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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masada Masterpiece
This is a rather amazing novel based on the true story of the siege of the fortress Masada which took place in the year 70 AD. The title of the book: 'The Dovekeepers' refers to the women in the fortress who took care of the doves and this novel tells the story of the lives and loves of these unusual women who found themselves at Masada at the time of the siege...
Published on 17 Oct. 2011 by Susie B

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story woven into a historical tragedy
I liked this book but didn't love it. The setting is genuinely fascinating: Masada, 70 AD where a final cluster of Jewish rebels and their families are holding out against the Romans. The story centers on four women who work in the settlement's dovecote. Each takes turns to narrate part of the story and to explain her upbringing and how she came to Masada, as well as...
Published 17 months ago by Julia Flyte


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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Masada Masterpiece, 17 Oct. 2011
By 
Susie B - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Hardcover)
This is a rather amazing novel based on the true story of the siege of the fortress Masada which took place in the year 70 AD. The title of the book: 'The Dovekeepers' refers to the women in the fortress who took care of the doves and this novel tells the story of the lives and loves of these unusual women who found themselves at Masada at the time of the siege.

Firstly we meet Yael, whose mother died whilst giving birth to her, and whose father, an expert assassin, cannot forgive her for her mother's death. Later we meet Revka, suffering greatly from the loss of her daughter in horrifying circumstances, who has to find the strength to care for her traumatised grandsons. Then there is Aziza, a beautiful young woman, who has been raised as a boy and fights as a warrior, but who falls in love with a fellow soldier. And we meet Shirah, mother of Aziza, lover of the great warrior, Ben Ya'ir, a woman with special powers who, try as she might, cannot save her children from their ultimate fates.

The book is divided into sections for each main character, but as all of these women are dovekeepers at Masada, the author skilfully weaves each person in and out of the others' stories, so we never leave one character behind at the expense of finding out about another. All of the women in this story, at some time, have met with adversity; they have loved, lost, suffered and survived. They are strong, courageous women who find they will need all of their strength and courage when faced with the tragic events which unfold during of the siege of Masada.

Alice Hoffman, inspired and moved by a visit to Masada, the fortress of King Herod, which was later occupied by nine hundred Jewish men, women and children, based her story on the historian Josephus' account of the siege and the tragedy which occurred when the Romans finally managed to break through the walls of the fortress. If you don't know the outcome of the siege, I won't divulge it now, but I will say that heartbreakingly only a very small number survived.

I have never read a book by Alice Hoffman before - I felt that her novels, whose main themes seem to centre on unearthly or magical powers, were not really my type of thing - but I'm very glad I picked up this novel. Maybe, because this book is set almost 2000 years ago, the magic and mystery seem perfectly suited to the time and place. However, whatever the reason, I can truly say that this marvellous story kept me enthralled and engrossed throughout.

4.5 stars.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story woven into a historical tragedy, 20 Jan. 2014
By 
Julia Flyte - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
I liked this book but didn't love it. The setting is genuinely fascinating: Masada, 70 AD where a final cluster of Jewish rebels and their families are holding out against the Romans. The story centers on four women who work in the settlement's dovecote. Each takes turns to narrate part of the story and to explain her upbringing and how she came to Masada, as well as picking up the story of their life inside the stronghold.

As the author explains in her acknowledgements at the end of the book, the story is based what is known about historical events, including some real people. Artifacts that have subsequently been recovered by archeologists have also been woven into the story.

So I found the book interesting, but it takes a very long time to get to the siege (it's in the final 100 pages) and until then the pace is quite uneven. Every time a new character picks up the narration we have to backtrack through her back story and adjust to her point of view, though all four have a very similar way of talking and they all say rubbishy things like: "What was between us had grown until it was a flower, the red blossom of the flame tree, which stains your fingers when you pick it, twisted onto a vine that pricks your skin". They all struggle in the desert and attract men to them like moths to a flame. There are various love affairs in the book, none of which have even a skerrick of truth to them.

