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on May 7, 2011
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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on July 19, 2004
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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on July 2, 2004
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 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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on January 10, 2017
I am a feminist and not a fan of how women were considered inferior and property in the Old testament times, with a big obsession on their virginity. This boom is about the hidden life of Dinah, with many made-up things. I did wonder about Dinah, and why she is never listed in the genealogies, as Jacob's only daughter. The Genesis account of Dinah's rape only lists what her brothers do, never her feelings, and how her life is ruined by their stupid pride. Schechem does rape her, but she falls for him after? And yes, what happens with her after?

I did suspect that Rachel worshipped idols in secret, as she stole them from her father, which may be why Yahweh gives her no children for a long time. Leah, however, could not have worshipped idols, because she is favoured by Yahweh. This book makes it look like it was just the god of men, and women needed their own "mother god", a very pagan and creepy one, by the way.

I wish this book was more respectful of the Bible, and not present Jewish men in such a negative light.
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on June 7, 2016
Want to read a bit about polytheism, early Judaism, spinning (yarn/string), Egypt, love, family, disappointment, loss, betrayal, menstruation, midwifery, growing up, women, women, and more women? This is the book for you.
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on August 11, 2004
One of my favourtie books--ever! Give copies to your girlfriends and they will love it too.
I originally thought this was a book about biblical issues--the treatment of women, the brutality of life, the differences in politics--but it is about so much more than that. The core of this story of Dinah is about sisterhood, the bonds between women, and how history often forgets there moving and deeply personal experiences. It's not an Oprah book or a feminist rant, the author is too subtle for that.
The Red Tent is engrossing, mesmerizing, and unforgettable. Read it!
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on July 13, 2002
Anita Diamant's book purports to show the Biblical story of Jacob and his sons through the eyes of Dinah, who is shown exclusively as a victim in Scripture itself. I am very taken with the idea of telling the story from a new point of view, and I find the notion of female bonding in a "red tent" appealing in some ways.
Unfortunately, Diamant shows that sometimes knowing a little is far worse than knowing nothing at all. Diamant is aware that the Jewish tradition of midrash has allowed Biblical stories to be reinterpreted through the ages. However,this should not be interpreted as a license that anything goes. I am shocked that Diamant has made a rapist (Shalem=Shechem) into a hero, that she is openly scornful of the worship of El (i.e.,the Jewish G-d) throughout the book (idolatry is treated with great respect,however), and that she imputes to our ancestor Jacob a dalliance in beastiality. I'm no prude, mind you, but surely there must be some limits indicating respect for the Biblical text. Indeed, the hallmark of midrash is that it ties interpretation to the text, even as it alters the meaning. Diamant never really shows how her reading could be remotely plausible.
The other problem is that Diamant's work just doesn't ring true historically. In Red Tent, the idolatrous wives are scornful of Jacob's G-d. In fact, it is monotheists who are scornful of idolatry - idolaters have great respect for the gods of others, especially those of their husbands. Thus Jacob would have been scornful of the women's idolatry, but they would not have had a problem with his worship of El. Though we can't know for sure, it is likely that women spent time apart from their husband during their menstrual cycles. These had nothing, however, to do with the lunar cycle, and it is inconceivable that it was an opportunity for fun and relaxation, as Diamant imagines. And by the way, shortening Naphtali to Tali is clearly wrong as it destroys the sense of the name (Tali is,in fact, a short form of Avital).
Diamant's book would be fine, I suppose, if you read it without knowing or caring about the Bible story. However, as Diamant herself has put the story front and center, it must ultimatley judged against it. I would love to see a creative, feminist reading of the Dinah story. Sadly, Diamant's work falls far short of this worthy goal.
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on February 15, 2007
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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When I first started reading The Red Tent, I was really excited. I thought, "Boy, I'm going to love this -- the setting, the idea of a small, hillside community, the descriptions of a time I've read about since childhood, and a female narrator filling in the gaps to change herself from a minor character in the Bible to an intriguing observer sharing treasured tidbits of information-- I was drawn in. But before long, I found the actions in the story rather crude, and the talk too much about sex, also in rather vivid descriptions. However, the narration got past that, and became a more animated story about Dinah's learning to understand all the complicated relationships in a large, melded community, the skills she learned as a woman in ancient times, their traditions, and where she fit as one of the youngest children and one of few females in this clan gathering. The red tent was a place of rest from the daily grind and the company of men, as the women experienced their monthly menstruation in sync at the time of the full month, and, in that intimate seclusion, shared their memories, hopes, and dreads. I was hooked.

Dinah, only daughter of Jacob (who has about three lines in the book of Genesis), becomes an enchantress weaving a spell over her listeners as she relates the stories of her four mothers (sisters, the daughters of Laban), her childhood running through the dusty hills with her brother, Joseph (milk-brother because his mother was unable to suckle him), the natures of her much older brothers, and the hatred and contempt felt by her mothers for her grandfather, Laban, who cheated the son-in-law who had worked for him without pay, built up his herds, expanded his wealth, and trained his shepherd dogs without ever receiving recognition or owning any part of the fruit of his labours, and who was, above all, a cruel and lazy lout. The Old Testament facts all fit the story but there is a rich and well-researched expansion here that provides a fuller picture and greater understanding of the times. It is a story of grindstones and looms, baking and the making of beer, the practice of midwifery, and the worshipping of their own gods despite Jacob's clinging to his "one God", the God of Abraham. It is a story of adventure and misadventure, romance and romance thwarted, grievances and reconciliations.

Dinah retells the story of Isaac, and that of Jacob and Esau, of the old age of her grand-mother, Rebecca, who became like a seer known to people far and wide, the caravans and traders that become part of their history, and a completely different take on her own defilement, and how she ended up cursing her family and escaping their encampment to begin a new life in Egypt.

I found this a most credible telling and an intriguing, and compelling one at that. I was a bit surprised by the author's note at the end of the book where Diamant thanks people who seem to have opened doors for her to access research materials but never actually credits the ideas she used throughout the story (as other authors I've read have done), saying 'this idea came from here, but this was of my own invention based on' whatever. I think that had she done so, it would have enhanced the story for me. Nonetheless, it was one of those books that, when you turn the last page, you are filled with sadness and regret that it is finished. It is full of descriptions that make you feel you are there and of characters you understand for the first time as having normal, everyday foibles and flaws. This is Diamant's first historical fiction work (published in 1997) and I think the only one she based in biblical times, but I hope it will not be the last.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon November 4, 2016
It's okay...I feel that the author had an agenda writing this. Men were portrayed negatively (one example is that all the shepherds had sex with their sheep, injuring the sheep, because they couldn't control their urges, this I highly doubt as the shepherd's job is to protect their sheep not injure them. I was offended, and almost stopped reading at that point.) I have studied history from this time period, and I don't think this novel portrays this period adequately. I came across several serious flaws. Another issue I have is that the wives of Jacob worshipped the pagan gods, not Jacob's God, which I highly doubt. Rebekah (Issac's wife) was portrayed as a high priestess for pagan gods, whereas Isaac was portrayed as stupid and weak. Annoyingly, Jacob's God was always written negatively, whereas the pagan gods positively. Dinah's first blood ritual was barbaric, not sure how true this was for the time, another point where I was offended. Wild tale about Dinah's lover, not being a rapist, but actually loves Dinah. I thought that was an interesting twist.
It was interesting to read this Old Testament account from the women's point of view, but I was more irritated with the negative portrayals of men and the historical flaws more than anything. I don't really recommend it.
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