10 Apr 2018

Review + Giveaway - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Title: The Red Tent

Author: Anita Diamant


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.

My Thoughts: 

I have no idea why I put off writing this review for so long. I mean... The Red Tent was one of the best books I've read this year so far. I guess I was reluctant to start writing about it because it's so unique, I'm afraid I won't be able to capture its essence for you well enough and I won't do the book justice. Anyway, it's time to try at least.

When I learned about the Bible in elementary school, of course we touched upon the story of Jacob and his sons. I don't think Dinah, Jacob's only daughter the protagonist of this book was ever mentioned. I confess I hadn't known Dinah's story before hearing about Ms Diamant's novel.

According to the Bible Dinah was raped by the Prince of Shechem and, to avenge this heinous crime, her brothers butchered everyone in town when the inhabitants were at their weakest. The Red Tent tells the same story, only with a twist.

To be honest you can see the twist coming miles ahead but that's not the point. The bloody retribution that sits at the center of Dinah's tale wasn't the most important component of this literary piece at all. What mattered in this book was the feminine eye. This novel is a celebration of life and of those who give it. The Red Tent, my friends, is an ode to womankind. 

"If you want to understand any woman you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully."

Dinah had four mothers: Leah, the one who gave birth to her, and three more, who she called aunts but were just as dear to her as Leah: Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah. They were all Laban's daughters and all wives of Jacob. In the first half of the book Dinah recalls her childhood and what it was like to be the only girl in a family full of boys. She introduces her mothers to us; we hear about their values and their flaws, but most importantly she describes each and every way they embraced their femininity. 

"Their coupling was the coupling of the sea and the sky, of the rain and the parched earth. Of night and day, wind and water."

From virginity to love-making, from discovering the influence they have over the male members of the family to motherhood, quite a few aspects of being a woman is discovered first by Dinah's mothers, then by Dinah herself. The female community in The Red Tent is a group that stands alone, a group with authority that picks at patriarchy from time to time. These women in a Biblical story! were stretching their boundaries, which was very impressive... 

The women defy the men and pray to what Jacob considers 'pagan' symbols of 'pagan' Gods. In truth the small statues they hide and honour are all figures that personify different aspects of femininty. Thus womanhood is elated to the level of religion and fights for its rights in a world where men sell their daughters for animals and land.

The Red Tent starts and ends with a message for us from Dinah herself. She addresses the reader directly and claims she tells her story to us. All of a sudden the distance between her and the reader is eradicated. This made the whole experience very personal for me and I shed a few tears at the end, saying goodbye to her. 

Another thing I loved about the book was that Jacob and his family were on the move a lot and thanks to that a lot of Biblical landscape came alive in my imagination while reading this lovely novel. Laban lived somewhere between the Tigris and Euphrates. At some point Jacob decided to go back to the land of his ancestors (to Canaan) and of course his whole family followed him. On the way there the Shechem indicent happened and Dinah got seperated from her family. 

"Ashnan also taught me boredom, which is a dreadful calamity visited upon women in palaces."

Dinah's story continues in Egypt where after the tragedy of Shechem she tries to find herself again and build a new life from the rubbles she was left with. Joseph's tale is retold as well but we see everything from Dinah's point of view. 

The ending was very satisfactory. It's not bitter at all, though it could be with everything Dinah went through. It is actually very peaceful and radiates a reassuring promise that I can't talk about now, you might just have to read the book to find out what it is.

Conclusion: If you are a lady, read The Red Tent to celebrate who you are. If you are a gent, read this book to understand women better. Whoever you are, READ THIS BOOK!

Goodreads | Amazon

Since I have a duplicate copy of The Red Tent, I'll host my first giveaway of my own on this blog. Please participate if you'd like to win a copy of this magnificent novel. 

You have to be over 18 to enter and have to be willing to give me your address if you get selected. The winner will be chosen at random and will be contacted via email (if their email address is given on their blog) or through a social media site.

The giveaway is international and it ends on April 30th at 12.00 am, EST. Good luck!

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