Women, Jewish Lives
Anita Diamant's first novel seems to have been written for all women whatever their status, creed or colour, but will resonate most strongly with Jewish women because of its subject. It is the story of the wives of Jacob: Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah, and of Dinah, Leah's and Jacob's only daughter.
The book is compelling for its female perspective on the universal life events as important now as then - birth, death, love, hate, betrayal, murder and forgiveness, and above all for its meticulously researched and fascinating view of the daily lives of early Jewish women. The tale is narrated by Dinah - the only girl among twelve brothers, who feels herself to have four 'mothers' so close is the relationship between Jacob's wives. The red tent is where the women go every month at their time of menstruation, and where they give birth. Dinah's emotionally charged story of joy, endurance and tragedy, also tells us about birthing practices, slaves and artisans, household gods and sisterhood secrets.
Diamant's descriptions of times spent celebrating the fundamental rites of womanhood and of the daily customs of the time, makes this an original and inspiring book, as well as an exceptionally accomplished first novel by a writer hitherto better known for her practical guides to Jewish life, weddings, and baby naming.
In an age when gender and family traditions seem ever more eroded, The Red Tent honours women and the importance of their multiple and varied roles. An immensely enjoyable book in every way.