THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant

THE RED TENT

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Cubits beyond most Woman-of-the-Bible sagas in sweep and vigor, this fictive flight based on the Genesis mention of Dinah, offspring of Jacob and Leah, disclaims her as a mere ``defiled'' victim and, further, celebrates the ancient continuity and unity of women. Dinah was the cherished only daughter of ``four mothers,'' all of whom bore sons by Jacob. It is through daughters, though, that the songs, stories, and wisdom of the mothers and grandmothers are remembered. Dinah tells the mothers' tales from the time that that shaggy stranger Jacob appears in the land of his distant kin Laban. There are Jacob's marriages to the beautiful Rachel and the competent Leah, ``reeking of bread and comfort.'' Also bedded are Zilpah, a goddess worshipper who has little use for men, and tiny, dark, and silent Bilhah. Hard-working Jacob is considerate to the equally hard-working women, who, in the ``red tent''--where they're sequestered at times of monthly cycles, birthing, and illness--take comfort and courage from one another and household gods. The trek to Canaan, after Jacob outwits Laban, offers Dinah wonders, from that ``time out of life'' when the traveling men and women laugh and sing together, on to Dinah's first scent of a great river, ``heady as incense, heavy and dark.'' She observes the odd reunion of Jacob and Esau, meets her cruel and proud grandmother, and celebrates the women's rite of maturity. She also loves passionately the handsome Prince Shalem, who expects to marry her. Dinah's tale then follows the biblical account as Jacob's sons trick and then slaughter a kingdom. Diamant's Dinah, mad with grief, flees to Egypt, gives birth to a son, suffers, and eventually finds love and peace. With stirring scenery and a narrative of force and color, a readable tale marked by hortatory fulminations and voluptuous lamentations. For a liberal Bible audience with a possible spillover to the Bradley relationship.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-312-16978-7
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997




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