This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

This is the book club pick for our December meeting. Again, not my typical book of choice: thank goodness for book club!!

It was a little difficult to stay on this book. I actually read about a chapter or two before I put it down to read Twilight. Fortunately, I read Twilight quickly that I didn't lose my sense of the book...but it was still difficult to pick back up as I wanted to read New Moon instead.

But I pushed through and started to find it pleasantly appealing during the last of the first part of the story and definitely peaked my interest during Dinah's story.

I still had to flip to the family tree to figure out who was who. There are too many sons and wives/sisters to keep up with who is who. At some points, I just say screw it and read on.

The narrator of this novel is Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob. For me, this means really nothing as I am ignorant of biblical stories. But apparently Jacob is a popular biblical figure and Dinah is not...or a random mention of her. Instead, Anita Diamant brings Dinah's story to life and we learn nearly every detail of her life.

Her story was extremely powerful. For the first 2/3rds of Dinah's story, there was a strong bond of womenship among her 'mothers': Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah -- all sisters and all wives of Jacob. Dinah was the only daughter of the whole family, and Leah's true daughter.

But the majority of the first of the book is the bond between these women, in the Red Tent, which is where women go during, well, that time of the month that only women can have.

We follow Dinah's mothers' introduction to Jacob and marriage. We then follow the births of all the sons and then Dinah, and then follow Dinah's youth and her bond with her mothers.

And then a violent twist that turns the story a good 180 degrees and nothing but horror and tragedy follow. It was an odd twist for me, from story so dominated by these women and Dinah's attachment to them, to basically Dinah walking away and never seeing this family again (something, sadly, I can relate to in my own life...but that's another story...and strangely, passed a dark cloud over my Thanksgiving fun that I found coincidental since I could find symbolism in Dinah's story to my own life).

The last thirds of Dinah's life passe much quickly in Diamant's story-telling than the first 2/3rds but is just as fascinating. I had thought this novel would be difficult for me to read and yet, I had no problems and was able to finish in just days.

I enjoyed it despite the bad timing: my hook on the Twilight series. A book I cannot stop thinking about and wanting desperately to read New Moon. But I didn't have to force myself to power over the words -- Diamant is an excellent writer and I noted that the best writers have me speaking thoughts in their language: Jane Eyre and Pillars of the Earth are a couple of examples of books that had me lilting to the language and intonations of the novel. This did the same and I look forward to reading her next novel on my From the Stacks challenge.

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