This novel is fifteen years old now, and I think I may be the last woman on Earth to read it. It is certainly a novel for women, because it is written by a woman and it is about women and the huge but largely uncelebrated contribution we make to society. So, why would men want to read about that?
Our protagonist is Dinah, who, I am told, makes a minor appearance in the Bible, in the book of Genesis. As far as I can gather, she plays a passive part as a rape victim of a prince who goes on the be murdered in the story of the foundation of Judaism. Diamant is a journalist and historian and has written several non-fiction books on Judaism and the Old Testament. She has also written two novels, one set a hundred years ago and one set in present day.
The women of this time and place were busy and hard-working. The red tent of the title is a haven only for women where they got a once-monthly rest and also the place where the babies were born. Dinah works as a midwife during her adult life. Having recently had a baby myself, these stories of various births, from the not-too-awful to the very bloody and painful deaths, really brought home to me how frightening it was back then to give birth. It is quite frightening enough in this modern world.
I love a bit of historical fiction and this everything I like about it. I learnt something about a period in history I know very little about and I got a lot of enjoyment out of the story, too.