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The Red Tent Paperback – September 15, 1998


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New Adult Fiction by Rainbow Rowell
Acclaimed author Rainbow Rowell's latest book, Landline, offers a poignant, humorous look at relationships and marriage. Learn more

Product Details

  • Paperback: 321 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (September 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312195516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312195519
  • Product Dimensions: 0.9 x 6.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,098 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #307,412 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The red tent is the place where women gathered during their cycles of birthing, menses, and even illness. Like the conversations and mysteries held within this feminine tent, this sweeping piece of fiction offers an insider's look at the daily life of a biblical sorority of mothers and wives and their one and only daughter, Dinah. Told in the voice of Jacob's daughter Dinah (who only received a glimpse of recognition in the Book of Genesis), we are privy to the fascinating feminine characters who bled within the red tent. In a confiding and poetic voice, Dinah whispers stories of her four mothers, Rachel, Leah, Zilpah, and Bilhah--all wives to Jacob, and each one embodying unique feminine traits. As she reveals these sensual and emotionally charged stories we learn of birthing miracles, slaves, artisans, household gods, and sisterhood secrets. Eventually Dinah delves into her own saga of betrayals, grief, and a call to midwifery.

"Like any sisters who live together and share a husband, my mother and aunties spun a sticky web of loyalties and grudges," Anita Diamant writes in the voice of Dinah. "They traded secrets like bracelets, and these were handed down to me the only surviving girl. They told me things I was too young to hear. They held my face between their hands and made me swear to remember." Remembering women's earthy stories and passionate history is indeed the theme of this magnificent book. In fact, it's been said that The Red Tent is what the Bible might have been had it been written by God's daughters, instead of her sons. --Gail Hudson

From Library Journal

Skillfully interweaving biblical tales with events and characters of her own invention, Diamant's (Living a Jewish Life, HarperCollins, 1991) sweeping first novel re-creates the life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob, from her birth and happy childhood in Mesopotamia through her years in Canaan and death in Egypt. When Dinah reaches puberty and enters the Red Tent (the place women visit to give birth or have their monthly periods), her mother and Jacob's three other wives initiate her into the religious and sexual practices of the tribe. Diamant sympathetically describes Dinah's doomed relationship with Shalem, son of a ruler of Shechem, and his brutal death at the hands of her brothers. Following the events in Canaan, a pregnant Dinah travels to Egypt, where she becomes a noted midwife. Diamant has written a thoroughly enjoyable and illuminating portrait of a fascinating woman and the life she might have lived. Recommended for all public libraries.
-?Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

In my first novel, The Red Tent, I re-imagined the culture of biblical women as close, sustaining, and strong, but I am not the least bit nostalgic for that world without antibiotics, or birth control, or the printed page. Women were restricted and vulnerable in body, mind, and spirit, a condition that persists wherever women are not permitted to read.

When I was a child, the public library on Osborne Terrace in Newark, New Jersey, was one of the first places I was allowed to walk to all by myself. I went every week, and I can still draw a map of the children's room, up a flight of stairs,where the Louisa May Alcott books were arranged to the left as you entered.
Nonfiction, near the middle of the room, was loaded with biographies. I read several about Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt, Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, and Helen Keller, with whom I share a birthday.

But by the time I was 11, the children's library was starting to feel confining,so I snuck downstairs to the adult stacks for a copy of The Good Earth. (I had overheard a grown-up conversation about the book and it sounded interesting.)The librarian at the desk glanced at the title and said I wasn't old enough for the novel and furthermore my card only entitled me to take out children's books.

I defended my choice. I said my parents had given me permission, which was only half a fib since my mother and father had never denied me any book. Eventually,the librarian relented and I walked home, triumphant. I had access to the BIG LIBRARY. My world would never be the same.

