Monday, July 23, 2012
The Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman
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.
Summary and cover image from indiebound.org.
My Review: This powerful novel tells the story of four women who find themselves working side by side within the dovecotes of Masada. The story begins in 70 C.E. and spans a total of four years. This was during the time when the Romans took over Jerusalem and waged war against the Jewish. A group of 900 escaped the Romans and found themselves a safe hold at Masada in Herod's deserted mighty empire.
The novel is based on historical events and does a wonderful job of accounting life during these times. The story is rich in detail and emotion. Much insight is gained into the religious beliefs of this time as well as the lifestyle. All this information is presented in an entertaining manner which flows perfectly with the storyline.
The four main women characters, whose voices disclose this tale, are absolutely fascinating. They each come from very different backgrounds yet a common thread connects them. Several supporting characters also add to the story and it is difficult to discern the good from the evil. Bitterness and anger can be felt toward one character only to have this turn to admiration a short time later. Likewise characters that are easy to love reveal a more complicated, undesirable side as the story continues. In the end though all that can be felt is amazement at the courage portrayed by this group of rebels overall, particularly by the women focused upon in the story.
This would make an amazing book club read as there is so many different facets to discuss. It is a beautiful story told by a very talented author. I closed the book completed satisfied but with a deep desire to learn more about this time period.
My Rating: 5 Stars
**Sensitive readers should know that the story does contain sexual relations, though not in detail. Also, as can be assumed by the time period, there is quite a bit of violence. I also did not feel these were overly embellished but did burn images into my mind that will be difficult to forget.
To Sum it up: A beautifully written tale of a time period not often discussed. This book will leave you pondering how the courage of these people altered the course of history.