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The Red Tent: A Novel [Paperback]

Anita Diamant
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,084 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 21 2007

A New York Times Bestseller
 
A decade after the publication of this hugely popular international bestseller, Picador releases the tenth anniversary edition of The Red Tent.
 
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 tell of her father, Jacob, and his twelve sons.
 
Told in Dinah's voice, Anita Diamant imagines the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood--the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of the mothers--Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah--the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through childhood, 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 lives.

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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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasantly surprised! May 7 2011
By Melissa
Format:Paperback
This book had been sitting on my shelf for over a year before I decided to pick it up and give it a try. My mother had recommended it to me, but I was hesitant to read it because of the biblical storyline. I am not very religious, so I was unfamiliar with many of the characters that were presented, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that my lack of knowledge about the history did not prevent my understanding and enjoyment of this book.

It is the story of Dinah, who is barely mentioned in Genesis, told from her point of view: from the time of her father's meeting of her mother and three 'mother-aunties,' through her childhood, to her first marriage followed by unbelievable grief, and into the later years of her life as a renowned midwife. There are several dramatic plot twists that held my attention and forced me to keep reading to find out what would happen, more so in the second half of the book than in the first.

I would recommend this book to anyone, even those who are unfamiliar with the story from the Bible.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every woman should read this July 2 2004
Format:Hardcover
We have been lost to each other for so long...I am so grateful you have come...Blessings on your eyes. Blessings on your children. Blessings on the ground beneath you. My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over. Selah."
As of 082903, this book is among the Top Ten Most Popular (most registered) Books on BookCrossing.com. It's not hard to see why. It's the kind of book that should be passed from sister to sister, mother to daughter, generation to generation. Women in the Bible have generally been portrayed as virgins or harlots, often serving as postscripts to the more familiar stories of men who begat men. But who gives birth to those men? Strong, splendid, complicated, terrible, beautiful women.
Anita Diamant weaves a compelling tale of the most vivid, human characters. Her writing flows like the Nile. Rock on.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very unique and captivating July 19 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I loved this book for all the same reasons everyone else did, but I must add that it was very refreshing to read a book with such a unique format. The format of most stories and novels goes: 1. introduction 2. rising action 3. climax 4. falling action 5. resolution
However, "The Red Tent" has no rising action, so the climax hits you like a ton of bricks making for a very unpredictable story. Then, the story continues to rise and fall in very atypical undulations. I love this completely unpredictable format.
One last remark I must make is that I appreciate how Diamant makes no bones about this book being "based on" or having a direct correlation to the stories in the bible. On the very first page of the book she cautions the reader that the stories and names in "The Red Tent" may be similar to those of the Bible, but she is in no way implying that they are true or should be believed.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I am a late bloomer Feb. 15 2007
Format:Paperback
I must be a late bloomer - it is 2007 and I just read the book loaned to me by a neighbour when I recently broke both my ankles.It is wonderful and as the Boston Globe says "this is what the Bible would read like if it were written by a woman". I concur - this book was wonderful - gave me a sense of the time, the life of women, the life between women and men. The people who complain about the facts should stick to reading the Bible if that is what they are looking for. I loved being able to read about characters that I had heard about in an interesting way.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all-time favorites Oct. 28 2011
Format:Paperback
I could not put this book down from start to finish. I stayed up until 2 am for 2 nights in a row just to keep reading. "We all share the same mother" - so true. A must-read for all women!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving, Profound and Life-Affirming Aug. 22 2009
By J.T.
Format:Paperback
I loved every moment of this novel. It brought me to tears on numerous occasions. As an exploration of womanhood, childbirth, and all the pain and joy of being women it is without compare. It explored the interesting balance between early Judaism as it coexisted with paganism, even within the same family...and it chronicled the destruction of the power of the goddess image that was inherent in the move to monotheism. It is important for people to recognize that the god of Abram was NOT viewed by early Hebrews in the same way that the diety is now. Whether one sees the god changing or man's (and here I emphasize MAN's) understanding of that god deepening, is irrelevant. The erosion of women's power is a fact of religious history. I found her historically accurate in her depictions of cultural variances between the Canaanites, the Jacobites and the Egyptians. I also found it fabulous the way the three intermixed as they clearly had to have. Men do not come off as horrid en masse and those who do like Levi and Simeon didn't fare too well in the Bible either. Her story is about women and she captures us in all our glory and folly weaving a story of complexity and profundity that left me both heart-broken and enlivened.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
If the Bible had been written by a group of women this is what it may have been like. As we follow the story of Dinah, whose brother was Joseph of the Amazing Technicolor Coat fame, we see how Bible history unfolds through the eyes of a female. Treated indifferently by the men of her family she bonds with her mothers and aunties during their time in the red tent. The red tent is a place where the tribeswomen went for a period of days during their moon cycle. Here they gave birth, passed their monthly courses, grew old, and passed on their knowledge to each other.

As we follow Dinah through her early years and adolescence, we witness her coming of age and becoming one with mother earth. We watch her personal growth as she learns to love, to lose, and to love again. We watch as she trades the family of her youth for the family of her maturity.

Biblical history takes a back seat here, giving the story just enough to form the backdrop of a powerful story. Dinah's brother Joseph is portrayed more realistically in this story as a man who wears his celebrity amongst the Egyptians as a heavy yoke instead of a crown. He becomes much more human.

The characters in The Red Tent became so much alive for me that I hated to see the story end. Highly recommended.
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Most recent customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Really Disappointed
I was looking forward to reading this one as a number of my friends liked it. I did not like the style of writing and I did not like the lack of character development. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gisela
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Story
This was a book I couldn't put down. The beginning is a bit confusing due to the amount of names but once you get into the story all the main characters come to life and you don't... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Wendy Logan
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Nice Novel
The novel relates to the bibilical times and very well written. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the life style of the older generation.
Published 10 months ago by Lakshman Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely a MUST READ!!!
This book definitely took me back in time but also kept it modern.

I got an in depth understanding of how it would be to live in times like the ones discussed in this... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Trishann Fuller
4.0 out of 5 stars Celebrates women being women
Narrated by a courageous female, this biblical tale celebrates women being women and tells of the tragedy of loving. A must read for all women and men!
Published on July 24 2012 by The Page Turners of Dawson Creek
1.0 out of 5 stars April 2012
This book did not live up to my expectations. Very confusing to many characters. The detail was great can't say much.
Published on April 26 2012 by Ashley
5.0 out of 5 stars The Red Tent
Having been brought up in the Christian religions,this book is a wonderful point of view from a female in the Old Testament. Very well written and a book that holds your interest. Read more
Published on Aug. 9 2011 by JP Morgan
1.0 out of 5 stars this book really flies--when it's tossed across the room
I bought this book because it was highly recommended to me. Best seller, stellar reviews, material supposedly researched; thought I would be in for a treat. Read more
Published on June 17 2011 by Elle Em
5.0 out of 5 stars The Rent Tent
The book arrived in good shape and I've just started to read it. It was referred to me by a friend who enjoyed the read and I think her recommendation is proving to be correct.
Published on Aug. 11 2010 by A. M. Lahey
5.0 out of 5 stars A Story Every Woman Should Read
I read this book years ago and when I became pregnant last year, I reread it. I truly feel that this story helped give me the power and strength to have a natural labour and... Read more
Published on May 8 2010 by Kirsten K. Merle
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