23 November 2011

Book Review: The Dovekeepers

 I'm so late to the party in regard to the fabulous writing of Alice Hoffman.  She is a prolific author; I picked up The Story Sisters just after Labor Day at my local library and went back the next day to check out everything they had by her.  When I spotted an early review of The Dovekeepers (released on October 4), I could barely wait for it to hit the shelves.  Of course, it took awhile for my library to get a copy for me.  When my husband brought it home last week I literally squealed with excitement, curled up on the couch, and dove right in. Like all of Hoffman's books, The Dovekeepers is an amazing story.  It draws you right in with rich characters, detailed surroundings, and well-researched history.  This novel is unlike any of her other works I've read.  The subject matter is a little heavier, more serious I suppose.  Here is a quick recap of the book (no spoilers):

In 70 C.E. a group of Jewish rebels held out against the Roman army.  They made their camp at Masada, an unreachable fortress in the desert of Judea. Spanning three years (and then jumping ahead four to wrap things up) in four parts the book follows the intertwined lives of four different women and their journeys to Masada.  There is Yael (a motherless daughter raised by an unforgiving father), Revka (a baker's wife now caring for her grandsons after the horrific murder of their mother), Aziza (a brave and headstrong girl who longs to be something more), and Shirah (a wise mother with power and knowledge of ancient magic).  Each woman comes to Masada along a difficult road; life is no easier for them once they are there.  Throughout the book their lives intersect, they build alliances amongst themselves, suffer hardships and triumphs together.  True to the ancient historian Josephus' account, just two women and five children survive in the retelling of the siege of Masada.

After I read this book I immediately wanted to read it again.  Seriously.  I cannot overstate how much I loved it.  I became so attached to each woman, and I was literally crying at the end.  Hoffman pulled no punches in her narrative.  There was some brutal violence (which, I'm willing to bet, is pretty accurate for the time period).  Most importantly to me, the history was solid and well-researched.  Is there anything worse than bad research?

Really, everyone should read this book.  It is moving, empowering, weighty, well-written and researched, and ultimately uplifting.  A story of unimaginable loss, and triumph in spite of it all.  One of my favorite quotes from the book is a great way to end this little review.  Shirah says, "Being human means losing everything we love best in the world. But would you ask to be anything else?"

This post was also published on the From Left to Write blog. I received no compensation for reading and reviewing this book.

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