The Red Tent

by Anita Diamant

The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, is about Dinah, the daughter of the patriarch Jacob in the Old Testament Book of Genesis. In Genesis, Dinah appears only briefly in a story about her brothers killing a prince who asked to marry her after the two slept together.

The novel's central image is the red tent where Jacob's four wives and his female children stay while they are menstruating, a haven of love and comfort amid a harshly authoritarian, male-dominated nomadic society. Diamant delves beneath the sketchy story in Genesis, basing her setting on modern archaeological research and weaving strands of both paganism and the emerging Jewish religion into the lives of these women to create a richly imagined and historically credible setting. The pace can feel meandering at times, especially during the earlier chapters, since the plot is so overshadowed by the strong focus on setting, characters and the novel's feminist sensibility, but the conclusion offers a satisfying sense of completion. 1997, 321 pages.

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