Saturday, May 4, 2013

Book Review: The Dovekeepers

I didn't know what I was getting into with Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers, but I had been told by a friend that this was her book club's favorite. And wow! She was right—this was an absolutely stunning novel.

First of all, I didn't realize when I began the novel that all roads were leading to the real story of Masada, a mountain fortress where 900 Jewish rebels held out against the Roman army until it was no longer feasible. I probably skimmed the book flaps, so I was through at least a quarter of the book before it clicked. I had to read up on Masada a bit to get some context, and that helped tremendously.

The Dovekeepers tells the stories of four extraordinary women who end up at Masada: Yael, a young woman whose father despises her because her mother died in childbirth; Revka, the Baker's Wife, who watched her daughter brutally murdered; Azizah, who is more comfortable as a warrior than as a woman; and Shirah, known as "the witch of Moab." The stories are told separately but are interconnected, all touching each other and building to an incredible ending. All but two women and five children killed themselves at Masada. As the reader figures out, two of these four women will survive. But who?

I loved Francine Rivers' Mark of the Lion series, which chronicles a similar time period. I've been immersed in Old Testament stories my entire life, but I love having the culture—the religious and social customs—fleshed out and vividly portrayed. Hoffman is simply masterful at creating this world with all its violence, passion, religious fervor, sorrow, and utter despair.

The book takes work for the reader. You have to really concentrate on the characters and carry them through from section to section, remembering who is who. This is a novel to concentrate on, not to read in snippets here and there. But it is so worth it. Highly recommended, both on a historical level and as a novel of the endurance of the human spirit.

Linked up with Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books


8 comments:

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I loved this book too!

hopeinbrazil said...

Sounds terrific. Thanks for reviewing it.

Heidi’sbooks said...

I have this on my shelf, and I keep forgetting it's there. It sounds wonderful. Thank you for the review.

Carole said...

Hi, I just noticed this review and wondered if you would like to link it in to the current monthly collection of books that people loved on Carole's Chatter. This is the link There are already over 25 books linked in that you might be interested in. It would be great if you came on over. Cheers

Creations by Laurel-Rain Snow said...

I love Alice Hoffman, and this book is on my list. Thanks for sharing your thoughts...and now I must get the book!

I will be reading Hoffman's book The Red Garden in a couple of weeks.

Thanks for visiting my Saturday Snapshot post.

Susan @ Reading World said...

I want to read this book! I keep hearing great things about it, but I haven't bought it because I have so much else stacked up. I should just go ahead and buy it before it falls off my radar.

thebookstop said...

This is a book I've been meaning to read. I love Alice Hoffman, plus my father grew up in Israel so I have a particular interest. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

Micaella Lopez said...

This book was amazing. I love historical fiction, and Hoffman, whose style i LOVE, did not disappoint. She delivered a powerful plot, well described characters, and a setting that made history. I felt, the whole time I was reading, that I was there. I was enthralled by the story and learned so much about the horrible events that unfolded. Sad, but important story.

Mica
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