Thursday, June 28, 2012

Dovekeepers: Book Review




Dovekeepers
By Alice Hoffman


Alice Hoffman wrote this novel from  her visit to Masada. She wrote it on the basis of two women, and five children survived, according to Josephus  It took her five years in the making. 

In 70 BCE the Jerusalem Revolt is taken place. The Romans were treating the Jews terribly, unreasonable taxes, desecrated their temple, unable to practice their religion freely.   There are a few last holdouts that the zealot Jews went. One of those places, was the fortress, Masada.  Masada was a fortress made by King Herod.   Masada, was a valuable piece of land, it was situated in the best spot. Because this was the hub of highway from Rome to Jerusalem.  Four years before Masada was a fortress for the Roman soldiers.  It was taken by a small group of zealot Jews. 

The story is about four Jewish women, how they connect with each other by means of being a dovekeeper.

  Yael, is the first women we meet.  Her mother dies in childbirth with her.  Her father is a assassin, in Jerusalem.  He blames her for her mother's death. He doesn't want anything to do with her.  He distances himself, by hiring someone to take care of his daughter.   During the Jerusalem revolt, Ya'el and her father escape Jerusalem. They are traveling in the desert. While in the desert she meets, Ben Simon and he's wife.  There is a attraction between Ben Simon and Ya'el.  She becomes pregnant.....

Revka, is married to a Jewish baker.  He is killed during the Jerusalem revolt.  Her family, her daughter, and her son in law, and two grandchildren are traveling in the desert.  A group of Romans spy on to the group of two women, while the son in law is hunting for food.   They rape, and torture, Revka's daughter. The children witness this, and have severe trauma, they are without speech.

Aziza is a warrior's daughter and raised as a boy, she finds out the secret of her birth, and who her father is.  Shira, is Aziza's mother. She is the medicine woman, and healer, with powerful magic spells.

All these women's lives intersect because of the caring of the doves, in the dovecote.
The dovecote is where the doves stayed.
The picture above is a dovecote. If you see the opening.

I enjoyed reading Dovekeepers.  There are not many books written about women during biblical times.  There is plenty of romance books, but not historical fiction, with women as the main figures.
I learned so much reading, and of course did my own research. 

I enjoyed learning about these four women lives.  But also learning about how they cooked, baked, drew water, etc. Learning about how Jewish practices were in biblical times, how women were treated, Roman and Jewish history, what women thought, and what they thought of medicine, and magic.  What life was like living in a fortress tucked away from everything. How did they get food? nessesities? etc?  We all know what happens at the end.

The Romans take Masada. Before the Romans enter Masada, the Jews have taken their lives. They know what will happen if they lived. They would have become slaves. There was so much tension and fighting among the Romans, Jews, Women, Men,  all because of who was stronger.

 I actually got into the character's heads and could understand why they chose to do this. What a terrible time they lived in. Without too many choices, and resources. The only chose they felt they had was suicide. They did not feel G-d was going to help, and protect them.

If you like to read strong women characters, magic, and history this book you will enjoy. One of the reason, I enjoy Alice Hoffman's novels is her magical telling of story. There is plenty with some magic spells, and amulets.  At first the book is a bit confusing of places and names. But after awhile you will connect with them.  What I liked is she split the book in four parts, for each of the four women. It was told in her perspective, till it came to the conclusion.

Our book club, Beach Babes Book Brigade, or known as the 4B's Book Club had a guest speaker at our book club and opened it up to the Jewish Grand Strand Community.  Our speaker was, Rabbi Debbie. She was a Rabbi in the Boston area.  But, when she moved down here, she retired from that and began teaching at the local university.   It was great having her discuss Masada, and Dovekeepers. I will be doing a recap on my other blog at Susan's Literary Cafe.