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
5 star
1,299
4 star
356
3 star
130
2 star
113
1 star
200
See all 2,098 customer reviews
Great love story, biblical historical fiction!
Professor Wanttobe
While the story is based on a biblical character, the book is more about the bonds of women.
Isadore Ann
I found the book to be an interesting read and hard to put down.
Karen Stitzer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

253 of 272 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 5, 2000
Format: Paperback
It would appear that any book about interesting and perhaps unusual women generates much controversy among its readership ("Bitter Grounds" and "The Poisonwood Bible" come to mind). This book is no different. The Red Tent is loosely based on the Biblical story of Dinah, but it is a novel, not fact, even though it may be based in fact. Diamant even takes liberties with the Dinah story as it appears in Genesis in the Bible. However, it does appear to be thoroughly researched -- I found myself equally fascinated by descriptions of life during Biblical times as by the lives of the characters in the book. Unlike some of the other reviewers I didn't find this book to be anti-male. I and many women I know lead very different lives from our men and we too see them in a completely different light than they see themselves. We often laugh at them or paint them in an unflattering light, despite the fact that we love them. We are not, however, anti-male, just human and female. I suspect men amongst themselves discuss women in much the same way. I personally found this book full of thoughts and ideas that touched me deeply, especially since I am 40 years old, have had several children and have lived in foreign countries. Perhaps much younger people would have trouble identifiying some of the "human condition" scenarios in the book -- I don't know. Regardless, I have wholeheartedly recommended this book to several people and recommend it to you.
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94 of 99 people found the following review helpful By M. Desoer VINE VOICE on January 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is, by far, one of the best books I have read in a long time, leaving me sorry that it was over. The writing is beautiful in its depiction of life, from the women's point of view, about 4000 years ago. It was so incredibly moving that I found myself in tears at several times -- something that does not happen often!
This tale is a possible story of the life of Jacob's daughter, Dinah, who barely is mentioned in the Old Testament. It starts with a recounting of Jacob's marriages to Dinah's mother, and her mother's three sisters, the births of the resulting children, and Dinah's youth, learning at her "mothers'" sides. It continues with Jacob's departure with his family and flocks from the lands of his father-in-law, and follows Dinah through her death. I don't want to say any more, because it would ruin the story.
The author does not suggest that this is the "real" story, or a "supplement" to the Bible. It is not a religious book, per se, but does discuss the God of Jacob's father and, in contrast, the multitude of gods worshipped by other cultures of the time. The story is meant to provide a possible tale of an otherwise minor character, and affords a glimpse into the women's world of that time, not usually covered in the Bible.
I cannot recommend this book more highly.
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323 of 363 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Merkowitz on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
First of all let me say that I absolutely loved The Red Tent. It's based on a character, Dinah, who is mentioned in passing in the old testament. Diamant has created a wonderful story about the women of biblical times, our fore-mothers Rebecca, Sarah, Rachel, and Leah, from Dinah's point of view.
You do not have to be familiar with the bible to enjoy this novel, although if you are, you'll certainly recognize stories and characters. It's about the strength of women, their roles in a male dominated religious society, and their all important relationships.
Although I was eager to read this book, I didn't expect it to have such an impact on me, nor did I expect to love it as much as I did. Highly recommended.
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58 of 62 people found the following review helpful By Sherry L. Ross on June 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
I would like to take a moment to address some of the complaints made in the May 19th review. I did not experience THE RED TENT as male bashing. It's intent was to take a female view of the major women of the Old Testament and to breathe life into them. It is "over endowed" with a female viewpoint as a counterbalance to the bible's male view. Women in the BIBLE were often hardly more than property, so it is not too surprising that a fictionalized female character from this period might see men somewhat differently then we do. The BIBLE does portray Laban as a pretty disagreeable character, but in this book Jacob is portrayed as a tragic figure, not a negative figure. He is not the cause of the terrible massacre, but assumes the guilt of his tribe. Until then he is a respected male figure in the book. The women have their weak points as well. Rachel is vain, and the grandmother, Rebecca is a formidable figure of both arrogance and power. Isaac's trauma as a child, being nearly slaughtered by his own father, was treated with compassion. Diamant has Dinah speak of this trauma and how it left Isaac with a stutter for the rest of his life. Some of the women are weak in a way that makes them disagreeable. The carpenter husband of Dinah, Benia, is a truly admirable and loveable male figure and her young husband, the prince Shalem, slaughtered at the hands of her brothers, is as gentle and romantic a young man as you could want.
As to the continual reference to pregnancies and childbirth, I believe this had a deliberate intent. During biblical times, childbearing is what gave women power.
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