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TOP 500 REVIEWERon April 30, 2012
Story Description:

Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine-hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily 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 an expert assassin, 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 young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior's daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow solider. Shirah, born in Alexandria, 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. All are dovekeepers and all are also keeping secrets about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman's masterpiece.

My Review:

I have read a lot of novels about ancient Jerusalem during this era but I must begin this particular review with one word - WOW!! I was completely entranced with Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers which took place during the Roman siege during the first century abbreviated as C.E. which stands for Common Era. Common Era refers to the years counting forward from the birth of Jesus. C.E. has mostly replaced the old use of A.D. in an effort to appease non-theological references and non-believers. The use of Common Era is a more accepted practice now.

The Jewish war was written around 75 C.E. by a man named Flavius Josephus who was a Jewish historian.

Masada was a desert fortress situated at the top of a rock cliff at the western end of the Judean Desert and overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada is the Hebrew word for fortress.

Hoffman delivers a breathtaking account of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. In 73 C.E. the Roman Governor Flavius Silva marched against Masada with the Tenth Legion. The Romans quickly built camps at the base of Masada in preparation to lay siege to it. They built massive walls and constructed a rampart, then built a huge ramp, moved the battering ram up the ramp and breached the wall of the fortress.

The story is told through the voices of four different women: Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah. Each of these women had secrets about where they came from, who they are, who their fathers were, and who they love. Each of the women's stories bound them together throughout the novel emotionally and symbolically. The change in each woman's story flowed effortlessly and leant to the dynamic retelling of this sad and tragic period in history.

The dramatic end to this story will rip your heart out and leave tear-stains on your pages as you turn them. The title The Dovekeepers has a symbolic meaning throughout the story.

I've read a lot of Hoffman's work and I believe this to be her very best. I believe this will become a classic in the future and a novel that will be talked about in book groups, people's living rooms, in the news and will be a bestseller. I for sure will be touting the merits of this book to anyone and everyone who will listen. Kudos to you Ms. Hoffman!
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As a longtime fan of Alice Hoffman, I was thrilled to find this latest offering. This author is known for her strong female characters and in The Dovekeepers she does not disappoint. The lure of four strong females was irresistible.

Set on the plains of Masada, four women of varied backgrounds find themselves at a crossroad in history. Two survive, two do not. The two women and five children are the only survivors of the massacre at Masada.

What started out as a personal look at history through the eyes of the women soon became bogged down with too much history. Yes, it was realistic. Yes, I did feel like I was present. But in this case I believe the writer's adage of "Show, Don't Tell" should have been more literally followed. For me there was not enough dialogue to move the story forward at a quicker pace. I felt the story was bogged down with weighty explanations of history. While I am a firm believer that history should be honored, I also believe that sometimes too much history can be a bad thing. After all, this is a work of fiction.

Having said that, I do honor the amount of research and preparation that went into this book. I'm sure the author lived the lives of her characters as she researched them. Well done on that score!

For my tastes, the book was drawn-out and tended to slow down in too many places. I found myself being distracted by outside forces too much. Not the kind of book I couldn't put down.

I look forward, however, to Ms. Hoffman's next offering.
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on December 30, 2011
Dovekeepers was a beautiful read I lined up to get a crack at months ago. Told separately by four amazing strong women, the common thread of dove keeping binds them together as women's work during the days of Masada. There are hInts of magic realism here and some remarkable characters that may break your heart. Against the backdrop of the Judean mountain called Masada these four women come together to learn and unravel their own secrets. My only criticism of this novel was the shyer length. It might have benefitted from a more aggressive edit.

