Diamant’s writing is incredible. Her descriptions, depth of characters, and historical accuracy are wonderful. The birth stories are only slightly inaccurate in irrelevant details. (i.e. Midwives would not have tied/cut the cord so immediately following the births. Immediate cord cutting is a VERY recent practice.) Her insight into the mentality of women living in biblical times is likely realistic, I think.
I also think she got a lot of things right – the majority of it, actually. It is very likely that Dinah’s mother/auntie’s worshiped deities other than the God of Jacob. It only makes sense to me, seeing as how Israel’s pet sin throughout the Old Testament is idolatry, and its root was probably established during this time of the patriarchs. While some of the worship practices are disturbing, I believe she portrayed them with accuracy and feeling. I felt as though I were THERE in each instance, and I was moved.
Her perspective on women separated from their tribe during their periods and during their lying-in time after childbirth is likely VERY accurate, and the rich heritage is very well-portrayed. I love the thought that women were confined longer for the birth of a girl because they’d given birth to a birth-giver. It’s likely more in line with what God had in mind when he commanded the practice in the time of Moses. Especially seeing as how God treasures women, and created them to be equal image-bearers with men.
I do have one big issue with the book, however.
As a Christian who sees the Bible as inerrant, I cannot give the 5 stars I would like to give. The book, as literature, is outstanding in its genre. There is no arguing that. It is beautiful and amazing storytelling.
Dinah’s story is largely silent in the Bible. It leaves HUGE gaps in what was going on at the personal level, and I see that Diamant was trying to “fill in the gaps.” Yet, where there were no gaps, and the Bible actually does give specific information (i.e. that Dinah was taken and raped; that Rachel hid Laban’s idols and lied about it; and more), she changes even that.
I think it was very unwise of her to change the source material itself. With so little to work with, I would think she could have left the words of Scripture alone, and challenged herself to work within those parameters, and she still could have told it from the female perspective. I understand why she did not leave Scriptural detail alone, because I understand that not everyone believes the way I do. Still, if I really and truly believe the Truth of Scripture, it would be hypocritical of me NOT to feel the way I do about her book.
It’s one thing to read between the lines of Scripture, and quite another to think you can read BEHIND the lines, and change the foundation of the story completely.
Also, wherever the God of Jacob was spoken of, it was with the understanding that he is distant and cruel. I cannot let that error slide. I won’t use this review to elaborate on the true character of God, only to state that “The Red Tent” is in great error in that regard. Of course, the women Diamant portrays may have seen him that way, as many, many people still do today. THAT was not her error. It was felt in every line, to me, that the God of Jacob was just one more among many others, and that he is among the cruelest.
Overall – as literature, this book deserves high praise. But, since this is my review, and the stars I give are to reflect my own personal opinion, I cannot give it higher than two. I wish I could.