Author: Alice Hoffman
Synopsis: Blends mythology, magic, archaeology and women. Traces four women, their path to the Masada massacre. In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived.
Four bold, resourceful, and sensuous women come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The four lives intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.
Why did I pick it up?: If Alice Hoffman writes a book, it's on my To Be Read list. She's my go to comfort read.
Favorite Lines: “He wanted pain, I saw that in him, and what a man wants he will often manage to find.”
My Review: I have so many things to say. I have no idea why I took so long to read this. The prose alone was enough for me to love this story, but of course Hoffman delivers more. Yael and the other Dovekeepers are strong.
As a Ravenclaw it's in my nature to crave knowledge and I loved learning about Masada and the religions practiced in 70 CE. I found the Essene, a religious group believing that the apocalypse is coming, fascinating as every generation seems to have at least one group of end of days zealots.
Each of the four women has her own story but they are joined together not because they are kindred spirits but because they are women struggling without husbands. They are shunned by the society of most because of their independence and whatever led them to be alone. In the Dovecote they are free. Free to be who they are without the rules of society or judgement of their neighbors.
Ghosts haunt them. Magic is prevalent not only in the form of Shirah's practice but in Hoffman's signature style of storytelling. The desert is unforgiving and one thing I love about Alice Hoffman's writing is how often she highlights the extreme. Kisses so passionate they cause lips to blister and that sort of thing. Days so hot, parked cars have melted tires. The desert climate and living conditions during the siege of Masada offered up plenty of opportunity for the Hoffman prose I enjoy.