In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman's novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael's mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, 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 young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior's daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.
The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets - about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.
The Assassin's Daughter
We came like doves across the desert. In a time when there was nothing but death, we were grateful for anything, and most grateful of all when we awoke to another day.
We had been wandering for so long I forgot what it was like to live within walls or sleep through the night. In that time I lost all I might have possessed if Jerusalem had not fallen: a husband, a family, a future of my own. My girlhood disappeared in the desert. The person I'd once been vanished as I wrapped myself in white when the dust rose into clouds. We were nomads, leaving behind beds and belongings, rugs and brass pots. Now our house was the house of the desert, black at night, brutally white at noon.
They say the truest beauty is in the harshest land and that God can be found there by those with open eyes. But my eyes were closed against the shifting winds that can blind a person in an instant. Breathing itself was a miracle when the storms came whirling...
The Dovekeepers, meticulously researched for five years, transports us to this ancient time and is filled with such rich detail, one can almost smell the cumin-dusted challah browning as it bakes. Without a doubt, this is Alice Hoffman's finest work to date, catapulting it far and above her previous endeavors.
(Reviewed by BJ Nathan Hegedus).
Full Review (1147 words).
Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers shows us a world where doves, in addition to serving day-to-day purposes, represent so much more. Along with their close cousin, the pigeon, doves make up the bird family Columbidae. And while they're often thought of as bright white birds, with over 300 species, they actually come in all shapes and sizes.
Throughout the ages, steeped in rich tradition and lore, doves have served to symbolize many aspects connected with the "Divine." In the ancient world, the dove was a symbol for the Mother goddess, the "feminine divine". Doves served as icons of fertility and procreation and were associated with the goddesses Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite and the early Judaic goddess of Canaan, Asherah (statue ...
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