Brought to you, once again, from the annals of book club, The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is a book I wouldn’t exactly give a solid review to. Which, by the way, should say a lot due to my overall obsession and love of books.
Published in 1997, the story is based around a few lines in the bible that make a reference to Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph. She is mentioned in passing (Genesis 34) as being mistreated by Shechem, Prince of Egypt, and that her brothers fight to avenge their sister’s honour.
You find out, however, through first person narrative, that that was not the case. And that Dinah and Shechem’s story was one of love and tragedy.
The story opens with Dinah telling the story of her four mothers/aunts Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah and their relationships with her father Jacob. Explaining the polygamous relationship these four sisters, by birth, have with the same man is the most interesting part of the story. Packed with juicy gossip and a love pentagon, instead of the usual triangle, my interest was peaked.
It wavered, however, in the long descriptions of the many births of their growing family, and their eventual pilgrimage to another land. It was not until, many chapters later, Dinah and Shechem’s story perk things up again, before tapering off into a drawn out and mediocre ending.
Although I wasn’t really upset that I read it, nor was it a particularly difficult task to get through it, I was somewhat surprised to learn this book was a New York Times best seller.
I was the only person in our book club who is Catholic and I don’t believe you need to be in order to take interest in this book. It is less religious and more a tale of betrayal, love, polygamy, family disfunction, feminism and motherhood.
I would definitely not pick up The Red Tent if you’re not into long descriptions of birth and midwifery techniques. However, I must note, the reason it was selected by the book club was because it was the chooser’s ALL-TIME favourite book. So, perhaps, it was just not my cup of tea.
But, in a nutshell, under NO circumstances should a male make this their monthly reading selection. Unless of course, they are prepared to find out what the Red Tent actually is … a gathering place where women meet once a month … if you catch my drift.