I know you are not supposed to judge a book by its cover but this cover grabbed my attention and wouldn’t let go. There was something hauntingly beautiful about the young woman on the cover. I had to know what her story was. Having read a brief synopsis of the book I knew that it was the *perfect* book for me. Historical fiction and magical realism are two of my favorite genres. Add in strong women characters and it was almost too good to be true. With that level of exopectation, I was a bit afraid it wouldn’t live up to it, but Alice Hoffman does not disappoint.
The Dovekeepers is the story of four very different women who come to the fortresses of Masada during the Roman siege of Jerusalem in 70 C.E
Yael the assassin’s daughter who grew up hated and dismissed by her father; Revka the grandmother who survived the horrific slaying of her husband and then her daughter. Shirah who longs to fight like a man against those who have taken everything away from her family; and Shirah the medicine woman who is scorned by all until her magic and healing skills are needed. Each of these women work in the dovecote where the spend their days gathering droppings for fertilizer and coming to know one another.
It is a long novel that is told four parts, one by each woman. Their voices are clear and pronounced, carrying the weight of their respective journeys to the fortress with them. Here and there are signs of Hoffman’s penchance for magical realism but they are not overdone or larger than life. Rather they are just a part of the characters. Life in the tight quarters of the fortress is fraught with secrets and untold danger for each. The novel is not set at a breakneck speed despite the danger the characters are in. It moves at a slower pace allowing the reader to understand the characters, their motivations and their decisions. Some parts may seem to be bogged down in descriptions of what could be seen as minutia but these details blend together to create a backdrop rich in details and authenticity. When the end approaches even though you know that only a handful of people survived the massacre it still is heart wrenching and shocking. The story and the characters will stay with you long after you finish it.