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The Red Tent (Bestselling Backlist) [Paperback]

Anita Diamant
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)

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Book Description

22 Mar 1999 Bestselling Backlist
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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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St Martin's Press; 1st Picador USA Pbk. Ed edition (22 Mar 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312195516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312195519
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 15.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (196 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 464,417 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

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 that 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


"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"

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book! 27 Sep 2001
By A Customer
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant is an account of the Old Testament story of Jacob and Esau. The story is written from the female perspective and it gives an insight into the life of women during biblical times as not seen before; daily life, life inside the Red Tent at the new moon and the upbringing of children. Running alongside this is a wonderful story which keeps the reader riveted. I would recommend this book to all.
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61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
By "rutta"
'The Red Tent' derives its narrative from the Old Testament story of Dina, the archetypal rape victim whose misfortune triggered the downfall of her family's patriarchal dynasty. From this rather depressing misogamist myth Anita Diamant writes a compelling and genuinely touching love story.
When I first picked this book up I expected an intense and intellectual trawl through biblical history. This was never the case and I was absorbed from the outset. Diamant uses history to engross her reader, the incredible marriage of Jacob to four sisters and the resulting jealousies and trials such a domestic set-up would create are recounted tenderly and plausibly, there is something soothingly voyeuristic amidst the difficult relationships between the women and their one husband.
I particularly loved the narrative surrounding the red tent itself, the home of the menstruating women of the tribe - how wonderful to remember such a time when women were so in tune with each other that they bled together every full moon. And paralleled with the patriachal leadership of the age Diamant creates an intruguing world of male leadership subserviant to the wonders of women, their bodies, their births and their secrets. I lost count of the number of births in this novel, but was again fascinated by the insight provided into the skills and reverence of midwifery.
In 'The Red Tent' Diamant defies the testament story of Dina's rape, instead revealing her relationship as a seductive and wonderful courtship destroyed from the outside by feuding brothers and an overly proud father. A brave incision into a male dominated history and religion.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book 8 July 2005
A truly excellent read. Late nights and weary days, as I could not resist the temptation to read "just a little further".
I originally chose this book because it features so often on lists of books recommended for discussion at book groups.
A novel based on real characters who lived in a biblical period of history, it interweaves fiction and known fact.
Life styles and personalities are conjoured up with such conviction that the reader becomes Dinah, the central character, and lives her life with her.
My book group subsequently read this book and endorsed my enthusiasm. I would have given it 6 stars if I could!
If you enjoyed this book I would recommend Sarah Dunnant's The Birth of Venus : a very different historical novel, but also impossible to put down!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it! 21 Mar 2009
This was given as a gift when unwell, it transported me to another time and the insight into female relationships is inspiring. Loved it and have given it to all my female friends and relatives! It has stayed with me long after I read it. A very powerful, evocative story which really gets you involved with the characters. I felt as if I was there, going through the many experiences and emotions described. I rarely read a book more than once or twice but this is worthy of many sittings in my opinion. Vivid descriptions and exceptionally well written, please read this book and see for yourself.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant read! 21 Aug 2002
By A Customer
At last, a seemingly well researched, well thought out novel. An amazing book which is written in a style that can almost be described as a 'stream of consciousness' in parts. I really really enjoyed reading about Dinah and her mothers. Ms Diamant really filled out the female role in biblical times. It was facinating.
The cruelty, joy and sisterhood experienced by the female characters was interesting to explore. It is the type of book you think about long after reading, taking time to digest what you have learned. I disagree with a previous review that 'its all about having babies and childbirth'. These were different times and Ms Diamant was trying to show the role of the women in these times for what they were. Unfortunatley, it was not as liberated as we now experience. I was fascinated. I really recommended this book. It is not always easy reading but it you feel like you have been there and back. By the way, in this instance you may judge a book by its cover! The cover is really indicative of the story. It sets the scene perfectly.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 19 Feb 2003
This has all the hallmarks of a great novel - plently of interesting characters, a great story, and most of all, it makes you look at the world differently. Don't be turned off by the 'biblical' side - it is a good read that you will want to return to again and again. It tells the story of a minor character in the bible, describing in detail the lives of women at that time. It really is a book about women, men feature as minor parts, and it deals with all aspects of womanhood. You will never see the bible in the same way again, whether you are a believer or not. You cannot miss this great novel. I just wish she had already written a dozen more.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars couldn't put this book down
Diamant wove a story of the life women in Biblical times which was engrossing and highly engaging. Dinah, the main character in the story's narration, was so believeable that I had... Read more
Published 4 days ago by H Rees
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Loved the scenery and cultural education in this fascinating story. Enthralling.
Published 9 days ago by Nicola Keating
5.0 out of 5 stars A well written story that made you think about the ...
A well written story that made you think about the life of women of this time. Made me look at how I judge other peoples beliefs and cultures.
Published 15 days ago by Amanda s c
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
amazing story
Published 17 days ago by mrs cm johnston
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Toooo complicated!
Published 22 days ago by Mrs Katherine Goody
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
A great storyline-gave me an insight to other cultures.
Published 1 month ago by BevR
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting read. It was suggested by 2 friends ...
Very interesting read. It was suggested by 2 friends so I thought I would give it a go. I didn't expect the characters to come to life as they did. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Helen
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read!
A wonderful story linked very carefully to Biblical history. Well researched and written with poignancy. I loved it.
Published 1 month ago by Pastispast
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 2 months ago by paul harper
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
An excellent book. I was recommended this book by a few friends and put off reading it as I wasn't sure I would enjoy it. I loved it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by sazzlec
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