Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Dovekeepers

by Alice Hoffman

It isn't hard to get sucked into the fast paced action at the beginning of The Dovekeepers. The story begins with the second Roman invasion of Jerusalem in 70 AD, focusing on one family's struggle to escape the massacre, their journey through the desert to a refuge at Masada and the ensuing siege of that stronghold. Prior to this novel, I'd not read much about this incident, but this book inspired me to do some research on Masada and the zealots who defended that fortress to their death. In regard to historical accuracy,  Ms. Hoffman did her research and tried to stick to the facts of the actual events as recounted by Josephus. I found these sections of the novel very intriguing and wish the story had centered on them rather than making them merely a backdrop. I guess Ms. Hoffman didn't feel the history in and of itself contained enough interest so she tried to jazz it up with characters whose stories were overly fantastical.

Hoffman has an engaging writing style that keeps the plot moving and keeps the reader interested. She has a great imagination and is very detailed and descriptive. Although this is not a quick read, I think it is worth the time.

My biggest problem with the book was that the lifestyles of the leading female characters didn't seem representative of women you'd expect to find in Masada, they seemed more indicative of heretics in the early Inquisition period. They spent their time making potions, offering sacrifices to Ashtoreth, constructing charms and amulets for protection and chanting to scare away demons. This does not seem like the behavior of women who were part of a religious sect whose vow to bow down to no one but God led them to mass suicide rather than surrender to the Romans. Regardless, if you like historical fiction, I'd recommend it.

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