Alice Hoffman: The Dovekeepers

by Rachel Baker on August 17, 2013

This is the first Alice Hoffman book I’d ever read and its the reason I keep trying others of her books. I really really loved this book. I loved the time period and the focus on the four women.  The author did a great job creating an awe-inspiring web of powerful connections between four incredibly broken women.

Hoffman dedicated somewhere around 100-200 pages on each of the four women who start out in separate places and eventually end up in Masada.  Each of these four stories comes together at the end to complete the story. I thought the way each woman’s story was told was an incredibly impactful way to pull the reader into the same emotional and spiritual circle created by the power of these women’s bond.

One of the most interesting “female-centric” books I’d ever read was The Red Tent by Anita Diamant – that book has stayed with me for years. The Dovekeepers is the same type of book for me. I keep this book on my kindle Fire carousel just so I remember its there when I’m ready to read it again. I can’t say that about a lot of other books I’ve read.

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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.

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