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>Bookleaves Meeting: The Red Tent

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>While I was reading The Red Tent, I kept trying to imagine exactly how it looked. The closest I could get in my mind was this: Something tells me I’m pretty far off.

Anyway, the BOOKLEAVES book club met at Mitzi’s, and she created a red tent by draping a wine-colored throw over her exercise machine. It was exotic, imaginative and funny — just like Mitzi. I forgot my camera, so I hope someone took a picture of it.

Even better, Mitzi went to Ali Baba in Itaewon and had them make up a gorgeous feast of Middle Eastern cooking to fit in with the book’s locale. We had pitas — both steamed and baked, sweet yogurt, sour yogurt, yogurt with nuts, hummus and falafel. That was actually the first time I’d eaten falafel, although I’ve loved that word for decades. Delicious. I may have to make a trip to Ali Baba myself. Since Mitzi’s birthday was the following day, she ordered a scrumptious lime pie from Tartine’s and Veronica brought a beautiful ice-cream cake from Baskin-Robbins. Wonderful stuff.

Most of the group had a favorable response to the book, but it didn’t seem to generate a lot of conversation. While I was reading it, I wished several times that I had a Bible with the Old Testament, so I could compare The Red Tent with Genesis 34. I also mentally kicked myself once more for not buying a book I saw last year called Reading The Bible As Literature. I think it would’ve helped.

Although I like the idea of a red tent for those special days, and I enjoyed reading about the daily routines and customs of Jacob and his wives, The Red Tent didn’t really rock my world. The pacing of the story often felt off — either too rushed or too leisurely. Also, I don’t think the first-person narrative by Dinah was the best choice stylistically. Another thing that bugged me is that Diamant seems to tip her hand too much. For example, young Dinah is practically dying with excitement to meet her grandmother. She goes on and on about it so much that the eventual disappointment she encounters is somewhat diluted for the reader.

I’d really like to hear other opinions of this novel because part of the problem was me. I’m at a point in my life where I’m just not interested in reading about mating and menstruation and childbearing. Twenty, fifteen, even ten years ago I couldn’t get enough of stories like these. Now they just make me tired. I would rather have been following Jacob and his sons through their workdays.

Because of this, I was relieved when one of the BOOKLEAVES members, Rebecca, pointed out that we’ve been reading a lot of books lately with a feminine bent and she suggested Child 44 as a future read. I’ve seen this novel reviewed on several blogs, and I’m looking forward to it.

I’m going to head over to the library now and look for a copy of the Old Testament.


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