Monday 3 October 2011

The Dovekeepers

Finished October 2
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
This is a dense book with lots of plot, character, and insight. Inspired by the true events when Roman soldiers laid siege to the fortress of Masada in 70 C.E., Hoffman has told the story of four women who worked as dovekeepers at the fortress. Each woman takes her turn in telling her story, and each story also picks up where the previous one left off in the story of life a Masada and the women's relationships with each other.
First we have Yael. Yael's mother died in childbirth and her father has resented her all her life. She has grown to be self-reliant, and her journey across the desert from Jerusalem to Masada has taught her many things and given her both a burden and a gift. Her life at Masada is also a journey, where she acquires more knowledge and skills.
Second, we have Revka, the oldest of the women. Revka fled her small village with her daughter, son-in-law, and two grandsons after her husband, a baker, was killed by the Romans. Her life changed again in her journey across the desert, with the death of her daughter turning her son-in-law into a different man and silencing her grandsons. Her life at Masada begins with silence, but she gradually becomes close to the other dovekeepers and their children, and finds a new life.
Third we have Aziza, daughter of a warrior, lover of a warrior, and secretly a warrior in her own right. Aziza has be born three times and has had two names. She is a child of metal, and is unflinching when facing danger. She knows her own limitations and isn't afraid to be true to herself, even if it means defying those who love her. Aziza must rediscover her true self in Masada and play the role she is destined to play.
Fourth, we have Shirah, born in Alexandria to a woman dedicated to the priests and with a secret that determines her life and the life of those she loves. She has been far in her life, travelling to Moab and then to Masada. She is a woman of water, and of power and uses her powers judiciously. She loves her children and tries to defy their destinies even as she fears she cannot.
This book tells not only the history of Masada, a fortress where only two women and five children survived the siege, but also of women's roles, their relationship with other women and with men, and the struggles and courage all the players in this historical event underwent.
This book took longer than I thought it would to read, because there was so much to it, a depth of meaning that wouldn't be rushed. Wonderfully written, with complex characters and a great story, it is a book that will stay with me.

1 comment:

  1. Alice Hoffman will be in Toronto for an event in conversation with Indigo CEO Heather Reisman.

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2011
    Indigo Manulife Centre
    55 Bloor Street West
    Toronto, ON

    Here is a link to the Facebook event: