Tag Archives: the dovekeepers

Skylight Confessions by Alice Hoffman

It goes without saying that Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite authors of all time. I read all of her work that I can get my hands on–some of you may remember my recent review of The Dovekeepers, which is Hoffman’s latest (and some argue, greatest) novel. Skylight Confessions has absolutely nothing in common with the sweeping epic that is The Dovekeepers, however it most certainly hearkens back to Hoffman’s younger voice. While not quite as developed as some of her other stories (and nowhere near as prosaic and powerful as Practical Magic) it was an enjoyable tale nonetheless.

“Real love, after all, was worth the price you paid, however briefly it might last.”

Skylight Confessions told a story spanning several different lives and several generations. It starts with the love story of John Moody and Arlyn Singer–the destinies of whom both change forever when John takes a wrong turn one night and falls in love (or something like it) with the wrong girl. The book follows the life and death of many of the characters, including John and Arlyn’s children(one heroin-addicted, one perfect), the man Arlyn loves, the neighbor John falls in love with, and the strange woman who follows a ghost to the Moody’s glass house. Some pretty intense stuff, that’s for sure. Look out for heavy doses of symbolism, portrayed by a string of pearls Arlyn’s lover gives her, stones that seem to be everywhere, flight/feathers/wings, and ashes wherever a haunted presence is known. This book delves into a very fucked up family situation–with a lot of tragedy–but still manages not to come across as preachy or unduly emotional.

While this is nowhere even close to being Hoffman’s best novel–or even my favorite–it is still quite poignant. I like how she explores the intricacies of the human experience in her books, and always does a great job illustrating the tiny things/events/times that thread us all together. Life is not always so simple, so black and white. While Skylight Confessions wouldn’t be the first book of hers that I’d think to recommend, it’s a must read for any die-hard Hoffman fan.

3 family secrets out of 5


The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

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


Quote of the Day: Alice Hoffman

“This is what my mother meant when she told me love would be my undoing. Love made you give yourself away, it bound you to this world, and to another’s fate. My mother had warned me what love would do to me. I hadn’t cared then, and I didn’t care now.”

-The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman