The Dovekeepers is a historical novel about Masada. Don't know what Masada is? Google it. If you don't have time, well, I have known about Masada ever since Peter Strauss starred in a mini-series called Masada way back in the early 80's, when I was a young teen and seemingly adored not teen movie stars, but men like Peter Strauss. Yes, I had a crush on him, so I eagerly watched the mini-series.
Masada was the final stronghold of the Jews against the Romans in 70 C.E. It was thought to be impossible to attack this fortress, built on a mountain in the Judean desert. And for three years, the Jews managed to survive, raising crops, raiding the desert towns for goods, and keeping their very strong faith through hunger, strife, and the terror of war.
Hoffman has written this book about Masada, and four women who lived there. Each came from different places, each with a story to tell: Yael, a young woman with bright red hair, daughter and sister of assassins, keeping a secret about her past; Revka, wife of a baker, arrives at Masada with her two mute grandsons, driven to silence by witnessing the horrific murder of their mother; Aziza, a fierce young woman who longs to be a warrior; and her mother, Shirah, a witch woman from Alexandria, who carries the burden of forbidden love, ancient magic, and the power to see the future.
Each woman tells her story, all the while meeting the others as each work in the dovecote, taking care of the doves who provide the fertilizer needed to grow crops and produce fruit from the trees.
If you've read about Masada, you know how it ends. Having that knowledge in the back of my head did not stop me from eagerly devouring each page. You cannot put this novel down; each woman is a powerful storyteller; each story is full of sorrow, love, and triumph. You will need a hanky when you read this; especially the end. It is written beautifully, yet does not spare the reader from the horror of living under the ruthless Roman world that did not have a place for Jews.
If you are looking for a historical novel unlike anything you've read in quite awhile, prepare yourself for The Dovekeepers. It is just simply amazing.
Thanks to Wendy @ Simon & Schuster for sending me an ARC. You made my August!