The Red Tent, Anita Diamant
I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would. I'm not sure I would have enjyed it as much if I had read it years back. I do believe that being older, more embracing of the feminine within, and being a mother, helped me appreciate this tale.
And that's the first thing I savoured, the tales of womanhood, the magic of the Feminine soul, and the earthy magic of women gathering. Yet later, I discovered that it was also simply an interesting story. Of one woman's journey, of family, of loss, of love. All the usual good drama stuff.
I care little about the whole Biblical issue - whether it's accurate and so forth. It's fiction. However, knowing the Bible well enough (as a non-Christian), I will say that Diamant created a very believable version of Dinah's story from Genesis. She kept extremely close to the current Biblical version, and anyone interested knows that there are questions and doubts and differing beliefs about the truth of that account anyway.
I loved that Diamant created a strong woman (amongst many strong women). I loved not only that they were given the voices that they're denied in the Bible, but also fleshy and often formidable personalities.
All that aside, I cherished Diamant's raising of the power, beauty, importance, practical usefulness, and wonder, of femaleness. From cooking, to weaving, peacekeeping, soothing, birthing, home-making, menstruating, creating bonds, story-telling, mothering, nurturing, leading, intuiting, dreaming, prophesying..... phew.
The writing isn't anything special, but it's good. It flowed in the way you want it to, unobtrusive when the tale is everything.
The painful things.......... seemed like the knots on a beautiful necklace,
necessary for keeping the beads in place.
Also, there are about a million people mentioned. You know, all that fun begetting. But I glazed over most of the names. It's not necessary to keep any track. What I enjoyed was that the long Biblical lists were made real. They weren't just names, but, for example, a son of the man that was Dinah's brother who used to make her laugh, and so on.
Although the women are given personalities and voices, I didn't feel that Diamant was trying to make each one complete. There were just too many really. The main mothers were fleshy enough. Who mattered was Dinah, and where she came from. I admired and liked Dinah by the end. Yet it was knowing enough of her mothers that helped me appreciate that she was not whole unto herself, but rather a product of other people, other women, her mothers, her aunties, her cousins, and the memories of long-dead female relatives. All survived in the spinning, making of beer, knowledge of herbs, way of thinking.
Diamant impresses on the reader the wonderous and basic cycle of life and death, through the story of one woman.
I don't think it's a book for everyone. Unlikely to appeal to militant feminists for instance (despite the women being strong, they are womanly). But for any woman that is in touch with and embraces their femininity, intuition, female bonds, the magic of bleeding.... this will support and honour your own truths.