The book is based on a very minor character in the bible, Dinah. Only daughter of Jacob and Leah and sister of Joseph. If you are familiar with the Bible, then you know the backstory it is based on, which is Jacob and his four wives. Which started with him marrying sisters, Leah and Rachel and eventually adding on their handmaidens, Zilpah and Bilhah.
That is the back story and the rest becomes fictional as Diamant tells an engrossing story of being a woman in the biblical days. The Red Tent is told from the perspective of Dinah and is in reference to the tent where the women gathered during their period, where they gave birth and where they stayed to recuperate after. Traditions, stories and secrets were kept in this tent and bonds formed.
When I started the book, my slow self didn’t realize it was based on the bible (remember how I told you guys, I go in blind on books) and a few pages in was when I realized it. I was ready to drop the book because I wasn’t sure I was feeling it. I decided to keep on trucking and I am glad I did.
The author kept to facts in two areas – the generational tree/family members/characters and the big story about Dinah that was mentioned in the Bible where she was raped by a Prince and her brothers sought revenge – this is slightly tweaked in the book where Dinah is actually in love with the Prince.
I was truly in awe of how Diamant was able to form a whole community and life story for characters that were mentioned only in passing in the Bible. In fact, at some point I went back to Genesis to read how they were depicted in comparison to the book. I was fully engrossed in their life story and genuinely interested to see how it ended up.
In some ways, I see it as the anti-thesis of The Handmaid’s Tale where there is a group of women that aren’t being held down by the system and are instead empowered and encourage each other.
Just in case you were thinking that this book is a religious book, I would like to mention how it totally isn’t one. It just happens to be characters from the Bible. I was reminded while looking up something that the book was turned into a miniseries by Lifetime some time ago, so if you’d like to add the joy of viewing to your reading pleasure, that’s an option too.
I can see how this book could be polarizing. Either you like it or you don’t. But overall, I found it an enjoyable book and rated it 4 out of 5 stars.