Thursday 25 August 2011

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman - Book Review

Title: The Dovekeepers
Author: Alice Hoffman
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 4th October 2011
Pages: 512
Format: E-Book PDF
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: ARC from GalleyGrab

In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. (Goodreads Synopsis)

This is a really captivating read with strong and memorable female characters.

I enjoyed the way the story was told from the perspective of the different woman. Because their accounts appeared in clearly separated parts, there was never any confusion about who was speaking. Each woman continued the linear storyline while also revealing aspects of their past that led them to that point in time. These flashbacks were well presented and didn't interfere with the main flow of the story at all; rather they added to it as they were an insight into the reasons behind the actions of the women as their part in the tale came to the fore.

Hoffman's prose is fairly wordy, but I enjoyed the richness that brought to the text, particularly in the descriptive passages and the inner monologues.

Reading a few other reviews, I see that some people found it overly long, but I wouldn't say that was an issue for me at all. Yes, it is a reasonably long book, but I've read others that were longer and I never felt that it dragged as I was engaged with the story and the characters from start to finish.

This is a wonderful tale that will captivate readers of both historic and literary fiction.


  1. That sounds really interesting, great review.

  2. I love the review. looking forward to reading the book.