Monday, May 21, 2012

Book Review: The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers is a truly epic story. One that is so lyrical, it's almost reads like a symphony. I highly recommend the audiobook version of this beautiful and tragic story.

The Dovekeepers take place around the year 70 C.E., and the main setting of the story is a mountain called Masada, with a fortress that was built by Herrod. Hundreds of Jews are holed up here, after the Romans have forced them out of Jerusalem and every other place in Israel.

There are four main characters in the book, all women. We learn each woman's story in separate sections of the book, but all the stories end up woven together as they experience life on Masada. There's tragedy and heartbreak and many secrets. Their's plotting, and scheming. They are struggling with hunger, and lost love, and trying to keep their families alive.

I cannot describe the beautiful writing in The Dovekeepers. I haven't read any other of Hoffman's books, but I'm a fan. I'm sure part of my passion for these words has to do with the audio format. The book is read by four different women, and they are all PERFECT. Each one of them distinct, but so rhythmic and well-paced. I must be honest--I might not have finished this if I were reading the print. It is long and very detailed. But I must emphasize that it's worth the read -- in any form.

The Jewish faith and traditions were fascinating. I can't imagine the research that went into this book. I'm sure The Dovekeepers is a work of love. Everything is a symbol for these people. If some blackbirds land in  your path -- that means something. Every drop of rain, change in the weather, everything birds and other animals do, every breeze means something. And the rituals -- every spice and plant is used to bless something. Their are all sorts of charms for blessings and healings.

It's all very devout, though. These people base everything on their belief in God. No aspect of their existence is without him.

If you are a fan of ancient history, you must read The Dovekeepers. It requires some patience, but you will be rewarded, I guarantee. Not many teens I can recommend this for--nothing inappropriate, but just because of the subject and the weight of this book. But I will pass it around my family and friends for sure.

Published by Scribner, 2011
Audiobook obtained from the library
512 pages

Rating: 5/5

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  1. It took me awhile to get into the book, but I really liked it by the end. Some parts I thought were a little pretentious. A review said it well (Wash Post or NYT or LA Times, I forget). For living 2000 years ago, these women sure seemed a lot like liberal New York feminists in their mindset. "I am Yenta, hear me roar." That and for a highly, conservative religious community, there was a lot of sleeping around. But apart for a few eye rolling things, I thought the writing was beautiful and the story enchanting.

  2. I guess I'm a cynic, but I think there has always been and will always be "sleeping around," regardless of time period, religion, societal norms, etc. And, yeah, I get the Yenta thing, but that was what made the story...

  3. I just heard about this book very recently, and the reviews in both the NY Times and the English Guardian were rather negative. It was interesting to read your take on it. Thank you.

    Marlene Detierro (Rogue River Country)


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