The Biblical tale of Jacob is re-told by Anna Dimante through the eyes of Dinah, his only daughter. The author portrays the lives of women at the time of the Book of Genesis in a clear and compelling fashion. The women gather in the Red Tent during their monthly menstrual cycles to tell stories, sing and nurture one another. As the only daughter among eleven sons, Dinah becomes the keeper of the stories and lore of each of Jacob’s four wives, whom she refers to as her four mothers. Dinah’s girlhood abruptly ends when she falls in love with the prince of Hamor. Her brothers accuse her lover of defiling their sister and murder him, along with every male inhabitant of his City. The remainder of the book deals with Dinah’s escape to Egypt where she raises her son, becomes a midwife and eventually finds happiness.
What the Armchair Critics Thought:
We enjoyed the retelling of this ancient story and the way Dimante crafted the individual personalities of the four wives to explain the Biblical events. Her portrayal of the social customs was fascinating. We spent a fair bit of time speculating about the possibility of having our own red tent where we could get away from the daily routine once a month. We found the latter part of the story, dealing with Dinah’s life in Egypt, was told in a completely different style from the beginning section so that you almost felt you had switched to another book. However, we recommend this novel as an interesting slice of historical fiction.