Monday, October 24, 2011

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

A majestic novel of four women facing life and death





Back Cover:

Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily 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, an expert assassin, 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 young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior's daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, 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. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets-about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's masterpiece.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman is women’s literary and historical fiction at its very best. From first page to last, I loved this novel.

In A.D. 70, the story depicts the struggles of four very wise, very resilient women whose lives are interwoven when they arrive in Masada and are assigned the task of taking care of the doves in King Herod’s palace. 

After years of intense research, Ms. Hoffman weaves historical fact into fiction as she tries to recreate a tragic event where 900 people chose to commit suicide rather than submit to Roman rule.

The novel is divided into four sections – one for each of the women – and unfolds through their eyes. Each woman has suffered some form of turmoil or tragedy. Although the plot is intricate and complex, the story is easy to follow and quickly draws you in. It is Ms. Hoffman’s talent as a writer that lifts the novel into vividness and passion.

A tale full of mystery and secrets, mothers and daughters, love and hate, and complex human relationships. This is one novel to read slowly and enjoy every word. It would be an ideal novel for book clubs or an exchange of gifts between mothers and daughters. A profound statement on the power and resilience and honour! Highly recommended.
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