Friday, May 4, 2012

red tent

I picked up this copy of The Red Tent at my library's on-going book sale. Its amazing how many books I get from the book sale. I hardly ever take out a book from the library. I end up buying them instead, and when I'm done I keep them if they're great, or I return them to the library book sale so the library can make another buck. This seems to work for me for a few reasons. First, it takes me a few weeks to read a book, and if its good I'd like to give to my wife to read as well. This can pretty quickly eat up the 4 weeks on a typical book loan. The current books are typically 2 weeks, with no renewal, which is almost never going to work for me. Second, as I said, if I love a book, I'd like to put on the shelf and maybe go back to it a few years later, or loan it out to the other readers I know. So book sale: love it!

But back to Anita Diamant and The Red Tent. I wonder if Diamant is an anglicized version of the Italian name, Diamante, or vice versa. The Red Tent is one of those books that has become a modern classic in pop culture. I think they may have even made a movie. lets look that up shall we... ah, here we go Not a big budget Hollywood movie at this point, but there is a project underway. A quick look around that website confirms what I was pretty sure of when I picked this novel up...

That's not a bad thing, I just feel a little like I walked into the ladies room by mistake. The story bears this feeling out by the way, from the very introduction, which is addresses specifically to women. 'ats alright, I've crashed parties before. Sally forth!

This is essentially a retelling of a biblical story from the point of view of the women in the tale. The narrator is Dinah, grand-daughter of Isaac. you know, spared-from-sacrifice-boy Dinah tells the story of her mothers, the four wives of Jacob, her grand-mother Rebecca and her husband Issac. Dinah also tells the story of her brothers, her marriages, and her son. Her story is one of family, family strife, love, honor and betrayal. Its a story of beautiful and horrible things wound together. Its also a story of Canaan and Egypt. There is a lot going on here, but its sewn together with care and clarity. 

Diamant wonderfully discusses the very different values of everyday life during this time, with a matter-of-factness that adds to the power of the story by diffusing things like multiple wives and polytheism, so that they take their place in everyday life as they did then. This is the shining moment of this tale. Diamant puts into the mouths of the women of Canaan, a real and living history of a family and a place, that few others have been able to do.

Read this book.

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