Book Club: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Henpicked’s book of the month for January 2018…

Well, it looks like we were all probably a little too busy with Christmas to read Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. Please follow the link and let us know what you think of it, there’s still plenty of time.

This month’s book is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant, an international bestseller and the sort of book that you just won’t want to finish!

‘Her name is Dinah. In the Bible her fate is merely hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the verses of the Book of Genesis that recount the life of Jacob and his infamous dozen sons.

The Red Tent is an extraordinary and engrossing tale of ancient womanhood and family honour. Told in Dinah’s voice, it opens with the story of her mothers – the four wives of Jacob – each of whom embodies unique feminine traits, and concludes with Dinah’s own startling and unforgettable story of betrayal, grief and love. Deeply affecting and intimate, The Red Tent combines outstandingly rich storytelling with an original insight into women’s society in a fascinating period of early history and such is its warmth and candour, it is guaranteed to win the hearts and minds of women across the world.’

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We’re looking for 10 book champions so if you would like to volunteer, please let us know. We give each of our champions a FREE copy of the book of the month in return for hearing what they think of it.

Just like last month, we’ll let our book club subscribers have some key points about the book to think about throughout the month and in the meantime, enjoy!

Feel free to jump into the discussion about the book at any time during the month using Disqus which is ready and waiting for you and shows up at the bottom of this page – it’s free to sign up and once you are logged in, you can comment on any of the articles on the Henpicked website.

Other book suggestions

Please let us know if you have any recommendations!

We welcome you all and remember there is no right or wrong with reading – everyone’s opinion counts.

Happy reading!!

Henpicked

About Henpicked

From the Henpicked team!

  • Laura

    I’m enjoying this so far! It’s different to anything I’ve read before and I’m finding that that’s a good thing. Great suggestion, Henpicked – good to widen your reading horizon. Apparently this is Diamant’s first attempt at fiction writing – it doesn’t show. She has a beautiful writing style that draws you into reading about something that would I would have normally skipped over on the shelf.

    • Deborah

      Thank you very much Laura, so pleased you’re enjoying it. It really is a classic read!

  • Nicola Doughty

    Like Laura, this isn’t a book I would necessarily normally pick up but I’ve definitely been drawn in so far. It’s beautifully written and provides an insight into a world I know nothing about. I’m only a few chapters into the book and, I have to admit, the number of characters introduced in the first chapter alone challenged my little brain. I kept having to whip back and forth to the list of characters at the front of the book to remind me of the relationships. I’m sure it will get easier to follow though once I’ve read a few more chapters. And, you know what, it’s already proving a perfect escape from the dreary January weather outside and that’s no bad thing.

    • Deborah

      It’s one of my favourite books of all time, I simply did not want the story to end! Enjoy Nicola!

    • Catherine Dawson

      It’s different to anything I’ve read before and I wouldn’t have even thought of reading it previously. It is so different and that what appeals to me. I can’t put it down atm, although I’ve obviously had to because of life.

  • Catherine Dawson

    Posted this in the wrong section so here goes (again)…

    Currently enjoying reading about the mothers and the battle for Jacob between Leah and her sister. I keep having to refer back to the family tree to keep track of who’s who but that’s no biggie. I love how the problems faced by the women can be as relevant to women today, but may be that’s because it’s been written by a modern women? I don’t know if there’s any historical accuracy from the time period.

    • Marion

      I found this hard going but interesting because of the insights of how women fitted into society. I liked the sense of kinship and strength in adversity .
      One thing that challenged me was to ask myself why I read fiction? I consider that I read to be entertained and as a means of escape. Considering that, this book made me work hard and therefore did not allow me to be a lazy reader. So my reservations are not to do with the book but more to do with my need to be entertained effortlessly.
      I read the Bible daily so I felt a familiarity.
      Overall, some fascinating views but harder to follow than I had hoped

      • Catherine Dawson

        This story definitely makes you concentrate. I’m reading at a slower pace at the moment because I’m back to work and don’t have much spare time. What I have read I have thoroughly enjoyed. As I read through the novel, into Dinah’s adult experiences, I feel privileged to catch a glimpse of her life (fiction or not) and can’t wait to read on. This story has totally drawn me in.
        Marion, I love being entertained effortlessly. 🙂 After studying for a degree in literature and language for 5 years with the OU, I find it a total pleasure to not have to analyse a book, or skip from one reference to another in order to follow the story.