There is also a strong magical element which I disliked intensely. I had a similar reaction to Philippa Gregory's White Queen books. Magical powers in novels seem like a lazy way to make things happen when the author can't find a rational way to incorporate stuff into the plot. Plus I felt like it was undermining the strong religious beliefs that the characters supposedly have. Perhaps the beliefs may be historically accurate, but that doesn't mean the powers need to have been.

A couple of friends of mine have raved about this as their favorite book from last year. It's very easy to read, well researched and as I've mentioned above, the setting is fascinating, but the story itself? Perfectly okay, nothing more.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another World, 11 Nov. 2011
By 
Lovely Treez (Belfast, N Ireland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Hardcover)
Alice Hoffman is one of my favourite authors and I love her juxtaposition of the mundane and magic in contemporary settings. The Dovekeepers is far removed from our humdrum, daily lives as it is set in ancient Israel but the magic remains in this extensively researched historical novel.

Following the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 and the destruction of the temple, many Jews fled the Romans and crossed the Judean desert, establishing a Zealot settlement at the remote natural fortress, Masada. Overlooking the Dead Sea, this rugged outpost was considered virtually impregnable but the Roman Empire was determined to conquer Masada, once the site of King Herod's palaces. In AD73, Flavius Silva, the Roman Governor, succeeded in breaching the fortress but not before the Jewish inhabitants (numbering almost 1,000) organised a mass suicide, preferring a glorious death to a life of infamy. According to the ancient historian, Josephus, only two women and five children survived.

In The Dovekeepers, Hoffman tells the story from the Jewish women's point of view, using four different female narrators, Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah all of whom work in the dovecotes. They are exceptionally strong women who have suffered so much yet make their mark in what is most definitely a man's world. Yael, whose own mother died giving birth to her, is shunned by her father but, following the fall of Jerusalem, they eventually reach Masada. Revka, traumatised by the brutal death of her daughter at the hands of Roman soldiers, comes to Masada with her young grandsons, rendered mute by what they witnessed. Aziza, raised as a boy, longs to show her warrior skills but has to do so by subterfuge. Shirah, Aziza's mother, has to conceal her magical skills for fear of being an outcast again.

In a novel of epic range, the author brings us into the Judean desert in the 1st century - we feel the relentless heat, the harshness of the rocks underfoot, the endless hardship of daily life. All these women hope for is a better life for their children but they know what fate awaits them.

Yes, there is magic but it's dark and disturbing, something to be concealed by women who realise that whatever they do they can't escape what fate has already decreed.

At 500 pages, with detailed descriptions, this is a novel which requires focus and concentration. It is much more intense than Alice Hoffman's previous novels but it's well worth the effort. My only slight criticism would be that some of the descriptions veer on the flowery, over-written side but overall it's an engrossing read.

Alice Hoffman has succeeded in bringing a long-lost world into our contemporary lives and at times, one wonders if there are more similarities than differences! Highly recommended for patient readers.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Old history brought to life brilliantly ..., 6 Feb. 2012
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Hardcover)
In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. History records that only two women and five children survived the siege ...

An extraordinary story.

And the foundation upon which Alice Hoffman has built an epic novel. An extraordinary novel.

She tells the stories of four women. Four very different women, who had very different lives, who came to Masada by very different paths.

Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shira.

They say so much about the relationships women have, the roles they play, what they give to the world ...

Mothers. Daughters. Grandmothers. Wives. Lovers ....

Nurturers. Protectors. Negotiators. Healers. Warriors ....

Their stories set out their histories, their journeys, and their lives as they become dovekeepers at Masada. I was reluctant to let go when one story ended, but each time I found a new story that absorbed me, and then I found the women I had met before, living and working alongside the woman I had just met. Everything came together beautifully.

Because everything is right.

The prose is both beautiful and readable. And, more than that, I could hear each woman's voice, and I came to know them, to understand them.

Four women. Complex,and utterly real.

And I came to know their world, seeing so many details richly painted. It was easy to turn the pages quickly but I knew that I needed to linger, to make sure that I took everything in. I was transported.

