Book Review #36: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

27 May

I’ve been tabling this review because I truly loved this book, and I’m not sure how to review it in a way that does it justice.  The Dovekeepers is a work of historical fiction that tells the tale of the Jewish resistance during the Roman’s siege of Masada in the first century.  900 Jewish men and women held out against the Romans for months, and ultimately, 2 women and 5 children survived.  Hoffman used meticulous research to weave a mystical tale of desire, family and friendship that gives a voice to the women who participated in the siege.

The book is told in four pieces.  Yael is the lion, a young girl who’s mother died in child birth who flees her home city with her assassin father and her brother’s best friend. Her illicit romance, her betrayal of her confidant, and her seeemingly magical ability to attract both humans and animals with her silence is oddly compelling.  Revka, the baker’s wife, serves partially to set up the romance of the book but also as proof of a mother’s capacity for vengeance.  Aziza is a warrior, disguising herself as a boy to defend her people and falling in love with a man everyone else thought was broken. Shirah is a “witch” of sorts, who uses her powers for good – like aiding women giving birth to illegitimate children – and her own ends – like protecting her children or ruining her lover’s wive’s life.

The women aren’t perfect. But each perspective is so different that you really feel how the tension and terror of the siege pervaded daily life. Working steadily behind the scenes, the women are both strong and flawed. They are hindered by their passion, their love for their children, their love for the past and their selfishness. It’s not a book with a wholly happy ending, but there’s something satisfying. They were fighting against an inevitable fate, and that struggle is far more riveting than their ultimate fate.

The book isn’t perfect either. But it’s dramatic – there are stolen children, illicit lovers, ruined families, and secrets every where. And the women are fascinating as you try to figure out what makes them tick and what drives them to make the enormous, life changing decisions they make. It’s hard to put my finger on what I liked about it, but it’s also hard to put down.

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One Response to “Book Review #36: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. HelloKatieO’s #CBR4 Review #36: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman « Cannonball Read IV - May 27, 2012

    […] More… Share this:ShareTwitterFacebookEmailDiggStumbleUpon Posted by HelloKatieO in 4 stars – a great book and tagged Alice Hoffman, book reviews, books, CBR4, hellokatieo, historical fiction, Hoffman, literature, reviews, Yael […]

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