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on January 16, 2014
I am loving the Dovekeepers. It is a captivating excerpt of a time in history that quickly drew me in to the characters and the various scenes there were living in during that time. I found my imagination and senses drawn deeply into the tone of that time in history as well. Each characters inner and outer life is individually and uniquely portrayed in such a way that one cannot help but get the essence of character.
The four women bring the novel even more to life in the individualized life adventures however it is their inner lives, the secrets they keep, their individual passion leanings that drew me in the more. As well I found the correlations of these woman's lives in our modern times is insightful and deepening.
Not looking forward to not being on the journey of life with these women as they have been a delight to get to know.
It is clear in the rhythm of the story that Alice Hoffman has done her homework on this novel and I look forward to reading more from her.
Best novel I have read in my life that educates, inspires, connects and supports the birthing of my faith and those early days of the whys and how.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 1, 2015
The Dovekeepers is my absolute favourite adult novel. The writing is so rich that I felt like I was in Ancient Israel and when I finished the book, I felt homesick for a country I have never been to. You will feel like you are in Ancient Israel, running from fear and enemies and fighting for your life. This book is narrated by four women, not all of whom are likeable but all of whom will stay with you long after you put the book down. This is more than just historical fiction - it is also a part of the magical realism genre, making the book suitable for lovers of history and fantasy. It's very rare that I give a book 5/5 stars, but I don't hesitate to give The Dovekeepers a perfect score. This book is beautiful, tragic, painful, and moving. I recommend it to everyone who likes history, magic, action, and love.
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on January 11, 2012
This book had my interest from begining to the end.The characters are full of depth and at the end I left me wanting more. The growth of each character developing with the actual historic event was well done. I have recommeded this book to my friends who are now reading it.
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.. a choice we made at the beginning, to choose death rather than slavery.'

In this novel, Alice Hoffman attempts a retelling of the Jewish resistance at Masada during the Roman siege during the first century CE. I've since read that the only account we have of this event is `The Jewish War' written around 75 CE by Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian who became a Roman citizen. Masada, according to Josephus, was fortified by Herod the Great (between 37 and 31 BCE) as a refuge for himself in case of a revolt. The historical context, as I understand it, can be summarised as follows: in 66 CE, at the beginning of the first Jewish Revolt against the Roman Empire, a group of Jewish extremists known as the Sicarii (a subset of the Zealots) overcame the Roman garrison at Masada, and settled there. Three years later, after the Siege of Jerusalem and the subsequent destruction of the Second Temple, other members of the Sicarii as well as other Jewish families fled from Jerusalem and settled at Masada.

`We were a city and a world unto ourselves, with more people arriving all the time.'

The account of the siege of Masada was supposedly related to Josephus by two women who had hidden inside a cistern together with five children, thus avoiding the mass suicide that supposedly ended the siege.

`.. some days were meant to remember that the past was with us still.'

`The Dovekeepers' tells the story of the siege through the interactions of six different women: Shirah, the Witch of Moab, and her two daughters Aziza and Nahara; Yael, the daughter of a political assassin; Revka, whose husband has been killed by the Romans and whose daughter has been brutalised by them; and Channa, the reclusive wife of the leader of the Jewish rebels. Shirah, Aziza, Nahara, Yael and Revka are the dove keepers: tending Masada's dovecotes.

The novel has four main sections, narrated by Yael, Revka, Shirah and Aziza who each describe their lives before arriving at Masada. While these four stories are diverse, the voices seem remarkably similar. This may have been intended (given that the story is being related by a survivor) but it sometimes hampered my reading of the story. At times, too, I felt that the events being recounted were overwhelmed by the language used to describe them. As a consequence, some of the actions taken seemed contrived.

This is not a fast read: it takes time to make sense of the four individual narratives, to appreciate how they come together to provide the setting for the ending of the siege. Life at Masada, surviving precariously in the close quarters of a fortress, must have been difficult. Internal dissent and the difficulties of growing their own crops (with fertilizer provided from the dovecotes) were frequently as much of a challenge as Roman attack.

And the end? The story recounted by the survivors is horrific. I did not particularly enjoy this novel but it made me curious about the events surrounding the siege of Masada.

`A story can be many things to many people.'

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on December 16, 2013
I don't know if I was so engrossed because I had been to Israel and Masada but I think other readers would be engrossed too. It is the story of the dove keepers of Masada before and during the time of the roman invasions. Be warned it is a bit gruesome in parts but it was a time of war and some of the descriptions are graphic. Nonetheless the characters are great. This is a novel I had read and bought for my daughter in Canada via Amazon. Based in history and a very good read.
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on May 14, 2013
I have recommended this book to all my friends and I also recommend it to anyone who loves 'history'' will enjoy this story. You visually see in your mind the fate that awaited the Jews on Masada. It is one of the books in my library that I will NOT loan out. If you wish to read it and not buy it , then go to the library and borrow it but be warned that you may want to buy it for yourself.
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on March 13, 2013
We read this book for our book club. I found the book interesting from the historical angle, but too long and very dark. The 4 female characters were an interesting thread but some questions I had were never resolved to my mind. If this had not been a book club selection I do think that I would have chosen it or finished it.
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