It’s no great secret that I love Alice Hoffman. I try to read everything of her’s that I can get my hands on, because she had me at Practical Magic. And because she wrote The Dovekeepers, I was persuaded to give it a go. I mean, the Romans invading and conquering the Jews in the deserts of ancient Israel isn’t my normal fodder… I was worried that it would be very drab because of the thick history laid upon it, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The story told the plight of four women during this harsh period: Yael, an assassin’s daughter, Revka, a baker’s wife, Aziza, a female warrior, and Shirah, the Witch of Moab. Each had their own story of how they came to Masada (the last Jewish stronghold) and the triumphs and tragedies they experienced there. The mammoth novel was split up into four smaller books, each designated to one of the women. I liked this format because we got to see bits of the story through each of their eyes, rather than being tethered to one character (and frankly, it helped to break up the number of months the story spanned).
Hoffman did interject her normal poetry and prose into this book, although not quite as heartily as in her other novels. It’s much harder to do when you’re struggling to keep track of so many characters, individual story lines, a foreign time/place, and still keep things historically accurate–or so I imagine…
It took me a while to get used to the past tense all the women were using rather than the present, and that’s one thing I wasn’t fond of. That being said, however, Hoffman executed it very well and in a way that made the book compulsively readable and not a work gone horribly awry. This story could have suffered in the hands of lesser authors.
The Dovekeepers is not pool-side reading by any means, but it is worth the time investment. Hoffman breathes life into these characters and her research indirectly educates her readers as to what life was like for the Jews during the horrific Roman invasion.
You don’t have to be a history buff to appreciate her latest (and some say greatest) piece of art.
5 of 5 stars