by Alice Hoffman
The Dovekeepers is a tale of survival told in the alternating voices of four substantial and mesmerizing women who were expelled from Jerusalem, some as refugees of the Jewish-Roman wars in 70 CD, and some as the result of another woman’s scorn. Indeed the plot is loosely woven around the historical evidence surrounding the first Jewish Roman wars and the Siege of Masada. Readers will be spellbound by the tale of Yael the assassin’s daughter who betrays her only friend in order to discover her true self; they will admire the steadfastness of Revka, who witnesses a scene that would drive a lesser woman mad; they will respect Shirah for her wisdom and mysticism; and they will adore Aziza for her courage and humanity. The novel’s plot matches its desert setting—it is all at once heated, dark, intense and desperate. The protagonists come to life via the well-researched mythology and mysticism of ancient Judea, and even more specifically of the women of that era. And while all four struggle for survival through brute strength, determination, love, and an unwavering faith in God, the reader will be surprised to find that very few Jews actually survived Masada. The best historical novel of this type since The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant, I cannot imagine anyone reader of historical fiction who wouldn’t want to read this remarkable and startling novel.