Reviews for Dovekeepers

Booklist Reviews 2011 May #2
Hoffman makes ancient history live and breathe in this compelling story, set in 70 CE, detailing the siege of the mountain stronghold Masada, where 900 Jews held out for months against the Romans. Hoffman's novel follows four extraordinary women. Red-haired Yael has long been shunned by her father, a renowned assassin, because of her mother's death in childbirth. Forced to flee from Jerusalem, she makes a tortuous journey across the desert, during which she becomes involved with a married man, and after finally reaching Masada, is assigned to the dovecote, where she meets three charismatic women: Revka, a baker's wife who witnessed her daughter's horrific death at the hands of Roman soldiers; Shirah, a tattooed wisewoman; and Shirah's daughter Aziza, a warrior of uncommon skill. Forced to deal with the outside forces intent on eradicating them and with their people's patriarchal system, which is quick to condemn unconventional behavior, the women draw great strength from their own inner resources and from each other. This is both a feminist manifesto and a deeply felt tribute to courageous men and women of faith, told with the cadence and imagery of a biblical passage. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: The latest novel from the best-selling and prolific Alice Hoffman will be suppported by a national ad campaign, an author tour, and a reading-group guide. Will the biblical subject matter--quite a change of pace for Hoffman--prove as popular as her domestic dramas? Stay tuned. Copyright 2011 Booklist Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2011 April #2

Hoffman (The Red Garden, 2011, etc.) births literature from tragedy: the destruction of Jerusalem's Temple, the siege of Masada and the loss of Zion.

This is a feminist tale, a story of strong, intelligent women wedded to destiny by love and sacrifice. Told in four parts, the first comes from Yael, daughter of Yosef bar Elhanan, a Sicarii Zealot assassin, rejected by her father because of her mother's death in childbirth. It is 70 CE, and the Temple is destroyed. Yael, her father, and another Sicarii assassin, Jachim ben Simon, and his family flee Jerusalem. Hoffman's research renders the ancient world real as the group treks into Judea's desert, where they encounter Essenes, search for sustenance and burn under the sun. There too Jachim and Yael begin a tragic love affair. At Masada, Yael is sent to work in the dovecote, gathering eggs and fertilizer. She meets Shirah, her daughters, and Revka, who narrates part two. Revka's husband was killed when Romans sacked their village. Later, her daughter was murdered. At Masada, caring for grandsons turned mute by tragedy, Revka worries over her scholarly son-in-law, Yoav, now consumed by vengeance. Aziza, daughter of Shirah, carries the story onward. Born out of wedlock, Aziza grew up in Moab, among the people of the blue tunic. Her passion and curse is that she was raised as a warrior by her foster father. In part four, Shirah tells of her Alexandrian youth, the cherished daughter of a consort of the high priests. Shirah is a keshaphim, a woman of amulets, spells and medicine, and a woman connected to Shechinah, the feminine aspect of God. The women are irretrievably bound to Eleazar ben Ya'ir, Masada's charismatic leader; Amram, Yael's brother; and Yoav, Aziza's companion and protector in battle. The plot is intriguingly complex, with only a single element unresolved. 

An enthralling tale rendered with consummate literary skill.


Copyright Kirkus 2011 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Journal Reviews 2011 June #1

Hoffman departs from offbeat fantasy to retell the story of the Romans' siege of Masada in 70 CE, during which all but a handful of the 900 Jewish defenders were slaughtered. The story unfolds through the voices of four women: Yael, daughter of an assassin; Revka, determined to protect her grandsons; the warrior Aziza; and her mother, a woman of mysterious powers. Hoffman spent five years researching the book, and the publisher is pushing it as her Beloved.

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Library Journal Reviews 2011 June #2

Only two women and five children of more than 900 people survived the Roman siege of Masada in the year 73 C.E. after the suicide pact of the Jewish rebels there, according to the historian Josephus. In this well-researched novel, Hoffman (The Red Garden) vividly brings this tragedy to life, as four women who take care of the dovecote at the fortress tell their stories. Seeking refuge at Masada after the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple are Yael, the daughter and sister of Sicarii, professional assassins, and Revka, who with her two mute grandsons has just witnessed the horrific murder of the boys' mother in the desert. Shirah and her warrior daughter Aziza come from Moab. Considered a healer and a witch, Shirah still worships the ancient goddess Ashtoreth. Hoffman finds poetry and beauty, dignity and honor, even in those perilous, blood-soaked times. VERDICT This powerful and gripping novel about survival and endurance will stay with you for a long time. [See Prepub Alert, 4/25/11.]--Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2011 June #2

Almost too dense to bear, Hoffman's 23rd novel is brimming with doom, based on the story of the mass suicide of Jewish Zealots at Masada as recorded by the historian Josephus. Set in the first century, the blood-soaked saga unfolds from the perspectives of four courageous Jewish women whose lives converge in the dovecotes of the rebel desert stronghold. Yael is an assassin's daughter who flees Jerusalem as it falls to the Romans, arriving pregnant with the child of her father's married colleague. Revka, her husband murdered by the Romans, comes with her two grandsons, rendered mute after witnessing their mother's disembowelment by Roman soldiers. Shirah, from Alexandria, possibly a witch, brings her beautiful daughter Aziza, who having learned the ways of men among the tribesmen of Moab, uses her warrior's skills to fight in this last stand against the Roman legions. Suspicious of one another early on, the women, each with her own secrets and talents, powerful lovers and magical spells, soon develop a loyalty so fierce that they are willing to sacrifice everything for each other and for the children they are entrusted with. Hoffman (Here on Earth) can tell a tale and knows about creating compassionate characters, but the leaden archaic prose style she uses tells more than it shows. Massive descriptive paragraphs slow the action, until, by the end, the reader is simply worn out. (Oct.)

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