Customer Review

180 of 232 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not even remotely historical, March 28, 2006
This review is from: The Red Tent (Paperback)
As a woman who has a background in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and specifically the Bronze Age in which this story is supposed to be set, I find it really disappointing that something this poorly-researched can be mistaken for an accurate reconstruction of life in that time period. The author shows no evidence of having read the relevant source material, which is easy for any layperson willing to use Interlibrary Loan to obtain (Pritchard's "Ancient Near Eastern Texts" is always a good starting point). Particularly funny, in a sad way, was her "romance" between Reuben and Bilhah. Unfortunately for this reconstruction, Genesis 35:22 is all about familial power struggles, and not in the least bit about sex as such.

Speaking simply as a scholar, I also find it a bit odd that anyone would want to begin their reconstruction of a historical event by assuming that the only existing account of that event was a mass of lies - except for the one bit suiting the author's personal bias, the idea that Dinah was not raped but seduced, and the only idea in the book I happen to think is actually provable by reliable historical/cultural sources. Isn't it suspicious that this is the only part of this novel that matches its alleged source text, the biblical narrative? It's a bit like starting your biography of George Washington by assuming that all previous accounts of his life were written by liars.

We have some very cool literature remaining to us from this approximate time period, things like "The Complaint of the Eloquent Peasant" and "The Story of Sinuhe," which are much more likely to give us a real idea of life in the Ancient Near East. Aside from that, it's probably better to read "historical fiction" that takes its source material seriously, whether the book agrees or disagrees with that source material. The Red Tent does not take its source material seriously... in fact, it shows little evidence that the author even read the source material.
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 7, 2008 2:06:47 PM PST
I haven't read this book, and am not sure I will. However, if you're looking for an extremely well-researched book that takes place in the same time period, you might want to take a look at "Joseph: A Story" by Terri L. Fivash. Not only is it amazingly detailed and accurate in it's aunticism of the time period, but it's a great read too.

Posted on Oct 6, 2009 9:14:20 PM PDT
Boo hoo. Who reads a *fiction* book looking for the truth? Besides, if I'm looking for a factual book, I wouldn't read one based off the bible, which in and of itself is completely false to begin with.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 19, 2010 1:45:51 AM PST
SayWhen says:
your comment was not helpful in the least.
Why did you bother?
Do you understand that there is a difference between fiction and historical fiction?
If the HISTORY part of a book isn't factual than its just plain fiction.

I'd love to know your proof the Bible is false. That's a pretty sweeping statement. Were the prophecies in Daniel false - or -- I bet you have no idea what I'm referring to.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 31, 2010 1:03:15 PM PDT
You are of course correct, nobody should read a fiction book looking for the truth - or at least, not truth in the sense I assume you mean. But as another poster mentioned, this book is being touted as "historical" fiction, in other words, fiction which uses historical sources to create a somewhat romanticized personal narrative reflecting a particular cultural/historical milieu. So the question isn't, "Is the Bible true?" but, "Did the author use her primary source (in this case, the Bible) and other secondary sources honestly to create an accurate setting for the narrative?" And the answer, in my opinion, is no.

She has, in fact, ignored all the meaningful points of her primary source because it was written by men, and men as a rule are brutish apes bent on enslaving woman-kind through the promotion of their tyrannical patriarchal religion (this is more than the subtext of the book - at points she comes very near stating it in these terms). A viewpoint you're welcome to hold if you so desire, but it is the kind of sweeping generalization that seldom leads to good scholarship in any discipline.

Having dismissed her primary source material's validity, she does not provide us with any other secondary source material we can check, as the basis for her "reconstruction." I don't have the book in my possession any more, but I don't recall seeing a bibliography. And for those familiar with the cultural/historical milieu of the Bronze Age, her narrative is about as authentic as a biography featuring Abraham Lincoln in a Ferrari.

If you can read the book as pure fiction, I applaud you! I was responding to all those well-intentioned souls who were misled by the book's marketing into believing that, by reading it, they would be gaining valuable social/historical insights into the setting of this biblical tale - when in my opinion what they will get is the author's very modern worldview projected backwards into a world that can't sustain it.

In reply to an earlier post on May 2, 2010 9:16:04 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 2, 2010 9:17:29 AM PDT
Menkaure says:
Well said! A fault of all too many authors these days who either forget or ignore that to qualify as "historical" fiction, it must also include some history with the fiction. While I have serious doubts as to the spiritual validity of the source, the Bible does provide a wealth of information about the life and customs of the ancient near-east. Ironically, I have long been aware that many Bible-literalists lack comprehension of the book they worship---having no knowledge or interest in Bronze Age history; and thus so often misinterpert it in a similar fashion as Diamant did with The Red Tent, by projecting their modern viewpoint into the past.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 28, 2011 8:44:14 AM PST
Ashley L says:
LOL!!!

Are you one of those "Jesus never existed!" people?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 3:53:02 PM PDT
Rick Brenner says:
" if I'm looking for a factual book, I wouldn't read one based off the bible"

Well said. People use the Bible to look for facts? Wow. Like God talking from a cloud, and Noah's Ark, etc. Giggle.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 3:56:21 PM PDT
Rick Brenner says:
"I'd love to know your proof the Bible is false"

It would be MUCH harder to prove that it is true.
Common sense and current knowledge shows how false it is. Sure, nuggets of truth and wisdom. But literal truth? Seriously? You believe God talked from clouds and was so mean He killed if someone ate the wrong thing or wore the wrong clothes? And He taught them how to make tents?

Noah's Ark? The Red Sea?
Most is allegorical, not factual.

Where is your proof that it's "true"?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 3:58:03 PM PDT
Rick Brenner says:
"men as a rule are brutish apes bent on enslaving woman-kind through the promotion of their tyrannical patriarchal religion"

You can't really deny that if you read the Bible, can you?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 18, 2012 3:58:54 PM PDT
Rick Brenner says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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