Years may pass, the world may change, but in essence the hopes, the fears, the dreams of women never change.

As the end approach the story could have lost its grip. I knew the history, I knew how it must play out. But I was involved, and I lived every moment.

Alice Hoffman has brought old, old history to life, and she has made it sing.

The dust jacket suggests that this is her masterpiece and I have to say, yes, it is.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dovekeepers, 7 Jun. 2014
By 
Keen Reader "lhendry4" (Auckland, New Zealand) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
In the year 70 CE as the First Jewish-Roman wars continued, Jerusalem was besieged by the Roman Army, led by the future Emperor Titus, with the commander Tiberius Julius Alexander. When Jerusalem was taken the second Temple of the Jews was destroyed; the event has been captured forever in the works of Josephus, and commemorated in the Arch of Titus which stands in Rome. The event was pivotal for the Jewish people who still mourn the destruction of both the first and second Temples.

Part One begins in 70 CE and tells the story of the assassin’s daughter. Then in Part Two, the baker’s wife. Part Three has the story of the warrior’s beloved and Part Four the witch of Moab. All these women find themselves exiled from Jerusalem, drawn together where their lives entwine at Masada, the last stronghold against the Romans. And in 73 CE the Romans are outside the walls.

Anyone who knows the history of Masada will know of the ending of the struggle against the Romans. But this story is not about the end; it is about the women themselves, their faith and their families. This is a book where faith is balanced against survival; the women seek to remain true to their faith and to live and die as their God commands. The beauty of this book is in those stories, and the immediacy and humanity with which they are told, in the language of their people and in the way the stories teach the reader of a people whose lives may be long over, but who somehow seem to still be as real as they ever were. My only quibble with the book is that it did seem a bit over-full of prose; could have done with a bit of editing to sharpen up the narrative I thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars 21st century masterpiece, 21 Jan. 2013
By 
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
Masada was a historic Jewish fortress that stood on huge rock in Judea (now southern Israel) In 73 CE 960 Jewish patriots killed themselves as Masada rather then surrender to Roman forces. For many Israelis their devotion to liberty is a national symbol called the spirit of Masada. This is a fictional story of four women who may have lived there.

I was thoroughly entranced by this tour de force-a definite masterpiece of 21st century literature. This brilliant novel takes us back to Ancient Israel in the first century CE and the lives of four beautiful, sensual, strong and valiant women. Each of whose story interwines with that of the other, and how they came to the fortress of Masada in Israel, commanded by the courageous warrior and remarkable leader of men, Yair Ben Eliezer. I fell in love with all the four women featured in the novel. The strength, courage and wisdom of these women was brilliant and inspirational. A historic novel, a novel of magic, mystery and the spiritual, and sensually written piece of literature about women and exploring the time in history from the viewpoint of women but never a Novel only for women.

Yael the daughter of an assassin who'se father treats her with unforgivable cruelty and whose passions and great capacity for love stay with us
Revka who survives the horrific rape and murder of her daughter at the hands of Roman soldiers and lives to refind meaning in her life

Aziz the girl warrior, brought up as a son, lithe , athletic and beautiful, her fate is to fall in love with a fellow warrior

and
Shirah, the enchanting , beautiful sorceress, cast out because of bigotry and religious dogma, her fate is to be the great love of the commander of Masada, the great Yair Ben eliezer and who does all she can to save her doomed children.

