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Red Tent (Diamant) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews 
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


Skillfully interweaving biblical tales with events and characters of her own invention, Diamant's (Living a Jewish Life, 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
Library Journal


Cubits beyond most Woman-of-the-Bible sagas in sweep and vigor, this fictive flight based on the Genesis mention of Dinah, offspring of Jacob and Leah, disclaims her as a mere "defiled" victim and, further, celebrates the ancient continuity and unity of women. Dinah was the cherished only daughter of "four mothers," all of whom bore sons by Jacob. It is through daughters, though, that the songs, stories, and wisdom of the mothers and grandmothers are remembered. Dinah tells the mothers' tales from the time that that shaggy stranger Jacob appears in the land of his distant kin Laban. There are Jacob's marriages to the beautiful Rachel and the competent Leah, "reeking of bread and comfort." Also bedded are Zilpah, a goddess worshipper who has little use for men, and tiny, dark, and silent Bilhah. Hard-working Jacob is considerate to the equally hard-working women, who, in the "red tent"—where they're sequestered at times of monthly cycles, birthing, and illness—take comfort and courage from one another and household gods. The trek to Canaan, after Jacob outwits Laban, offers Dinah wonders, from that "time out of life" when the traveling men and women laugh and sing together, on to Dinah's first scent of a great river, "heady as incense, heavy and dark." She observes the odd reunion of Jacob and Esau, meets her cruel and proud grandmother, and celebrates the women's rite of maturity. She also loves passionately the handsome Prince Shalem, who expects to marry her. Dinah's tale then follows the biblical account as Jacob's sons trick and then slaughter a kingdom. Diamant's Dinah, mad with grief, flees to Egypt, gives birth to a son, suffers, and eventually finds love and peace. With stirring scenery and a narrative of force and color, a readable tale marked by hortatory fulminations and voluptuous lamentations. For a liberal Bible audience.
Kirkus Reviews




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