Book Review: The Dovekeepers – Alice Hoffman

Title: The Dovekeepers
Author: Alice Hoffman
ISBN: 9781451617474
Pages: 512
Release Date: October 4, 2011
Publisher: Scribner
Genre: Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary:

The year is 70 C.E. and the Romans are doing their best to suppress a widespread rebellion in Judea by their Jewish subjects. Four very different women come together as dovekeepers at the Jewish fortress of Masada. Yael is a young woman who has experienced much pain and heartbreak in her life, while Revka is a baker who has come to Masada with her grandchildren after witnessing her daughter’s death. Shirah and Aziza are mother and daughter, each with their own hopes and secrets. These four women experience their own tragedy and heartbreak while moving towards an unavoidable fate.

Review:

There is one very important fact of which I believe readers should be aware prior to picking up The Dovekeepers. Without it, the book might seem to wander aimlessly, without any real direction. But with it, the book becomes a suspenseful read, as readers become aware of how desperate the situation is about to become for these four women. However, some might consider this a spoiler (though I don’t), so please consider yourself warned and skip to the next paragraph if you aren’t interested in reading about it. If you are, the information is this: Masada was captured by the Romans in 70 C.E. Of all the Jews in the fortress, just two women and five children escaped the massacre. Now, while reading The Dovekeepers, the question becomes which of these four vibrant, dynamic women will escape, and which will meet their ends?

Of the four women in this ambitious novel, it was Yael who captured my heart from the beginning. Perhaps this is because she is the first narrator, or because the most pages are devoted to her story, but I believe it is because of how broken she is. She yearns for some peace, to be whole, but she knows she never will. She is haunted by all she has lost and by all she foresees she will lose before it is all over. The pain that comes through every word she says will brand itself on the reader’s heart. Yet, for all this raw pain, she has a beautiful soul and a fiery personality. Though all the women in this book have an interesting story to tell and are fully realized, three-dimensional characters, it is Yael who was the true masterpiece of this novel.

Alice Hoffman clearly undertook an inordinate amount of research to create the atmosphere of The Dovekeepers, and it pays off in every detail. Readers are completely immersed in this world; she brings the time period to life. The descriptions are amazing and intricate; the book transports the reader to another time and place. Her writing style is similarly lush. Even when she is talking about the most difficult of circumstances, the beauty of her prose shines through, making the burdens of this novel a little easier to bear.

Though The Dovekeepers does have some issues – namely that it does take awhile for the story to move forward – it’s still an absolutely breathtaking novel. The balance of Hoffman’s amazing prose with the history and incredibly realistic characters creates a wonderful reading experience. There is a lot of pain over the course of the book, but it never becomes too much for the reader. Hoffman is an incredible storyteller, and that shines through in every page of the book. I can’t describe how much this book moved me, nor how sorry I was to see it end. It’s an impressive accomplishment, and I look forward to seeing where Hoffman goes from here.

Affiliate Links:

Buy this book from Powell’s Books
Buy this book from Amazon.com
Buy this book from your local Indiebound bookstore

Comments

  1. Reading this book felt like running a marathon (ha! like I’ve ever done that, but this is what I imagine it would feel like) YET I found every detail breathtaking. I absolutely fell in love with Yael and Aziza, both such passionate and strong young women. That ending absolutely held me captivated…I felt like I was watching a movie. I would considering reading this book a huge accomplishment for me, but I am so glad I did.

  2. Reading this book felt like running a marathon (ha! like I’ve ever done that, but this is what I imagine it would feel like) YET I found every detail breathtaking. I absolutely fell in love with Yael and Aziza, both such passionate and strong young women. That ending absolutely held me captivated…I felt like I was watching a movie. I would considering reading this book a huge accomplishment for me, but I am so glad I did.

  3. I’ve read several reviews of this book, but I think that yours has pushed me over the edge. I already have this on my Kindle and will try to get to it soon. I saw a short video of the author somewhere, maybe her website. Anyway, she described her feelings while she was researching this story. Very stirring. Thanks for sharing, Swapna.

  4. I’ve read several reviews of this book, but I think that yours has pushed me over the edge. I already have this on my Kindle and will try to get to it soon. I saw a short video of the author somewhere, maybe her website. Anyway, she described her feelings while she was researching this story. Very stirring. Thanks for sharing, Swapna.

  5. I’ve read a lot of reviews of this one and it seems like it’s either a hit or miss with readers. I want to try this one when I can devote a good chunk of time to it.

  6. I’ve read a lot of reviews of this one and it seems like it’s either a hit or miss with readers. I want to try this one when I can devote a good chunk of time to it.

  7. I have read that this is a very dense and complex book, and that only heightens my curiosity and desire to read it. I have it both in print and on audio, and I think I am going to try the audio first. If that doesn’t really fit, I will move to print. Your descriptions of this book are really amazing and I can’t wait to give it a try. A very beautiful review today.

  8. I have read that this is a very dense and complex book, and that only heightens my curiosity and desire to read it. I have it both in print and on audio, and I think I am going to try the audio first. If that doesn’t really fit, I will move to print. Your descriptions of this book are really amazing and I can’t wait to give it a try. A very beautiful review today.

  9. I really need to find time to read this. It is out in paperback and still my copy sits unread…

  10. I really need to find time to read this. It is out in paperback and still my copy sits unread…

  11. wow Swapna you almost make me want to try to go back to this. I thought the first part of the book I read was very Tell don’t show which made it hard for me to engage with the book. Which is why I stopped reading it.

  12. wow Swapna you almost make me want to try to go back to this. I thought the first part of the book I read was very Tell don’t show which made it hard for me to engage with the book. Which is why I stopped reading it.

  13. You liked this one more than I did. I thought it was too long and didn’t feel the characters had “voices” – they all felt the same to me. I really think I wasn’t smart enough for it.

  14. You liked this one more than I did. I thought it was too long and didn’t feel the characters had “voices” – they all felt the same to me. I really think I wasn’t smart enough for it.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I read this book for the first time several months ago. Since then, I have recommended it to several friends, one of whom started reading it 2 weeks ago. As she reads, she sends me texts and now I find myself reading it again! It is every bit as good the second time!!!

  16. Anonymous says:

    I read this book for the first time several months ago. Since then, I have recommended it to several friends, one of whom started reading it 2 weeks ago. As she reads, she sends me texts and now I find myself reading it again! It is every bit as good the second time!!!

Leave a Reply

Comment Policy:  I welcome comments and read each one I receive. If your comment needs a response, I will provide it in a timely manner, as I read every comment I receive. Please keep your comments civil and polite! I reserve the right to delete any comments that are rude or inappropriate. Because of spam, I have to moderate comments on old posts. Please be patient - I will approve your comment quickly.

!-- Quantcast Tag -->