Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Reviewer: Liza Perrat, author of Spirit of Lost Angels and Wolfsangel (

What we thought: powerful, beautifully written and imaginatively conceived.

In The Red Tent, Anita Diamant has taken the scant Old Testament details of Dinah’s life and imagined them into an amazing narrative of what might have happened. The author never suggests this is the "true" story, though it may be based in fact and you do not have to be familiar with the Bible to enjoy this novel.

We are immediately drawn into the intimate details of the lives of Dinah and her four “mothers”, as Jacob marries Dinah’s mother, Leah, then her sister, Rachel, then takes as concubines the other two sisters: Zilpah, and Bilhah. As the only daughter, Dinah’s “mothers” all love and spoil her, bestowing on Dinah gifts that sustain her through childhood, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land. In their relationship with Jacob, and with each other, the women struggle through jealously, love, pride and loyalty.

We hear about the births of their children and Dinah’s childhood of learning from her “mothers” in the red tent, where the women were isolated during their cycles, and where they bonded in such a way as to give them a subtle power over men, who were fearful of their rituals and knowledge of childbearing.

Dinah’s tale reaches out from a remarkable period in early history, creating for us an intimate connection with our past.

You’ll enjoy this if you like: strong female characters, lyrical prose, stories loosely based on biblical tales.

Avoid if you don’t like: religious stories, polygamy, lots of references to women’s cycles.

Ideal accompaniments: Fish and wine. Failing that, bread and water.

Genre: Historical Fiction

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