I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I’d never read any Alice Hoffman before. I’d heard good things, but I’ve always thought her more of a contemporary fiction writer, and I tend to gravitate to the historical and fantasy genres. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that she’s written an historical novel (my favorite!) set in Ancient Israel. The plot is simple. Set in 70 CE after the destruction of the Temple, hundreds of Jews have gathered at Masada. At the center of the book are 4 women, the dovekeeprs of the title. Set against the backdrop of the Roman siege, we learn of their stories, and how each one came to be there. There is Yael, whose mother died giving birth to her. Revka, a baker’s wife and grandmother to 2 mute boys. Shirah, a wise woman skilled in medicine, and her daughter Aziza. Each of these women is fiercely independent, and strong in her own way. These women grow as their stories unfold and become intertwined. I’ve heard criticism that The Dovekeepers is overlong, and much too wordy. Personally, I found Hoffman’s prose beautiful. There is a richness there, as if she’s weaving a tapestry. There is a magical quality to this book, and while you know how the siege at Masada will end (a downside of historical fiction), it kept me enthralled until the last page. It’s a wonderful book.

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