midwife), followed by a wife and then quickly a mother then tragically a widow.

The life of women set in biblical time is revealed through their traditions and tribulations. It is captivating and frightening. For 3 days during menustration the women sit in a red tent. They share the potions for birth control and healing stomach aches. They pass down their stories and survival skills from previous generations.

Ms Diamant does not treat all the characters as infallible. In fact, many of the women are nasty and the men are wretched, not unlike the way they are portrayed in the Old Testament. these people were far from perfect. And yet, the sisters shared the same husband. Despite the jealousies and pettiness, they took care of each other's children including breast feeding another's when the mother's milk had dried up. I loved all the healing done with potions and prayers. This was a time of confluence between the God of the Old Testament and the many gods of Greek/Roman/nomad mythology. It is clear that everyone is a wee bit confused about who they should be praying to so they cover all their bases and give a little to each. I now understand that commandment about one god.

The stories about travelling to the various places were fascinating. As the people moved from city to city, languages and ways of living changed dramatically and yet there wasn't much distance between those places.

I absolutely loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough!

4 comments:

Janell said...

I read this one a few years ago. Ms. Daimant is quite the storyteller, isn't she? I liked her story, tho I noted she took a lot of literary license with the actual Genesis account.

Clare said...

Glad you liked it too. I just attributed the male/female thing to the different accounts of the same events.

We used to call your customer experience "ride" days. I did it every year with a different segmant of our business, it was very revealing.

I'm off to the orchid show in SF (I have a gift certificate for a few lovely ones!). Hugs, Clare

Shirley said...

I loved reading this, too. Sister Myrna gave it to me a few years ago. It was one that made me really picture that time and place.

Myrnagj said...

I loved this book. I can't remember Diamant's other book and suggest not reading it right behind this one.

Orson Scott Card has a series of books from the point of view of women in the Bible. I think there are three. They are good and again I recommend waiting a while after reading The Red Tent.

I am searching for a book like The Red Tent. I can't seem to get real interested in anything I have lying around. So I'm reading Narnia at the moment.