Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I have been into historical fiction lately, and this book was perfect reading for me.  I loved the Red Tent by Anita Diamant and The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman which is also written through the voices of women appealed to me.

The book itself is in 4 sections,  each a narrative of the four main characters:  Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shira (Aziza's mother).  There is a final section that is a bit of an epilogue (which I won't ruin for you and leave it at that).

I have always found the story of Masada so intriguing, heart breaking and tragic.  In short, a group of Jews, trying to escape from Roman soldiers finds refuge at Herod's palace in the desert, called Masada. They live there for a few years before the Romans figure out where they are and the soldiers are relentless in capturing the well secured Masada and its rebels.  Eventually the Romans build a ramp to the walls of the Palace and the Rebels fearing captivity take their own lives.  Josephus wrote about this era and I think this is how we know a lot of what happened on Masada (the experts can correct me here).

The Dovekeepers tells the story of four of the residents of Masada during that time.  Alice Hoffman does an amazing job describing the brutality of the Roman era in Judea (Israel).  She also describes each of the characters' lives in vivid detail, and I found that I really connected with them.  We really get a sense of each character's relationships with their families, their romances and their surroundings.  Yael is mysterious with her red hair and the way she can talk to the animals.  Revka, the wife of a baker, is motherly and protective.  Aziza is rebellious and won't let the fact that she is a woman stop her from male-centric activities like wielding a bow and arrow.  Shira who might be considered a witch by some, knows her way around spells and potions.

The book itself is intense at times, this is the Roman Legion we are dealing with.  I think if it was a movie, I'd probably turn my head away for some of those scenes.

Like The Red Tent, there is idol worship (mostly with Shira), and since that is a big no no in Judaism, I do wonder who did what in Biblical times when it comes to idol worship...or is that just a plot thing for the books.  (Anyone want to shed some light?)

I've never read any of Josephus' works, and now I feel I should to get more of the backstory.

Years ago, I watched part of the mini series, I was only 9 so I really don't remember too much of it (and I'm pretty sure I was sent to bed before it was over).

When I read a book, especially one like this with a lot of detail, I do wonder whether they will make a movie out of it.  I'm sure the book will still be better though :)

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