Anita Diamant is an American author accredited for writing some of the most gripping fiction and non fiction books. In her best selling novel The Red Tent, she attempts to build an imaginary story around the lives of Jacob, his wives and the only daughter born to him, Dinah. These characters are true biblical characters and the novel is written in consonance to the traditions of the biblical times.

However even if one ignores the historical references and context to the tale the book is definitely a nice story with very intricately defined characters. The Red Tent refers to the separation tent which houses the women while either giving birth or during their time of the month. The author has narrated the story of almost three generations through the eyes of Dinah and has vividly described the emotions and desires of not only women of the house but at most times the men too.

Dinah born to Jacob and Leah grew up in the care of four mothers and eventually became their keeper of secrets. As she grows up she is entrusted with stories of not only how her parents met but also is poured in with the tales of envy, passions, sisterhood and rivalry between her mothers seeking attention of their husband. All her mothers are distinct from each other and nurture different skills. The book is divided into three main parts, drawing the thin line between the story as it progresses from the tale of her mothers to herself and finally when the focus shifts to her son.

Dinah, the apple of her mothers’ eyes is a part and parcel of their lives and soon becomes accustomed to the traditions of the women. Her visits to the red tent and over hearing their conversations teach her a lot. As Dinah grows up she starts discovering her own sexuality and the author has described the curiosities of a teenage without any inhibitions. As portrayed she is a bit too mature for her age and eagerly awaits to come of age and join her mothers as a women .Accompanying Rachel, her mother and a midwife, on her visits to child bearing mothers she picks up skills and it is on one such trip to the royal family of Hamor that she comes across Shalem, the prince. It is love at first site. Dinah feels drawn to the young and handsome prince but is also conscious of her own rugged and unkempt clothes and looks. The two are very distinct in their family lineage but develop feelings for each other. But the meeting doesn’t bear any fruits. A desperate and shy Dinah returns to her family but is soon summoned by Shalem’s mother to the palace. As the gods and Shalem’s mother, Re-nefer, conspire the two are bound by destiny and confess to their love physically and mentally. This leads to a new phase in Dinah’s life. The beautiful life that she is getting accustomed to turns into a nightmare as her own brothers murder Shalem.  What follows is an account of Dinah’s journey to Egypt in a bid to save her son and her becoming a midwife herself.

Even though the story is an enchanting one it sometimes seems too stretched, especially when the author gets into the detailed images of almost everything. The book also has gross description of childbirth and ancient traditions of circumcision etc. The book has a feminine feel to it, but by saying that I don’t intend to scare the male readers. The novel has a smooth flow of events and makes a spellbinding read. With an easy and uncomplicated writing style the author has surely targeted a larger section of readers.
All in all The Red Tent is the story of Dinah , told in too many words yet leaves you with a lasting impression of her fairy tale like life and has a beautiful narrative.

Anita Diamant

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