Over five years in the writing, Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel ever, a triumph of imagination and research set in ancient Israel.
The author of such iconic bestsellers as Illumination Night, Practical Magic, Fortune’s Daughter, and Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman is one of the most popular and memorable writers of her generation. Now, in The Dovekeepers, Hoffman delivers her most masterful work yet—one that draws on her passion for mythology, magic, and archaeology and her inimitable understanding of women.
In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This book is an hauntingly evocative look at the last days of Masada — the infamous last Jewish stronghold in the desert, which culminated in the death of over 900 people. In a choice between a life in oppressed slavery or death at the hands of their fellow countrymen — and themselves — this last hold out group of freedom fighters chose to die, rather than abdicate the lives they held so dear. This book is also an amazing example of the talented gift for words that Hoffman wields. Told from the perspective of four women, whose lives intertwined in varying degrees — their stories will leave you touched, and mesmerized in this historical fiction account, while at the same time allowing an insight into the last desperate voices of Masada to speak again.
The characters of this book: Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah are powerful voices, while still giving an appreciation for the emotional aspect of this moving tale. Through them we come to appreciate much of the saga of the Jewish people — their lives, loves, beliefs, and passions. But it is more than just a story of a doomed fortress. This book, through these four women gives us an appreciation for many of the factions of the Jewish people as well — the Essenes, Zelots, the Heretics and so much more. Hoffman has also built a tale that — at the surface appears to be four women who meet in these difficult circumstances, when they first arrive at Masada. However, as the reader gets farther into the book, they find that these women have ties that go back much farther — and they each have intertwined histories that bind them together through the toughest times of their people’s history.
The feeling created throughout the book is one of haunting fatalism, and hopeless wishing. Hoffman does this in such a powerful way — through each woman’s portion of the story. Once one woman completes her part of the story, the reader finds that even though the story has moved on to the next woman to tell her part — that the previous story has not yet been completed. The reader is painfully aware that there are so many threads that are left unfulfilled, and they are constantly wanting more. And it is only in the end that the reader realizes how powerful a literary tool this methodology is — when they finally remember that all of these people are living in a doomed city — and just as portions of the story appear to be left unfinished, the whole of the story will only end in one place. Unfulfilled lives — cut short in an attempt to evade Roman domination.
The voices of the narration are also an element of the haunting nature of this book. The reader finds they come to identify with each of these women on a very personal level. As these women speak of their lives, their hopes and dreams, their passion for living and their fear of death. The men they loved, and the lives they chose to live on their own terms — even at times in opposition to the community standards, and the men that controlled their lives. These women demonstrate the true strength of womanhood — through their ability to live life in a time of overwhelming death struggles.
This book is a must read — and one that is worth the time and investment. For more information about this book, and its author — be sure to visit the following websites:
When you buy a product (not just books – any product), via one of my links, The Book Worm’s Library earns income from the sale and as always, it’s much appreciated as all affiliate income is used to support the blog by contributing to giveaways, postage, travel, and attending book industry related events. We appreciate all those that help to support our blog, and have provided links below for the direct links to this book.