Friday, July 13, 2007

LUE Reviews: The Red Tent

Updated to be more expansive on the subject.

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:

Disliked:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Some of the midwife bits seemed a bit anachronistic. They might not have been, but they came across that way to me.

Likes:

  1. I like the idea of the book. If it had been done differently, I might have loved it.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

23 comments:

ewe are here said...

I looked at this one once, but I've never been able to make myself read it... Good to know. :-)

Terri B. said...

This book is laying around the house ... somewhere.

After reading the 1 star reviews, I must say that I'm interested in the responses of the men to this book. David read this but he never commented to me about it! Considering what I read at amazon.com I can't imagine it being appealing to men in the least and I'm starting to wonder what my own reaction will be.

bubandpie said...

Okay, that's way to cryptic for me. Can't you at least give us a bullet-list of YOUR objections?

Julie Pippert said...

I'm with B&P. You tease!

Give us your top five likes and dislikes. Fair enough? Bullet is cool!

So...maybe you should ignore my suggestion for her subsequent book, The Last Days of DogTown. ;)

Beck said...

I stone-cold hated that book, too. But it also left me wistful for my own red tent, too - I don't think it would be TOO obtrusive on my lawn, do you?

Julie Pippert said...

Thanks for coming back and listing your likes and dislikes. Okay now I have to go and refer back and flip through and see about those points. I like to hear the specific opinions so i can consider.

I need to find someone who read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. That book is burning a hole in my mind.

bubandpie said...

Thank you!

Aliki2006 said...

I still haven't read the book either--not sure why, but I seme to remember along the road hearing some criticisms like yours. I will still give it a read--thanks for the reminder to do so!

V-Grrrl said...

I loved the first chapter of this book, but my interest in the story waned the further I got into it. I abandoned it without finishing it. But I'm all for the Red Tent!

Snoskred said...

I have not read this book.. :) I probably won't, either.. ;)

Snoskred
http://snoskred.blogspot.com/

Pendullum said...

Have not read the book...
And it has not been on my radar... I have three books on the go and while they bring my mind to remote exotic places,none of truly taken me away on an adventure of the heart and the soul...

mcewen said...

I am in full sympathy. It can be very frustrating when you get hooked on a particular author and then they are a bit 'off' in a particular book.
Best wishes

Sheila said...

I do understand your issues with the book, but as a work of fiction, I really like it - the first half better than the second. I like the idea that there may be another side to the story - another way of telling it - that changes the story and makes you question your interpretation of a situation.

allrileyedup said...

I have not read this book. I heard about it and heard about it and finally, my friend Mary was telling me about it because she read it, and just from her brief description, I knew good and well that there was no way I'd enjoy. I feel vindicated now.

kaliroz said...

Ah, man, I hate to hear that. But I can understand why it wouldn't appeal to everyone. And I certainly agree with whoever it was that said the second half was slower than the first.

I don't know. Having been fascinated by that time period so much of it pulled me in. And the bit about religion falling along gender lines...I don't know. I think that rang true to me quite a bit. Especially in a society where men are the ultmate and women are chattel, more or less.

But, I am an avowed feminist. And I have no real religious leaning. (I've come to Buddhism in the last few years, but that's still more of an exploration than a definitive.)

Once I move I may have to re-read this and try to see it how you saw it.

daisies said...

hmmmm ... its currently sitting in a very large pile in my living room ~ i look forward to reading it and seeing where we are similar or where we differ :) i may have to move it up the pile, lol ...

Mommy off the Record said...

How do you ladies find time to read?? I'm jealous.

At least this is a book I can cross of my list. Only 999 books left to go...

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I am not familiar with this author and from the sounds of your review.......I don't think I will read the book!

Thanks for the info and opinions!

Emily said...

I agree. Especially with the stuff about how she portrays the men. Glad someone else feels this way; lets me come out of the closet.

Alpha DogMa said...

Life is too short to read crappy books. But I may try Mists of Avalon.

Sophie said...

You've peaked my interest. I've got to read this now!

Binky said...

I love this book. But you've made me realize I don't know why, exactly. I can be general about it, and say it was a very good story, very well written. Beyond that, I can't pinpoint why I like it so much. Which I guess is why I leave someething to be desired as a reviewer :)

Lamont said...

It's been a long time since I've read Red Tent - but I did enjoy the faces the story gave to these sometimes vague OT characters. While I do agree that there was some over the top "guys are the bad guys" - I think it may have been the authors intent to express the lack of influence that women in that historical placement might have felt and experienced. I actually recall crying over Rachel's circumstances and losses..
like I said, it's been a while since I've looked at it - but I do think it was worth the time I took to read it.
Peace,
Tara