Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

This novel set in ancient Israel took the author over five years to write.  It is a wonderful blend of history, imagination, and lyricism.  It is the tale of four women who come to Masada (a jewish fortress in the Judaean desert overlooking the Dead Sea), each by a different path, and each with secrets about who they are, where they came from, and who they love.

The history of Masada itself is quite extraordinary.  It was built by Herod the Great.  The summit of Masada sits 190 feet above sea level and about 1,500 feet above the level of the Dead Sea.  The "Snake Path" leading in climbs 900 feet in elevation. Fifteen long storerooms kept essential provisions for time of siege.  After Judaea became a province of the Roman empire, it became a refuge for the last survivors of the Jewish rebellion.  In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans.  Only two women and five children survived.  Today Masada is one of the Jewish people's greatest symbols (next to Jerusalem), and Jewish soldiers take an oath there that it shall not fall again.
This is the tragic backdrop that is the setting for this story.  It is a story about destiny, love (how it defines us and shapes us), and sacrifice of unimaginable proportions.  It is a powerful story rich with the history of daily life two thousand years ago containing mythology and magic and told through the eyes of bold and resourceful as well as sensuous women.  


Marie said...

I really should read this. I tried to a while back and couldn't quite hang on, but it does seem like such a wonderful book.

KY Warrior Librarian said...

It takes off slowly, but builds in intensity. She really does a nice job of weaving the various storylines together with the historical backdrop.

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