  • Alli Batten

    Am struggling with this book to be honest! Very different to anything I have read before. I am half way through now and starting to lose interest! finding it hard going just trying to keep track of all the different characters. Interesting time period, but not for me unfortunately.

  • Laura

    Having now finished, I can say that I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. Diamant writes beautifully and she draws you in to Dinah’s world with ease. I found it so interesting to read about this time period/Biblical age from a woman’s perspective. Diamant has done well to make Dinah a likeable and engaging character. It could easily have been a tiresome woe is me tale, but it isn’t, as Dinah demonstrates inspirational strength and determination after her trials and tribulations. It’s a real celebration of women in a time where they were the ‘lesser sex’ and the sense of female community and camaraderie is feel good. While I probably wouldn’t read it a second time, I would recommend!

  • Lorraine Garvey

    Still early days for me reading this, finding myself drawn into a bizarre world focussed on women who led very different lives to me. But I do wonder, are there still women living like this, one man with multiple wives and many children. I do have to keep refering back to the family tree to try and understand the relationships.

    Not the sort of story I would normally read, but it is beautifully written.

    • Diana Woodhead

      I totally agree with you about having to refer back to the family tree.

  • Diana Woodhead

    I am half way through now and thoroughly enjoying. The last few books i have read have been set in modern times so this is a welcome change for me. I like the idea that i am learning about a period in time as well as getting involved with the many characters in the book. I am not familiar with the biblical characters but i do not think that detracts from the story. Looking forward to giving a final analysis when finished.

  • Nicola Doughty

    Wow! Well, last page of The Red Tent duly read and I’m still not sure how I feel about the book. It’s been a bit of rollercoaster read, you could say. While undeniably beautifully written throughout and hugely powerful, it’s pretty dark, violent and bloody at times. Some of the darker moments of the story are hard to push on through. As it expanded on the imagined lives of figures within the Bible, it was intriguing though. Focusing on the story of Dinah, daughter of Jacob, it showed just how hard life was for a woman of that time and certainly makes you think. It revealed how she grew up with four mothers and a tribe of brothers and how her only escape from the drudgery of normal life was when the females retreated to the women-only world of the red tent. It really was a powerful read with lots of drama, births, a Romeo and Juliet story midway, and tragedy and actually turned out to be very hard to put down.

    • Deborah

      Would you recommend it Nicola? BTW there is a series on this now – not sure if it’s Netflix but worth a look. I enjoyed that too!

      • Nicola Doughty

        Ahh I didn’t know about that. I’ll have to look out for that. I’d definitely recommend the book.

      • Tracey Madeley

        i’d also recommend it as something different.

  • Diana Woodhead

    Finished the book today. Thought provoking and interesting insight into womens lives from birth through to the afterlife! Made me think of my passage through life and the differences and similarities. I drew parallels with my work as a midwife, my relationships with my mother, husbands and I will soon be a grandmother. Beautifully written, without pulling any punches. Definitely one to pass on.

    • Deborah

      Fab isn’t it Diana! And of course the connection with your work I suppose makes it even more interesting! Thank you!

  • Tracey Madeley

    Interesting no one has mentioned the cultural elements of this book. There are a lot of rituals and ways of doing things which reinforce the bond between these women. How do you think they compare to the men?

    • Deborah

      There are aren’t there – though have to say I found the cultural side hard to understand by today’s standards. What do you think about the comparison with the men’s?

      • Tracey Madeley

        Jewish culture seems to rest with the women and I think this is really emphasised in the book. I know men have circumcision which sets them apart. There seems to be more power struggles amongst the men. In theory only the oldest son gets the blessing and the inheritance. Therefore Simeon and Levi need to make their own way in the world, but they take things too far and bring destruction on themselves. Equally for Dinah’s son it was about jealousy, power and position. There must have been some jealousy between the women, Jacob had 4 wives, but the storey does not really emphasise this. Men effectively go out to work to look after the sheep, but Leah is referred to as having an influence in the business, so it is not totally separate.

  • Claire

    As a book that I wouldn’t have picked for myself this is truly a delight to read. It is an era where the portrayal of women even in fiction is few and far between so it makes for a very interesting read. The style is beautiful and really captures the environment. It also depicts nicely the value of family ties and of having time. I am not sure that the main character is sufficiently developed as I fell more affinity with the mothers/aunts but as I finish the book am looking forward to learning more about Dinah.

    • Deborah

      Thank you Claire, get review! Have you finished it yet?