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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 27 September 2001
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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on 23 March 2003
'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.
Reading the details of the early childhood of Joseph, the fertility problems of Rachel and her handmaid sister and of Jacob leading his Israelite tribe was a treat and a new and welcome angle to this ancient story. Perhaps Diamant has presented Jacob harshly in this version of the tale, seeming sometimes cruel and the maker of some mightily disastrous decsions. But this is a woman's story and at last, in the guise of an enchanting novel, Diamant questions the wisdom and motivation of the men at the heart of modern Judaism and Christianity.
Successfully entwining history with myth this book is a delight, a fine curl-up on the sofa novel with a high feel-good factor and a blatant dose of girl-power.
I enjoyed this book because it raises questions without beaking seriously from the traditional Old Testament version whilst maintaining a terrific tenderness and thirst for love that the heroine Dina so truly deserved.
Read this, then pass it on to your girlfriends, they will thank you for it.
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VINE VOICEon 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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on 19 February 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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HALL OF FAMEon 18 May 2002
This was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I couldn't put it down. I've always enjoyed stories out of the Bible but they're always told from the men's perspective and this is such a refreshing change. Rather than treating anything connected with womanhood as dirty, shameful or "the curse" as we're used to, it celebrates what puts women apart from men. Dinah's mothers each have a fundamental role in her transition from a girl to a woman. I found that the parts that are mentioned in the Bible have been re-told truthfully and the rest of the story fits very well in with what we've previously learnt about Jacob's family.
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on 21 August 2002
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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on 7 May 2002
The author has taken a character from the Bible as her start-off point, and has woven a tale telling the life story of that character. The names of other Biblical characters appear in Dinah's story (Jacob, Joseph, Rachel, Rebecca etc), but this is a fictional tale for women, not necessarily for theologians.
It is beautifully written, utterly fascinating in its detail of day-to-day life for these women two millennia ago, and the story cracks along carrying the reader with it.
I have no interest in theological matters, and was a bit worried that this was a religious lecture masquerading as a novel, but I was delighted to find nothing of the kind. If there is any message it is that you have to look out for your family and friends, and that love comes in many shapes and forms, even when you least expect it.
Don't be put off by the Biblical references, just buy this book and enjoy it.
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on 28 October 2011
What a relief to find that I'm not the only person on the planet who found this book boring and tedious in the extreme. It had been recommended to me by an avid and discerning reader so I was looking forward to settling down to a jolly good read - not so. This book is dull and, as a previous reviewer wrote - physically nauseating - I couldn't have put it better myself. The plot is thin to the point of being almost non-existent just a grind of times between the female characters' periods, child birth and sex,it was so slow I thought it would finally grind to a halt by the time I was 50% through it - but no it just kept on going. To sum up - don't bother it's waste of good time, time that you'll never get back!
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The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant is a very readable story of an actual biblical character,Dinah, daughter of Jacob and sister of Joseph of technicolour dreamcoat fame. This is the bible brought to life and written from a womens angle. Dinah is privileged to be taken into the confidence of the four wives of Jacob and initiated early into the mysteries of womanhood via the Red Tent of the title. Dinah's life as an assistant midwife, using herbs and natural methods of childbirth brings her fame and respect. Her life however is also filled with intense experiences of love and tragedy. This is a story of early Jewish customs and times, written with authority by a Jewish woman and obviously thoroughly researched. It will appeal to all woman, but also to any reader who appreciates a well written story.
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on 10 October 2002
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and once it's available in hard cover will purchase that to ensure I read this book again.
This is a wonderfully, well told story of a relatively unknown biblical character. The language is emotive and poetic at points.
The real story is the story of women. Dinah's strengths and vulnerabilities are brilliantly illustrated as she lives her life. Her acceptance of her son being brought up by others and rising above her brought a lump to my throat.
I was brought up in a convent school, on biblical stories and I found this book intriguing and refreshing as it dared to consider the darker sides of well liked biblical characters like Joseph.
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