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The Red Tent Paperback – September 15, 1998
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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
"An intense, vivid novel . . . It is tempting to say that The Red Tent is what the Bible would be like if it had been written by women, but only Diamant could have given it such sweep and grace."—The Boston Globe
"The best fiction reporters create a world and bathe us in its sounds and sights, its language and climate, the intricate relationships among its inhabitants. Anita Diamant has performed this wondrous craft: She has brought forth one of those books that appear effortless precisely because the writer has pondered even the length of breath between each character's words . . . This earthy, passionate tale, told also with great delicacy, is, quite simply, a great read."—Jane Redmont, National Catholic Reporter
"By giving a voice to Dinah, one of the silent female characters in Genesis, the novel has struck a chord with women who may have felt left out of biblical history. It celebrates mothers and daughters and the mysteries of the life cycle."—The Los Angeles Times
"A richly imagined world . . . Paints a vivid picture of what women's society might have resembled during biblical times. Although it is a novel, it is also an extended midrash or exegesis—filling in gaps left by the biblical text."—Jewish Times
"[A] vivid evocation of the world of Old Testament women . . . The red tent becomes a symbol of womanly strength, love, and wisdom . . . Diamant succeeds admirably in depicting the lives of women in the age that engendered our civilization and our most enduring values."—Publishers Weekly
"The oldest story of all could never seem more original, more true."—James Carroll, author of An American Requiem
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Many thoughtful reviews have already been posted. I will affirm that it was wonderful to read this story, told from the point of view of the women. In those times, women were treated as chattel and the only power they had was that of producing sons. They claimed that power, and it was fascinating. I also liked the portrayal of the community of women and what they brought to the family economy, I hope that part is "true."
I love the historical fiction quality of the book. The alternative perspectives from Biblical literalism is a relief. The alternate perspective on Dinah's "rape" is worthy of contemplation. In today's world, there are "honor killings" that sometimes occur when women have sex outside of marriage, whether it's consensual or rape. We have a modern context for seeing women who don't have self determination, whose marriages are arranged, or consent still only comes with a price. It's not that hard to see the possibility of an alternate reality for Dinah. It certainly makes for a great story. I am fascinated by the tensions and textures created by the encounters with people of differing beliefs, the women practicing the old ways, those who don't, the paganism, those following the God of Abraham, and then the Egyptians. It is interesting to follow how those beliefs color their lives and how they interact with people of differing beliefs. One can also experience that in the reviews here on Amazon!
I do not find the story anti-male or anti-Bible. When one recalls that men had all the power, then tragic use of power is on the men. But other aspects of power appear in the encounters between the shepherd and the king, and Dinah amongst the Egyptians, etc. The tensions of religion and culture and social position within the tribe and beyond are part of the story.
I've tried to write without spoilers. It's a great book. One can be a person of faith without being insulted by a single syllable in this book. Criticisms from 2000 are interesting, but I think that time is on the side of deep appreciation for The Red Tent.
I did find it a bit long-winded in places and switched to speed-reading whereas I normally like to "savor" the literature that I read.
I still enjoyed the book and have recommended it to my book club
As a feminist, my heart jumped as the story of these great women was finally told -believably, in their imperfections. I hurt for the characters, and painfully thrill that this story could hold many truths, despite its fictions. I don't pretend that this is not a fictional novel, but instead no longer pretend that there is not much unsaid in the Biblical Word. What is between the lines is the story of the world, and with it the story of the women, the slaves, the other -the marginalized. Should I meet Dinah in Heaven one day, I will enjoy splashing my feet in the river bank with her as she tells me all that went on between the lines.
As a reader and a writer, I weigh my multiple strong reactions to this story -both positive and negative as proof that this is a book that must be read - should be prized - whether loved or despised - amongst the best of our time.
Most recent customer reviews
Thank you for this book.