Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

I first heard of this book about a year ago. It came with high recommendation from a non-Christian lady I meet through the Vancouver Knitting Meet-up. It peaked my interest that someone who didn't believe in the Bible would find a book based on a biblical story interesting.

When I finally starting reading the book I had a few reservations. For myself I do believe the bible and that every story recorded there is true. So when I started reading The Red Tent some of the questions that came up were: How can the author write about something that happened so many years ago? How can her account be accurate? I have a hard time thinking or reading a story that is based on a true event, but with out having any input from the people who were part of the event.

I kept all of this at the back of my mind as I read the book, which I found interesting. It was nice to be able to read and think about the day to day life of the women mentioned in the bible. They are more than just wife and mother, they were story tellers, teachers, midwifes, and weavers.

Even as I read the great story of the lives of these women I still had doubts about this truth of the story compared to what the bible said. I wasn't until I was finished the story and read the reading group guide at the end of the book that I felt better about all my questions. The reading guide says:

Aiding her (the author's) work was "midrash", the ancient and still vital literary form, which means "search" or "investigation."

"Historically, the rabbis used this highly imaginative form of story telling to make sense of the elliptical nature of the Bible... The compressed stories and images in the Bible are rather like photographs. They don't tell us everything we want or need to know. Midrash is the story about what happened before and after the photographic flash."

She points out that "The Red Tent is not a translation but a work of fiction. Its perspective and focus....distinguishes it from the biblical account in which women are usually peripheral and often totally silent. By giving Dinah a voice and by providing texture and content to the sketchy biblical descriptions, my book is a radical departure from the historical text."

I felt so much better after reading this. It is after all just a novel. I'm sure the author did her research and is quite accurate in her writing. But for some reason this just put my mind at ease. Has anyone else had issues with reading a novel that is based and true events but not a strict re-telling of the events?

Anyway....the novel is an enjoyable read. It's based on the events on Genesis 34 and is told from the view point of Dinah. She tells us about her family, and how things started before her birth. It then follows her story and her (possible) life after then events recorded in the bible.


Scrabblequeen said...

Thanks for the review. This looks interesting.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing about "midrash" -- you've inspired me to research that and learn more!

I remember the first fictionalized Biblical story I read was about Joseph (years ago -- can't recall the author) and I loved it. I knew it was fiction, knew it filled in stuff that wasn't included in the Bible, and I was totally okay with that. The novel brought the story to life for me, and that's a good thing. :)