Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

by:  Alice Hoffman
published by:  Scribner
publish date:  October 4, 2011

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.

After a trip to Masada, Alice Hoffman was compelled to write her version of the events that occurred from 70-75 CE.  Incorporating the history according to Josephus and using other items of historical note, this novel represents over 5 years of work and research. 

Before reading this book, I was not familiar with the events of Masada.  It was really a tragic occurrence in history.  Basically, when the Jews has been forced out of Jerusalem by the Romans, Masada was one of the the safe havens they sought.  The Romans eventually set their sights on Masada and laid siege on the fortress, when the people of Masada realized their time was up they killed themselves rather than die by Roman hands.

I loved this book.  I wanted to go find Alice Hoffman and have her tell me more about this story.  I wanted more!  The book is split in to books, one for each of the four women.  I liked this method of telling the whole story, but from 4 different view points. 

All the women were strong and fierce in their own way.  It was interesting to learn their history and find out how they had become they way they were.  I particularly liked Aziza and her relationship with The Man From the Valley.  He was another character I was drawn to and would have liked to have known more about. 

I would definitely recommend this book to people who like the history of this time.  Fans of Anita Diamant's The Red Tent would probably also really like this book as well.


Ann Summerville said...

I haven't heard of this event either. This sounds like a really good read - thanks for posting.

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Sounds wonderful. This is on my wishlist.

KWiley said...

The book sounds very interesting. I heard a great interview a few weeks back on a radio show called The Book Report. Host Elaine Charles always keeps the show interesting. She's got me hooked since the show with the Alice Hoffman interview. You should check out more at

Anonymous said...

IT IS SUCH A good read!!! I highly suggest everyone checking out the book. Just took your advice Kwiley and litstened to Elaine's interview. Its really great. Heres the exact link I found..