For most of human history, the stories of women have either been written out of our collective memories or they have been simplified into a much shorter narrative that often lacks the colors and the nuance of the full story.
In the Bible, the story of Dinah, the only daughter of the Patriarch Jacob and his first wife, Leah is only known by the fact that she was raped by Shechem. Nothing else is said about her.
In the last twenty years or so, modern writers have looked to the Bible and the often maligned or marginalized women as the protagonists for new stories where these women have been fleshed out and celebrated as full human beings. One of the earliest novels in this genre was The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant.
Two years ago, the book became a TV movie. The cast included Rebecca Ferguson as Dinah, Iain Glen as Jacob and Minnie Drive as Leah.
I read the book many years ago and re-read it just before it hit the small screen. Among the books within this genre, it is one of the best. I expected and hoped that the TV movie would do justice to the novel and to Dinah, a woman whose life story has been lost to history for thousands of years. The Red Tent is not the first and will certainly not the be last book dramatized for the screen where the plot and/or the characters were altered.
As much as I love the book, I felt that the adaptation was lacking. Anita Diamant, as a writer is able to grab the reader and not let go until the final page. The plot was a little slow until the second half, when the story finally gathered steam.
Do I recommend it? Let me put it this way. If you intend on watching the television adaptation, read the book first. Then watch the movie. I personally prefer the book, but someone else may prefer the movie.
There are three types of women in the Bible: the ones that are named and given as much attention (well, as much attention as women get in the Bible) as the men (i.e. The Matriarchs, Esther, etc), women whose names and stories are flashed by so fast that we hardly notice them (Dinah) and women whom we only know as the daughter of ______ or the wife of _______. These women have no name, no identity, no life other than being someone’s wife or daughter.
A few months ago, I wrote a post that Anita Diament’s best selling novel, The Red Tent, was going to be made into a movie by the people at lifetime.
Dinah is the youngest child and only daughter of the Biblical patriarch Jacob and his first wife, Leah. Inside the Red Tent, women are in control. The cycle of a woman’s life and the knowledge she gains is only known to the women who have access to the Red Tent. Outside, the world belongs to men. Women are mere chattel. As a young women, Dinah falls in love with Shalem, a prince of a city near which her family is staying. The response of her father and brothers to their sister’s new husband is not positive. Having no one to support her from her own family, Dinah relies on her mother in law, who takes Dinah back to her homeland.
I haven’t read this book in a long time. I forgot how good this book is. Ms. Diament’s story of a forgotten Biblical heroine whose story is overshadowed by her father’s and brothers is vivid and full of life. All of the women are full human beings with the same joys and folly’s as the rest of us.
It was announced last week that Anita Diamant’s 2007 novel, The Red Tent, will be adapted into a TV movie to air on Lifetime.
I haven’t read this book in a few years, but it is a very good book.
The main character is Dinah, the only daughter of the Jacob and his first wife, Leah. In the Bible, Dinah is barely spoken of, the focus in the story of Jacob, as it is within most of the Bible, is her father and brothers. Most women in the Bible are only referred to as the daughter of _______ or the wife of ________. Some, are glossed over like Dinah, only a small percentage are fully human, with good and bad traits.
Where Ms. Diamant succeeds as a writer is that she fully fleshes out her characters, removing them from the sidelines and making them the center of the story. Dinah, her mother, her grandmother, her father’s other wives are alive and vibrant. It makes the Bible seem interesting and alive.
I recommend this book and I will hopefully be able to recommend this movie.