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Dovekeepers (Hoffman) - Book Reviews

Book Reviews
Nothing [Hoffman's] written would prepare you for the gravitas of her new book, an immersive historical novel about Masada during the Roman siege in the 1st century. The Dovekeepers is an enormously ambitious, multi-part story, richly decorated with the details of life 2,000 years ago.... Hoffman doesn't ignore the larger-than-life leaders and their deadly clash, but her creative path into Masada is from the ground up: not through its generals and warriors, but through its mothers, daughters and wives. The result is a high-minded feminist story of unassailable seriousness.
Ron Charles - Washington Post


Almost too dense to bear, Hoffman's 23rd novel is brimming with doom, based on the story of the mass suicide of Jewish Zealots at Masada as recorded by the historian Josephus. Set in the first century, the blood-soaked saga unfolds from the perspectives of four courageous Jewish women whose lives converge in the dovecotes of the rebel desert stronghold. Yael is an assassin's daughter who flees Jerusalem as it falls to the Romans, arriving pregnant with the child of her father's married colleague. Revka, her husband murdered by the Romans, comes with her two grandsons, rendered mute after witnessing their mother's disembowelment by Roman soldiers. Shirah, from Alexandria, possibly a witch, brings her beautiful daughter Aziza, who having learned the ways of men among the tribesmen of Moab, uses her warrior's skills to fight in this last stand against the Roman legions. Suspicious of one another early on, the women, each with her own secrets and talents, powerful lovers and magical spells, soon develop a loyalty so fierce that they are willing to sacrifice everything for each other and for the children they are entrusted with. Hoffman can tell a tale and knows about creating compassionate characters, but the leaden archaic prose style she uses tells more than it shows. Massive descriptive paragraphs slow the action, until, by the end, the reader is simply worn out.
Publishers Weekly


Only two women and five children of more than 900 people survived the Roman siege of Masada in the year 73 C.E. after the suicide pact of the Jewish rebels there, according to the historian Josephus. In this well-researched novel, Hoffman vividly brings this tragedy to life, as four women who take care of the dovecote at the fortress tell their stories. Seeking refuge at Masada after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple are Yael, the daughter and sister of Sicarii, professional assassins, and Revka, who with her two mute grandsons has just witnessed the horrific murder of the boys' mother in the desert. Shirah and her warrior daughter Aziza come from Moab. Considered a healer and a witch, Shirah still worships the ancient goddess Ashtoreth. Hoffman finds poetry and beauty, dignity and honor, even in those perilous, blood-soaked times. VERDICT This powerful and gripping novel about survival and endurance will stay with you for a long time. —Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Library Journal


Hoffman births literature from tragedy: the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple, the siege of Masada and the loss of Zion.... The plot is intriguingly complex, with only a single element unresolved. An enthralling tale rendered with consummate literary skill.
Kirkus Reviews




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