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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

The Red Tent

The Red Tent - Anita Diamant

My wifey read this novel a couple years back and loved it. Being the wonderful, thoughtful, sacrificial, and humble husband I am, I decided I should read it too. Not that my reading it scored me any points: while trying to talk to my spouse about why I thought it was “just okay,” she defended the book with a ferocity I've never seen in her before. I was on the ground, blood dripping from my nose, begging for her to stop. Okay, that's not quite what happened, but it isn't too far from the truth.

 

So, I thought The Red Tent was okay. I really did like the world Diamant built. It's difficult to go back in human history 4000 years (tradition places the events of this story approximately 1900 BCE). What were people truly like? How was their thinking different from us? These are questions that should be considered strongly by any writer going this far back. And I believe Diamant did a spectacular job. There are similarities between our world and the world of these characters. There are elements of the story that feel like they were written in the modern era. At the same time, these characters are unique to me. They have very primal, animal-like instincts as well as a very deep respect and fear of the supernatural, an explanation for any concept foreign to these people at the dawn of civilization. For as little as we can know about this era of history, I believe Diamant channeled some of the feelings and lifestyles of these people quite well.

 

I also enjoyed some of the language Diamant employed. Overall, it was beautifully written. Especially toward the end, I felt the author had a great hold on my attention, and this was almost exclusively because of the word choice and weaving of sentences.

 

The story just didn't grab me so much though. I liked what the author was doing as far as reworking the biblical story of Jacob and his offspring. I liked the feminine perspective and I really enjoyed the choice of Dinah as storyteller. For me, too much of the story was a retelling of the familiar tale. Yes, there's some added flair and certain parts of the traditional story have been reworked, but I didn't see much in the way of original material. The final third of the novel is an entirely original story, but it didn't work for me. I hadn't established a relationship with Dinah the individual in the first two-thirds—I was still thinking of the biblical Dinah, daughter of Jacob and Leah. I wanted to see more of the raw emotions Dinah displays in the final chapter throughout the story—instead I felt like I got more of the biblical narrative from a slightly different perspective.

 

Again, I really loved the world Diamant gave life to, but overall The Red Tent was just okay. I mean... I really, really loved it, honey. All that other stuff I said was in jest. Can you recommend any other books I might love? (I can say all this: she thinks the books I read are “just okay” too.)