Herbs and potions, love charms and secrets, the complex intimacies between mothers and daughters: It’s clear from the outset of The Dovekeepers that we are firmly in Alice Hoffman territory. But instead of the safe suburbs of New England, we have been transported back to the first century at Masada, the mountain fortress south of Jerusalem where 900 Jews held out against the Romans before committing mass suicide rather than submit to foreign rule. For The Dovekeepers, Hoffman was inspired by a trip to Masada and research into the classical world, including the work of Josephus, the Roman-Jewish historian who recorded that the only survivors of this tragedy were two women and five children.
Hoffman retells this ancient story through the voices of four unique women, each of whom arrived at Masada and worked in the dovecotes—caring for the birds, collecting eggs and gathering fertilizer. Red-haired Yael, the daughter of a master assassin, becomes pregnant with the child of her father’s colleague. Revka, the baker’s wife, lost her husband and daughter at the hands of Roman soldiers and is now determined to protect her motherless grandsons. Young Aziza was raised as a warrior; she wants nothing more than to fight alongside the men in this last stand against the Romans. Finally there’s Shirah, Aziza’s mother, who grew up as the beloved daughter of a consort to the high priests and is the lover of Masada’s charismatic leader. Initially suspicious of one another, the women gradually grow close, sharing their secrets and developing a fierce loyalty to one another.
An ambitious novel, dense with vivid description of daily life in ancient times, The Dovekeepers combines archaeology and research with Hoffman’s own interest in the often untold lives of women and her passion for stories of magic and the natural world. Even though the tale’s outcome is well known, the storytelling is bound to satisfy any reader.Copyright 2011 BookPage Reviews.
Hoffman (The Red Garden, 2011, etc.) births literature from tragedy: the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple, the siege of Masada and the loss of Zion.
This isÂ a feminist tale, a story of strong, intelligent women wedded to destiny by love and sacrifice. Told in four parts, the first comes from Yael, daughter of Yosef bar Elhanan, a SicariiÂ Zealot assassin, rejected by her father because of her mother's death in childbirth. It is 70 CE, and the Temple is destroyed. Yael, her father, and anotherÂ SicariiÂ assassin, Jachim ben Simon, and his family flee Jerusalem. Hoffman's research renders the ancient world real as the group treks into Judea's desert, where they encounter Essenes, search for sustenance and burn under the sun. There too Jachim and Yael begin a tragic love affair. At Masada, Yael is sent to work in the dovecote, gathering eggs and fertilizer. She meets Shirah, her daughters, and Revka, who narrates part two. Revka's husband was killed when Romans sacked their village. Later, her daughter was murdered. At Masada, caring for grandsons turned mute by tragedy, Revka worries over her scholarly son-in-law, Yoav, now consumed by vengeance. Aziza, daughter of Shirah, carries the story onward. Born out of wedlock, Aziza grew up in Moab, among the people of the blue tunic. Her passion and curse is that she was raised as a warrior by her foster father. In part four, Shirah tells of her Alexandrian youth, the cherished daughter of a consort of the high priests. Shirah is aÂ keshaphim, a woman of amulets, spells and medicine, and a woman connected toÂ Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God.Â The women are irretrievably bound to Eleazar ben Ya'ir, Masada's charismatic leader; Amram, Yael's brother; and Yoav, Aziza's companion and protector in battle. The plot is intriguingly complex, with only a single element unresolved.Â
An enthralling tale rendered with consummate literary skill.
ÂCopyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Hoffman departs from offbeat fantasy to retell the story of the Romans' siege of Masada in 70 CE, during which all but a handful of the 900 Jewish defenders were slaughtered. The story unfolds through the voices of four women: Yael, daughter of an assassin; Revka, determined to protect her grandsons; the warrior Aziza; and her mother, a woman of mysterious powers. Hoffman spent five years researching the book, and the publisher is pushing it as her Beloved.[Page 76]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Only two women and five children of more than 900 people survived the Roman siege of Masada in the year 73 C.E. after the suicide pact of the Jewish rebels there, according to the historian Josephus. In this well-researched novel, Hoffman (The Red Garden) vividly brings this tragedy to life, as four women who take care of the dovecote at the fortress tell their stories. Seeking refuge at Masada after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple are Yael, the daughter and sister of Sicarii, professional assassins, and Revka, who with her two mute grandsons has just witnessed the horrific murder of the boys' mother in the desert. Shirah and her warrior daughter Aziza come from Moab. Considered a healer and a witch, Shirah still worships the ancient goddess Ashtoreth. Hoffman finds poetry and beauty, dignity and honor, even in those perilous, blood-soaked times. VERDICT This powerful and gripping novel about survival and endurance will stay with you for a long time. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.]--Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA[Page 77]. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Almost too dense to bear, Hoffman's 23rd novel is brimming with doom, based on the story of the mass suicide of Jewish Zealots at Masada as recorded by the historian Josephus. Set in the first century, the blood-soaked saga unfolds from the perspectives of four courageous Jewish women whose lives converge in the dovecotes of the rebel desert stronghold. Yael is an assassin's daughter who flees Jerusalem as it falls to the Romans, arriving pregnant with the child of her father's married colleague. Revka, her husband murdered by the Romans, comes with her two grandsons, rendered mute after witnessing their mother's disembowelment by Roman soldiers. Shirah, from Alexandria, possibly a witch, brings her beautiful daughter Aziza, who having learned the ways of men among the tribesmen of Moab, uses her warrior's skills to fight in this last stand against the Roman legions. Suspicious of one another early on, the women, each with her own secrets and talents, powerful lovers and magical spells, soon develop a loyalty so fierce that they are willing to sacrifice everything for each other and for the children they are entrusted with. Hoffman (Here on Earth) can tell a tale and knows about creating compassionate characters, but the leaden archaic prose style she uses tells more than it shows. Massive descriptive paragraphs slow the action, until, by the end, the reader is simply worn out. (Oct.)[Page ]. Copyright 2010 PWxyz LLC