After years of hearing others rave about it. . .
After a few less than favorable opinions about it. . .
After seeing it in what seemed like everybody's Library Thing list. . .
After getting it on sale months ago. . .
I finally read The Red Tent.
I was interested in knowing where Diamont was going with the story and I read it in less than 24 hours.
But I didn't like it.
I know, I know. I'm a traitor to my sister-women. I'm brainwashed by the patriarchal society which strives to suppress women. Oprah would not approve.
I do understand its appeal. If you go to The Red Tent page at Amazon.com and sort the customer reviews in order of least stars to most stars, you can find in there most of my issues with the book.
I will tell you this, however. I am seriously considering setting up a red tent in my bedroom and disappearing into it for a few days every month. I definitely like that idea!
Okay... I've had two suggestions already that my post is too cryptic as to my dislike of this book. Instead of replying in the comments, I'll put my response here. Julie recommended listing my top five likes/dislikes. I probably won't manage five of each, but I will do a bullet point list:
- While I think portraying El as just one of many gods is accurate to the time, I didn't like how the acceptance and worship of El was strictly divided down gender lines. It didn't ring true to me.
- Along that vein, I thought Mists of Avalon was a far superior take on the differences between men and women as well as the impact of Christianity (as opposed to Judaism in The Red Tent) on an existing belief system. (Actually, I think if Diamant had explored that aspect of the story more, it could have been fascinating.) By using Arthurian legend as a backdrop, any liberties taken with the story are much easier to accept--at least for me. I'm sure there are some fans of King Arthur who have their own particular preferences which might not have been satisfied with Bradley's take. I think I was much less willing to suspend disbelief because it was based on a story in the Bible. Using my example above, in the Old Testament, the worship of other gods/idols is not accepted at all. Knowing that made it harder for me to embrace the women's worship of said gods.
- It might be a function of the first person narrative and there being so many characters in the story, but the characters weren't consistently three-dimensional to me. If I didn't know the story of Jacob from the Bible, I'm not sure I could have understood where she was going with him. He's handsome! He's thoughtful! He's smart! Oh wait! He's a simpering fool! He's a liar! He has no character! It isn't as if he is drawn as a good man with flaws. He's a good man, then he's a horrible man.
- I can make myself buy the love match versus rape, but the broad paintbrush which she uses to characterize the majority of the men in the story left me cold.
- Some of the midwife bits seemed a bit anachronistic. They might not have been, but they came across that way to me.
- I like the idea of the book. If it had been done differently, I might have loved it.
- I think Diamont is a good writer. I would read something else by her. Julie has just recommended The Last Days of Dogtown by Diamont. It is set in the early 1800's in a desolate part of Massachusetts. I have no qualms about reading it. I think my problem with The Red Tent is 80% about the subject and 20% about the writing.
- Like I said before, I want my own red tent.
I hope that helps. This is all very subjective, my view of how she could have dealt differently with the story of Dinah. As I said before, I do see the appeal of the book. Plus, I think I'm just getting crotchety and ultra-picky in my old age. I've probably disliked at least 50% of my reads this year.