Published 2011, Simon & Schuster, ISBN 978-1-4516-1747-4; ISBN 978-4516-1749-8 (ebook)

The Dovekeepers is the first novel I’ve read by author, Alice Hoffman. I was quite surprised to discover she is a prolific author, with over 25 novels to her name. Her genres are typically fantasy, contemporary, young adult and children novels. It purportedly took 5 years to research and write her historical fiction novel, The Dovekeepers.

It was 5 years well-spent. The Dovekeepers is an intriguing, well-researched novel of four unique women whose lives converge at Masada, Judea.

I want to include a bit of background about Masada, which in itself is quite fascinating. During the time period of The Dovekeepers, Summer 70 C.E. to Winter 73. C.E., the Roman Empire was in the final process of taking control of Israel. Jerusalem had fallen, the Temple was destroyed and villages eradicated. Jewish people either converted to Roman customs or were enslaved or slaughtered.

The Dovekeepers follows the journeys of Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah to the final stand by Zealots at Masada, a fortress built by Herod between 37 and 31 C.E. Masada was considered impenetrable and used as a base for Jewish warriors to attack Roman legions and protection of women and children. The image below shows the isolation of Masada and the incredible challenge of conquering such a fortress.

The Dovekeepers is sectioned into four segments, each passage relating the history of the four women told from their individual points of view. All the women carry self-perceived sins, shame and secrets, which they take great care to keep hidden from each other and the refugees at Masada. Should their deepest, intimate experiences be exposed, they face ostracism or worse. Their one common thread is they are dove keepers at Masada.

Despite their efforts to hide their pasts, as months pass and their situation at Masada becomes desperate, Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah slowly uncover each other’s true natures. When the Romans begin their final assault on Masada in 73 C.E., their loyalty and attachment forever cement each to the other.

An exceptional read about a period of time when women’s lives were a mystery, not being considered worthy of ancient recording. In fact, the only historian of the time was Joseph ben Matityahu, who became a Roman citizen and assumed the name of Josephus Flavius.

Rating: 5/5 Stars (Exceptional)

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