Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent is one of SarahMiller's selections for this challenge. Sarah said about this novel: "This is the type of story I love best -- strong characters, strong relationships, and terrific writing. I'm also fascinated by books that dig into the nooks and crannies of well-known stories and bring out something new." I think this is a good summary of this book, and my review is below (and cross-posted on my blog).

In Genesis 34, there is a brief mention of Dinah, the sole daughter of Jacob, who was taken and violated by an Egyptian prince, who then fell in love with her and asked Jacob for his blessing of their marriage. It is this very small Biblical mention that is the foundation to Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent.

Diamant first tells the story of Jacob’s four wives, who were all sisters, whose lives revolve around “the red tent” where they spent three days menstruating among a commune of women. Dinah is born to Jacob’s first wife, Leah, and becomes a young member of this all-female tour de force. In the red tent, Dinah learns about goddesses of the earth, fertility and childbirth. The strength and differences of her four mothers develop Dinah into a smart, resourceful woman – skills that she will use later in her life.

As Dinah gets older, she learns the trade of midwifery, which brings her into an Egyptian city where she meets her first husband, the Egyptian prince. Diamant tells their story as one of love, not rape, and when her husband is brutally murdered by her brothers, she chooses to disown her beloved family and settles into Egypt.

The Red Tent is an interesting story of Biblical women, their fertility and birthing rites, and early forms of midwifery – a respected profession for women of this era. Overall, I found the story to be a smart and engaging read. Readers of Biblical fiction and women’s literature will definitely want to check out this novel.


Bonnie Jacobs said...

Excellent review, Jill. I agree that this is a book readers of women's fiction should read. The Bible is written from the men's point of view, leaving wide open interpretations by women, and this book does a great job of showing what life may have been like for women.

Trish said...

Great review! I loved this book and would like to re-read it one day. I agree with Bonnie that one of the intriguing aspects of this book is the point of view.

soleil said...

i read this a few years ago and absolutely loved it.