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The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

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The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Post by parthianbow » Thu March 1st, 2012, 2:18 pm

Every December, I trawl through the newspaper articles 'Best Books of the Year', noting down any titles that appeal to me. I'm picky, so it's usually only a few. In December 2011, The Dovekeepers was one of two titles that I wrote down. I'm usually pleased by these choices, recommended by other authors or academics, but rarely am I transported the way that I was upon reading this magical book.

I won't delve deeply into the plot. Suffice it to say that the novel concerns four women who find themselves in the fortress of Masada after the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans. Through the eyes of these four women, Hoffman weaves an extraordinarily luminous tale, breathing life into ancient Judaea and its people, their customs, religion and habits. We learn much about the Jewish religion, the practices of witchcraft and herblore, the tending of crops and livestock, and the claustrophobia of living in an isolated fortress in the desert.

As most of you know, the story of Masada was a tragic one. As such, this book is full of harrowing and haunting images - particularly the final pages, which constantly had me in tears. Yet it is also full of the love that mothers have for their children, lovers have for each other, and of the deep bonds of comradeship that bring men to fight together to the end. I was entranced from the first page by Hoffman's wonderful writing. As the pages flew by, I found myself counting how many I had left until the end - because I desperately did not want to finish it. For me, that is a rare occurrence, and the mark of a great book and a great writer. Bravo, Alice Hoffman!

Although this novel was published in 2011, I read it in 2012. It's currently the best book I've read this year. It will be very hard for another to knock it off that position.
Ben Kane
Bestselling author of Roman military fiction.
Spartacus - UK release 19 Jan. 2012. US release June 2012.

Twitter: @benkaneauthor

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Post by fljustice » Thu March 1st, 2012, 5:00 pm

Thanks for the review, Ben. Several people who know my tastes have recommended this one to me. I'll have to give it a try.
Faith L. Justice, Author Website

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Post by annis » Thu March 1st, 2012, 7:24 pm

I've seen several rave reviews for Dovekeepers, Ben, but yours is the first one I've seen from a male perspective. It's one I keep meaning to get to, but I'm getting slower and Mt TBR keeps growing proportionately higher :) I might have to make the effort, though. There's not that much HF around about Masada, surprisingly, though I did read ole Ernest K Gann's Masada aka The Antagonists many years ago...

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Post by EC2 » Thu March 1st, 2012, 9:37 pm

Thanks Ben. It's on my TBR along with Hawk Quest.
I really must find time to read more books.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal


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Post by annis » Sat March 10th, 2012, 8:12 am

A lot of readers love this book, so I'm probably goiing to get into trouble for saying that athough compelling and vividly imagined, Dovekeepers was unfortunately marred for me by excessive info dumping; beautifully done, but indigestibly there none the less. I suspected as I read (and have since confirmed) that Alice Hoffman is herself Jewish, because there are few details of Jewish custom, myth/folklore, religious belief or ritual that she hasn't managed to educationally squash into her novel somewhere. That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the story very much, but ln this case I definitely felt that less would have been more.

In style Dovekeepers is stately, as I see it, in the manner of some ancient ceremonial women's dance, in which the four different women each stamp out their own measures, but also come together as one in a ritualstic, pre-ordained pattern.
Last edited by annis on Sat March 10th, 2012, 10:23 pm, edited 9 times in total.

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Post by wendy » Sat March 10th, 2012, 5:20 pm

Thanks Ben. This is my book club's choice for May. I'm really excited!
Wendy K. Perriman
Fire on Dark Water (Penguin, 2011)

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