Book Review: The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman, is a strong and powerful tales of the Jews of Masada, the last fortress of the Jewish people when the Romans conquered Judea. Four women tell their stories, weaving their lives and the terrible last days of the fortress together in a compelling tale.

Ms. Hoffman’s first historical novel, it is a masterpiece. Hard to read sometimes, as the reader seems to be right there with the women, struggling with them through their emotions and passions in the overwrought final months and days of the fortress.

The power and grace of Ms. Hoffman’s words is striking. Even as the characters struggle with the deepest depths of emotion, there is time to turn and see the beauty of the birds’ annual migration to Africa for the winter.

The entire sky swelled with flocks of larks and scarlet rosefinch. There were buntings, turtledoves, brilliant Abyssinian rollers, glossy ibis. There were whole colonies of glorious yellow and turquoise bee-eaters, who called to each other, even in the night. A huge expanse of color drifted above us, all moving south, searching for grasslands. Sometimes they were like clouds along the horizon and other times they became the entire sky. To see the vibrant waves of birds in shades of red and blue above the white desert was a miracle.

Another character, speaking on deciding to journey to Masada after losing everything to the Romans:

The world was broken, and there was only one road that remained, splayed open before as if made of bones.

I understood that by making this mountain our destination, we were headed for a no-man’s land, a place from which there was no return. We had been banished from the world as we’d known it. We had seen too much and lost too much to walk into another town and unload the few belongings we still had and start anew.

In times of despair, people turn on each other at the same time they turn to each other. That truth is made clear in this book, every word conveying despair and yet the hope that people feel even in the blackest moments.

I most definitely recommend this book. Five out of five stars.

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