Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

I recall a TV miniseries made in the early 1980s about the Roman Empire’s siege of Masada in 73AD, so when I read a review of Hoffman’s The Dovekeepers, my interest was piqued. The TV miniseries featured a number of well-known actors and centred very much on the two main protagonists, Eleazar Ben Ya’ir, leader of the Jewish Zealots at Masada, a seemingly-impregnable fortress overlooking the Dead Sea; and Flavius Silva, the Roman general sent to crush the rebellion. The siege ended with the Roman Army entering the fortress, only to discover that the nine hundred living there had taken their own lives, rather than submit to torture and slavery under Roman rule. Two women and five children survived.

The only account from the time of the siege and fall of Masada was recorded by a Roman historian.

In contrast to the noble machismo of the TV series, the Dovekeepers is a fictionalised account of the siege from the perspective of four women, Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah, whose lives intersect as they work in the dovecotes. An accomplished writer, Hoffman uses vivid imagery, offering fresh insight into the religious tradition and social order of the time, against the background of impending tragedy. The story is alive with the contrast between the seen and the unseen; the power of silence and magic, a theme common in Hoffman’s writing. It is a fascinating, masterful story, thoroughly recommended.  Reviewed by Flappy Jandals

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1 comment:

  1. Micaella Lopez has left a new comment on your post "The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman":

    This one is going to stand the test of time. Years down the road our great grandchildren are going to read it. Simply a remarkable achievement by Alice Hoffman, like nothing she has ever written. It is beautiful, honest, dramatic, full of history, emotion, the best and the worst of human nature, and should appeal to everyone. It examines the very depths of human soul, it only uses the true story from Jewish history to tell us a story of human heart. Absolutely an epic book.