Skip to content

The Red Tent (Bestselling Backlist) by Anita Diamant – Favorite Book Of All Time

July 4, 2011
The Red Tent (Bestselling Backlist) by Anita Diamant

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 insiders 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 Jacobs 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 womens earthy stories and passionate history is indeed the theme of this magnificent book. In fact, its been said that The Red Tent is what the Bible might have been had it been written by Gods daughters, instead of her sons. –Gail Hudson

Fascinating Book
NOTE- Im sure that if I had a religious education, this book would have meant more- or less as the case may be, to me than my intial reading may suggest but as that is not the case, I am basing my review on this books literary aspects and the authors ability as a writer, not on my personal opinions about the subject matter on this book. Thankyou.

The Red Tent is the story of Dinah (a girl who is given a small space in the Book of Genesis) and the story of her life and that of her families. The Red Tent is meant to be the tent where all the women go at times of menstrual cycles, birthing and illness, and it is in this tent that Dinahs four mothers relay the story of their own lives and hardships to their only daughter, and where Dinahs story actually begins. Our story starts with Dinah relaying the story of her mothers- Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah, who are the four wives of Jacob, so that their lives are not forgotten, as womens history was passed down from mother to daughter. Dinah is the much favoured child of her mothers- who each have their own personality traits and shortcomings, and each of whom teach Dinah something unique to themselves. Leah is strong, determined and head strong, Rachel is beautiful, intelligent and a skilled midwife, Zilpah is independant and skilled at the loom whilst Bilhah loves all of natures creatures and teaches compassion, forgiveness and love.

As Dinah grows up, she is taught the ways of the loom and midwifery, herbology (to a degree) and how to manage her husbands property and how to be a good wife (although one gets the impression that her mothers would not let her leave easily). She watches her father go from being a poor man living on the reluctant goodwill of his father-in-law, to a prosperous merchant and shephard whose name is known throughout the lands. When her father decides it is time to make his own way in the world, he and his immediate family leave their home town and travel towards the lands of Jacobs brother and mother, exposing Dinah to sights, sounds, tastes and smells of a land so similar in some ways and yet so different in others. For the first time in her life, Dinah meets people who she has not known since birth, and is exposed to the kindness and cruelty of the world and its inhabitants- despite her mothers attempts to shield and protect her.

Upon arriving at the new land, Dinah is forced to remain behind with her socially revered grandmother, whom she learns to respect but can never love, and is forced to learn resilience and patience despite her pain and loneliness as she awaits the moment that she can finally return home to her family. It is here that Dinahs key personality traits (loyalty, love, resilience) start to develop, and she goes home a changed young woman with a changed view of life and the world. Upon her arrival home, Rachel and Dinah are both summoned to the Kings palace to help deliver the unborn child of his favourite concubine, and it is here (I am led to believe) that this book becomes controversial.

Dinah meets Shalem, the firstborn son of the King, and it is during this trip that they fall in love and marry (without Jacobs approval). The King personally travels with Dinahs proposed dowry and is met by Jacob and his sons with hostility- them believing their sister/daughter has been raped/defiled by these foreigners who arent even circumcised. Jacobs eldest sons urge their father to denounce and attack (they are jealous of the success and prosperity of this land and are still annoyed about the rebuff they received when trying to trade there), yet he eventually grudgingly accepts the situation on one condition- the men of the Kings land must all be circumcised and live like Jacob and all male children born from that time forth must be circumcised on the seventh day of life. Regardless of the Kings acceptance, the sons of Jacob rise up and murder anything and anyone in their way (including Dinahs beloved, who was the first to be snipped) and abduct their sister and take her back to the red tent, where she curses Jacob and the sons of Jacob for the criminals that they are, for stealing her beloved and her one lost chance at happiness.

And so the story of Dinah takes a tragic turn, and she hears and knows of her mothers no more. With her escape to Egypt with her mother-in-law, Dinah is allowed to start fresh (but with conditions). She soon finds that her skills as a midwife are to her advantage and becomes the surrogate daughter of Meryt, the local midwife whose own skills are at a sore disadvantage when compared to Dinahs. Through the endless births and deaths, tales of happiness and tales of woe, it is here that she starts to piece her life back together bit by bit, and with the help of her new friends manages to bring some normalcy, peace, happiness and acceptance to her tragic tale.

I found it remarkable and absolutely inspiring that Daimant has pretty much taken a name from the Bible, and using biblical characters and events, has come up with a satisfying and entirely plausible story for a forgotten woman of history. The writing is mesmerising, the detail lush and delicious, the landscapes beautiful and different and the emotions raw as you read this tragic tale. Like I said before, I am sure that if I had a religious background more of this book would have made sense, as at times I found myself to be a bit lost (so many names argh!).

Having said that however, you do not need an education to be able to thoroughly enjoy this book for what it is- a beautifully written piece of biblical historical fiction. I am still astounded at the level of research that so obviously went into this book, and was majorly dissapointed turning the final page that this life changing book had to end. Put it this way, I am now more inclined to read biblical fiction because of this book (and thats saying something as I am a pagan). Heres hoping they are all as gorgeous as this book. An intense and vivid novel, this tale will surely stay with you forever, and it is the first book I recommend to everyone I meet. I agree with another reviewers sentiments, this book is a must read for all women of any age and race. Happy reading.

A sky full of stars 🙂

For More 5 Star Reviews and The Lowest Price Visit:
The Red Tent (Bestselling Backlist) by Anita Diamant

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: