The Red Tent

The Red Tent

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By (author) Anita Diamant

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  • Publisher: St Martin's Press
  • Format: Paperback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 155mm x 229mm x 25mm | 658g
  • Publication date: 22 March 1999
  • Publication City/Country: New York
  • ISBN 10: 0312195516
  • ISBN 13: 9780312195519
  • Sales rank: 176,936

Product description

Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah's voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. Dinah's story reaches out from a remarkable period of early history and creates an intimate connection with the past. Deeply affecting, "The Red Tent" combines rich storytelling with a valuable achievement in modern fiction: a new view of biblical women's society.

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Author information

Anita Diamant is an award-winning journalist and author of five books about contemporary Jewish life including "The New Jewish Wedding" and "Choosing a Jewish Life: Guidebook for People Converting to Judaism and for their Family and Friends." She lives in Newton, Massachusetts, with her husband and daughter.

Review quote

"Diamant vividly conjures up the ancient world of caravans, shepherds, farmers, midwives, slaves, and artisans . . . her Dinah is a compelling narrator that has timeless resonance."--Merle Rubin, " Christian Science Monitor""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"

Editorial reviews

Reclaiming women who have been historically almost invisible has been a busy literary occupation for 50 years at least, and women mentioned in the bible are a rich field for imaginative re-creation. The Book of Genesis is packed with dramatic action; human motivation, feelings and the consequences of action figure far more by implication than by description. The life of Dinah is a case in point. Dinah was the only little sister to her 12 older brothers, all sons of Jacob by four different mothers, Her own mother was Leah, the first wife whom Jacob was tricked into marrying, whereas Rachel, who became the second wife, was his true beloved. In the city of Shechem, the Bible tells us, the prince of that land 'took Dinah and lay with her' and wanted to marry her. But for the 'defilement' of their sister, the sons of Jacob took a terrible revenge on the prince and everyone in his city, then took her sister back home. She is heard of no more. The Red Tent, Anita Diamant's triumph of imaginative empathy, tells Dinah's story in her own voice. The life of the little girl, nurtured by her mothers', was filled by their stories and the learning of the female rituals demanded by their many gods. These were told repeatedly in the red tent, to which the women retreated at the time of their monthly periods, and where their babies were born. Midwives needed not only their equipment of knife, string, reeds for suction and amphorae of cumin, hyssop and mint oil, but an accumulation of skills and knowledge to ease birth agonies and avoid the frequent deaths of both babies and thier mothers. The author gives Dinah these skills. The two of the three parts of this book are taken up with the women's lives in the tents of Jacob seen through the child Dinah's eyes, and make delightful reading, rich in detail, written in finely judged, vivid language, and finding credible motivation for the deep puzzles of feeling that the Bible poses. Why did Jacob not accept the prince's offer of marriage for Dinah? How did he really feel about Leah, who bore him seven sons? When Dinah drops out of the Biblical story, the author's task of re-creation becomes much harder. After all, what future could there have been for a ruined, traumatized woman like Dinah? Diamant has envisaged another possibility. Dinah curses her family and, pregnant with the son of the murdered prince, flees to Egypt and lives out a troubled and deprived period until the author finds for her an artistically satisfying and even ultimately triumphant conclusion, when she meets the powerful Zafenat-Paneh-ah of Egypt, who is, of course, her own brother Joseph. (Kirkus UK)