The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is going to be difficult for me to review because I feel so conflicted about it. I recently decided to reread it for the first time in over five years. At one time, it was a favorite. Now that I’m a bit older and have read more, I’m not sure I love it like I once did. It has some seriously problematic issues which I’ll get into below after the synopsis. This review will have spoilers.
Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah’s story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, The Red Tent combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women’s society.
From the synopsis, you would assume that this book is Biblical historical fiction. That honestly could not be further from the truth. Diamant takes names, lineages, certain events and locations from the Bible but this story is pure fiction. There are so many Biblical inaccuracies but to name a few:
- The faith and belief of Isaac and Jacob in the one true God is barely a footnote. They’re also made out to be very weak men who let their families do whatever.
- Sarah (Abraham’s wife) and Rebekah (Isaac’s wife) are turned into pagan priestesses.
- In the Bible, Laban is the one that tricked Jacob into marrying Leah first; it was not a plan between Leah and Rachel.
- Leah and Rachel are pagans who never mention God when in the Bible they both serve the Lord.
- Jacob changes his name to Israel to hide his true identity when in actuality, God himself changed Jacob’s name.
- Joseph is portrayed as being bisexual.
As you can see, if you are a Christian this book is honestly disrespectful. It makes a mockery of Biblical truth. IF this book had nothing to do with the Bible, it would have been a fantastic historical fiction story. The book is written beautifully. The language used and descriptions just fully immerse you in the story. I also love Dinah. You follow her from birth to death and therefore know her completely. I can’t say I really care for any of the other characters, except Meryt, Dinah’s best friend and fellow midwife. This book is popular because it touches on some universal aspects of womanhood, such as: a child’s absolute love for her mother, growing up, starting your menstrual cycle, falling in love, loss of love, having babies and then becoming a mature woman. I think a lot of women can really relate to the emotions and some of the struggles Dinah has to go through, which is why this book is such a good story… it’s just really bad Biblical fiction.
Historical fiction is my favorite genre and as a historical fiction book, this is a good one. However, once again, this book is nothing but fiction. Diamant took a ton of creative license in this retelling of the story of Dinah and I honestly think it could have been just as powerful of a story using other characters. My opinion is simple, use your own discretion. Some people will absolutely love this book while others will hate it. If you’ve read this book I would love to know how you feel about it or what you think of my review! Thanks for reading and have a great day!