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The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers: A Novel (original 2011; edition 2012)

by Alice Hoffman

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1,521854,849 (3.94)207
Title:The Dovekeepers: A Novel
Authors:Alice Hoffman
Info:Scribner (2012), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Historical Fiction, Jewish history, Women

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The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (2011)

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Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
I liked the way this book was narrated by 3 different characters. There were many religious references that were a bit much since I am not really familiar with the old or the new testament. I liked that this was taken from a real event in 73 A.D. and learned a bit of history at the same time. ( )
  janismack | Nov 13, 2015 |
Loved this book. Although based on a documented historical happening, the author uses her imagination to tell the story of four different women. Some you liked, some not so much, but all were brave, strong women who had to withstand great turmoil and upheaval in their lives. ( )
  scot2 | Aug 10, 2015 |
The first novel I read by Alice Hoffman was The River King and I was hooked on her blend of reality and mysticism. Her language is carefully written, poetic but clear. The Dovekeepers keeps to that tradition, but has the additional power of its setting. It is set in southern Israel in 70 CE (70 AD) with some time spent in the desert, but mostly in Masada, a castle fortress built on a mountain top by King Herod. At this time Masada is occupied by the Sicarii, a group of violent Jewish extremists who wage war against other Jews as well as the Romans. The story of Masada and its siege by the Romans is fascinating.

Here is a sample of Hoffman's writing (the second paragraph in her novel):

They say the truest beauty is in the harshest land and that God can be found there by those with open eyes. But my eyes were closed against the shifting winds that can blind a person in an instant. Breathing itself was a miracle when the storms came whirling across the earth. The voice that arises out of the silence is something no one can imagine until it is heard. It roars when it speaks, it lies to you and convinces you, it steal from you and leaves you without a single word of comfort. Comfort cannot exist in such a place. What is brutal survives. What is cunning lives until morning.

The book is narrated by and centers on four women: Yael, Aziza, Shirah, and Revka. These are the dovekeepers, whose responsibility at Masada is to take care of the birds and to harvest their droppings to be used as fertilizer. They are good at what they do, especially Yael who has a wonderful relationship with all animals, doves and lions in particular. The women are strong and loving, but flawed. There is a feminist theme to their stories especially the tale of Aziza who spent years disguised as a boy and crossed many of the gender barriers that were so rigid at that time.

The book is long and I felt it would have benefited from some editing. Some of the sections dragged because the descriptions, although beautifully written, kept me away from the story of the characters longer than I would have liked. This was compounded by the fact that the structure of the novel, as four parts told by each of the four women, puts a distance between the reader and the story. It's a good technique, but not for such a long work.

I saw the two part miniseries on CBS and enjoyed watching the actors interpret the characters. But, as is often the case with TV specials, the makeup and costumes made them look too pretty. And I didn't like the script changes, for example dropping Revka completely.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | May 12, 2015 |
3.5 stars

In Ancient Israel in the year 73 C.E. Romans attacked a small group of Jewish people who had already been pushed from their homes and lives in Jerusalem and elsewhere. Two women and five children survived. Alice Hoffman has created a fictional account to document what happened.

The book tells the story of four women who were there and how they got there. Yael, whose mother died when she was born. Her father was an assassin and blamed Yael for her mother's death. Revka was a baker's wife. She took care of her two grandchildren, who had been completely silent since their mother died. Shirah was a witch and Aziza was her daughter, who took on the persona of a boy.

This was good. I found the stories of the younger women (Yael and Aziza) more interesting than Revka's and Shirah's stories. I also thought the last bit really picked up and that's when I really wanted to keep reading. ( )
  LibraryCin | Jan 11, 2015 |
It is hard to rate the first book of the year. This rating could be higher or even lower. I had many mixed feelings reading this story but essentially it is a story of relationships. Women's relationships with each other. The story is set in 70 CE and is a retelling of the Jewish hold-out against the armies of Romans on Masada. According to history, two women and five children survived to tell the story. This is that story. I like Alice Hoffman as an author but this story seemed different than any other I've read by the author. It is a mixture of Jewish belief woven through with magic and ancient medicine and worship of the goddess of Ashtoreth. There was something in the story that reminded me of The Red Tent. This is our January f2f bookclub read and it will be interesting to discuss it. Medicine was a very interesting topic in this book and more so probably because I am a nurse. Medicine was initially woman's area and was only taken over later by men (from my studies of Medical Sociology). This book really explores woman's role in medicine. Ms Hoffman often incorporates magic in her writing but in this one, there is less magical realism and more a sense that what the women believed were spells and magic was really the beginnings of healing arts. I think the book does a fair representation of Judaism. I think even the weaving in of the goddess Ashtoreth and the overlap of mystical and religious elements probably is accurate though those were the areas I found troublesome. ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 1, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
You could call it a hoopla sandwich. On the back cover, a blurb from a famous, widely respected author describing the novel as “a major contribution to 21st-century literature.” On the jacket flap, a publisher’s summary proclaiming this book to be the writer’s “masterpiece.” Yet in between, instead of a gripping work of fiction that lives up to this praise, is a long novel full of middling descriptions, hackneyed characters and histrionic plot twists.
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Let my burden be your burden, and yours be mine.
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We had been wandering for so long I forgot what it was like to live within walls or sleep through the night.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Do not combine the book with the "The Dovekeepers TV Mini-Series" video.
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Book description
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.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 145161747X, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, October 2011: Yael was born of a dead mother and father who knows how to become invisible. Revka learned silence when her grandsons lost their voices after witnessing their mother’s brutal murder. Aziza became a boy to protect herself, and hates being forced to turn back into a woman. And Shirah will do anything to protect those she loves from the horrors of the world. The power and violence of these women is evident in every word of The Dovekeepers. Hoffman’s prose is vivid and unforgettable, scorching like the desert heat, and will stay with you long after you finish the last page. A story of sacrifice, endurance, and above all, survival, The Dovekeepers is homage to anyone who’s ever held fast to their beliefs in the face of nearly insurmountable adversity. --Malissa Kent

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:33 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A tale inspired by the tragic first-century massacre of hundreds of Jewish people at Masada presents the stories of a hated daughter, a baker's wife, a girl disguised as a warrior, and a medicine woman who keep doves and secrets while Roman soldiers drawnear.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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