A book of great emotion and haunting as it is exquisitely erotic and evocative of the Land and people of Israel. It teaches something of the time and the place but never lingers on the teaching. Whatever genre you enjoy if good writing and an unforgettable spellbinding narrative is what you are looking for, this book is a must read. I finished it in three days.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended, if a little outside my comfort zone., 19 Jan. 2013
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This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Kindle Edition)
The Dovekeepers tells the story of four women and their fight for survival during the seige of Masada.
I bought the book after reading a review which rated it 5 stars (exceptional), and I had to debate long and hard between rating it a 4 or 5 star review.
The story is related from the viewpoint of four women. Admittedly, I usually shy away from books broken into sections, each told by a different narrator, because if I'm involved with a character, I don't want to leave them behind. However, Ms Hoffman's skill is such that I was able to forget about the jump from character to character, especially as she eventually pulled all the threads together. Again, the seige of Masada is an event I am unfamiliar with and so it took me a little time to understand the background and the danger the characters were in, but the tension eventually built such that by the end of the book I was almost in tears.
You can generally tell if an historical fiction book is great or not, by whether it makes you want to find out more about the events portrayed - and this is the case with "the Dovekeepers."
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4.0 out of 5 stars Not a masterpiece, but a very good book, 22 July 2013
By 
Ann Smyth (Cambridgeshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
I'm clearly ignorant, since I knew nothing about the siege of Masada. With historical novels, I find if I've enjoyed one, I want to learn more about the history behind it, and so it is with this book. I'll be doing a little internet research to find out how much of this was fact and how much fiction.

Four women, four sections, four interconnected stories. I liked the stories and how they were woven together, although I didn't like the reveal near the end of how two of them had been connected in the past. Some of the characters were stronger than others. I never really connected with the witch character at all, for example. I think in trying to make her past mysterious, the author maybe made the character too distant, but that could be me. I liked Yael, the rejected daughter, and Azira, the girl warrior. I really wanted to get to know Amram, Yael's brother, better, but the structure of the book didn't really allow for that.

A little long-winded in places, it still held my interest. A solid four stars from me. Five stars means I'll want my own copy to reread. Once was enough for me, but I'd enjoyed it and would recommend it, particularly if you like historical novels which seem to have a strong factual basis.
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5.0 out of 5 stars One of my top ten books ever, 20 Jun. 2013
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This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
Randomly bought this from amazon having read the very short description ( I dont like knowing too much about a book, it alters my expectations). After buying it I realised the author also wrote Practical Magic and I thought 'Oh No this is going to be a very cheesy, light romance, chick lit' which is ok occasionally but not a huge fan. And to be fair I have only saw Practical Magic on film, never read the book. How wrong was I. Its a brilliant book, its one of the best historical fiction novels I have ever read, I was totally blown away and so impressed by the author I intend to buy more of her books in the future. I also intend to buy all my female friends this for Christmas/birthdays because I think no matter the type of books you like, be it romance, comedy, fantasy, history, there is something in this book you will like. I couldnt put the book down and when I finished my mind dwelled on it for about a week, a sure sign of an amazing book, I will read it again and it will stay with me forever. Its now entered my top ten book list and I read at least a book a week.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Sign of Peace, 6 Nov. 2012
This review is from: The Dovekeepers (Paperback)
As a longtime fan of Alice Hoffman, I was thrilled to find this latest offering. This author is known for her strong female characters and in The Dovekeepers she does not disappoint. The lure of four strong females was irresistible.

Set on the plains of Masada, four women of varied backgrounds find themselves at a crossroad in history. Two survive, two do not. The two women and five children are the only survivors of the massacre at Masada.

What started out as a personal look at history through the eyes of the women soon became bogged down with too much history. Yes, it was realistic. Yes, I did feel like I was present. But in this case I believe the writer's adage of "Show, Don't Tell" should have been more literally followed. For me there was not enough dialogue to move the story forward at a quicker pace. I felt the story was bogged down with weighty explanations of history. While I am a firm believer that history should be honored, I also believe that sometimes too much history can be a bad thing. After all, this is a work of fiction.

Having said that, I do honor the amount of research and preparation that went into this book. I'm sure the author lived the lives of her characters as she researched them. Well done on that score!

For my tastes, the book was drawn-out and tended to slow down in too many places. I found myself being distracted by outside forces too much. Not the kind of book I couldn't put down.

I look forward, however, to Ms. Hoffman's next offering.
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The Dovekeepers
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (Paperback - 30 Aug. 2012)
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