During Biblical times, the red tent was the place where women would gather during menstruation and childbirth.
This book tells the story of Jacob and his 12 sons, including Joseph of the “amazing technicolour coat” fame – but from a different point of view. Our narrator is Jacob’s only daughter Dinah, who warrants just a passing mention in the Book of Genesis. Her outlook on life is much more focused on her four “mothers”, Leah, Rachel, Zilpah and Bilhah and life as a woman in biblical times, without coming across as anyway religious.
Although Leah is Dinah’s birth mother, all four teach her lessons and share their gifts. With their help and insight, Dinah grows into a strong, capable woman. Faced with challenges – from being forced to leave her family, to becoming a midwife – Dinah takes on each day with a determination sure to inspire.
Diamant brilliantly recounts the rituals that occur in the red tent, the place where women can truly be themselves. In the monthly rite lasting 3 days, beginning and ending for all women of the tribe at the same time, the darkest part of the moon cycle, women had a chance to exchange views and information they gathered while overhearing the men.
Anita Diamant’s book is basically a celebration of womanhood, her main character’s life is blessed with great love, great sorrow and even greater hardship and the narrative is so well written it will have you believe that this work of fiction is in fact an autobiography written by Dinah herself. Although dubious about it when I picked it up, being completely unreligious myself – I found that I quite simply could not put it down.
The reason this book is my ‘one that got away’ is I feel that it is a novel every woman should read regardless of age, background or faith. I think that if I had chosen this book as a bookclub choice the discussion would have been very interesting. Everyone I know who read this book got something different out of it.