The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. History records that only two women and five children survived the siege …

An extraordinary story.

And the foundation upon which Alice Hoffman has built an epic novel. An extraordinary novel.

She tells the stories of four women. Four very different women, who had very different lives, who came to Masada by very different paths.

Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shira.

They say so much about the relationships women have, the roles they play, what they give to the world …

Mothers. Daughters. Grandmothers. Wives. Lovers ….

Nurturers. Protectors. Negotiators. Healers. Warriors ….

Their stories set out their histories, their journeys, and their lives as they become dovekeepers at Masada. I was reluctant to let go when one story ended, but each time I found a new story that absorbed me, and then I found the women I had met before, living and working alongside the woman I had just met. Everything came together beautifully.

Because everything is right.

The prose is both beautiful and readable. And, more than that, I could hear each woman’s voice, and I came to know them, to understand them.

Four women. Complex, and utterly real.

And I came to know their world, seeing so many details richly painted. It was easy to turn the pages quickly but I knew that I needed to linger, to make sure that I took everything in. I was transported.

Years may pass, the world may change, but in essence the hopes, the fears, the dreams of women never change.

As the end approach the story could have lost its grip. I knew the history, I knew how it must play out. But I was involved, and I lived every moment.

Alice Hoffman has brought old, old history to life, and she has made it sing.

The dust jacket suggests that this is her masterpiece and I have to say, yes, it is.

14 responses

  1. I have a few of her books laying around yet to be read. You make me want to go out and get this one too, but I will show restraint and read the ones I have before seeking this one out. I have a feeling I will like Alice Hoffman 🙂

    • This is quite unlike anything else Alice Hoffman has written, but I’ve liked all of her books – though some more than others. I hope you like her too.

  2. I’m really looking forward to reading this one, I love Alice Hoffman’s writing but she’s been going over the same ground recently so it’ll be good to read her doing something a bit different.

  3. I love Alice Hoffman and got this one from the library but it had to go back before I had got very far. I am now waiting for my own copy to arrive and very much looking forward to being able to curl up with it!
    When she is on song with her writing, she is very hard to surpass.

  4. I thought this was a breathtakingly impressive tale; I still think back to some of the scenes now. Funnily enough, the characters to whom I had the toughest time relating are the characters who have stayed with me most lastingly. For those (like me) who haven’t travelled there, the book’s site has a series of haunting images that really brought the region off the page for me.

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