The Red Tent

The Red Tent CoverHow did nomadic, Mesopotamian women live at the time of Jacob? The author Anita Diamant answers this question with vivid images. The Red Tent is fine historical fiction that fills the wide gaps between the Old Testament’s dry verses. Historical fiction enables us to empathize with the people who lived at times long gone. This leads to a much deeper understanding of history than studying facts and dates only. Kudos to Anita!

One can tell that Anita began her career as a journalist, the story rests on solid research.

Most of the story revolves around the hardship of childbirth and women’s sufferings by men’s hands. I learned a few things about women, but – if I were a woman – I wouldn’t have learned much about men. The men in the story – with the exception of Dinah’s two lovers – are gloomy clouds in the sky of the women’s happy life that turn into disastrous storms much too often.

Anita pictures Jacob’s spiritual visions as gloomy events as well, once she ridicules his prophecy. That is a lost opportunity. It would have been great to illuminate the ancient Semitic mysticism for a modern audience. Sure, Jacob’s spirituality was outside the story’s scope, but why describing Jacob’s visions in such a shadowy way? Better skip them entirely.

Anita did a great job at illustrating the Babylonian paganism of Jacob’s wives. If you are into that, you will enjoy this story. Here is another missed opportunity. Anita did not elaborate the conflict between Jacob’s budding monotheism and the Babylonian paganism.

I enjoyed the story, but it was a bit too gloomy for my taste. People today read a lot of sorrow into the Old Testament that is not really there. Much of its mystical-allegorical meaning got lost in translation. Many mysteries of the Testament are misunderstood by the modern, rational-philosophical mind. Anita deepened this rut. “Hach!”

Read this review on Goodreads here.

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