by Anita Diamant
"The Red Tent" is a compelling story about the otherwise untold life of a woman from the Bible. Diamant tells the story of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob from the Book of Genesis. In the Bible, Dinah gets only a passing glimpse, but in this novel, Dinah tells her story and the story of her mothers and the other women in her life. Much of the novel, especially initially, takes place in the setting of the red tent. The red tent is the place where women go during menstruation and childbirth it is a place men of the time period have no access to. Dinah's life takes many unforseen twists and turns as she grows older, but is always in the context of the stories she learned growing up with her mothers as in the context of her profession as a midwife.
Diamant takes a bold step in telling the untold story from the point of view of a woman during the time period before Christ. We see women's feelings, women's responsibilities and women's secret rites of passage. We see the effects on women of having lives directed by men, and we also see how some women gain independence through their profession of midwifery. The story is rich in details, and the cycle of women's lives, the important aspect of menstruation and giving birth, are the backdrop for an amazing world of female closeness and storytelling.
I would highly recommend this book to almost any woman that I know. The stories told from a woman's perspective in this time period are surprising and captivating. However, I would only cautiously recommend this book to most men, who may find the bonding of women in the red tent a little less interesting; even my husband, who is rather progressive and interested in women's issues, couldn't finish this book and put it down about halfway through! However, I was disappointed for him because that's just the point when the course of Dinah's life starts taking some startling and surprising turns. If you start this worthwhile book,...