The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The DovekeepersThe Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio
Review copy provided by the publicist

The Dovekeepers, a work of fiction based in history, follows the Jews that held out for months against the Roman armies on the mountain of Masada nearly two thousand years ago. Hoffman delivers to the reader four very different but equally powerful and inspiring women. Yael carries the burden of her mother’s death, as she died giving birth to Yael and her assassin father has never forgiven her for this crime. Revka, a baker’s wife, lives with her grandsons after watching the Romans kill her daughter and son-in-law. Aziza has been raised to be a warrior, disguises herself as a boy, until the day she meets and falls for a fellow soldier. And Shirah, called a witch by many, has knowledge of ancient magic and medicine, knowledge that serves her well at Masada.

The Dovekeepers is an incredibly difficult book for me to review because I’m having a lot of trouble articulating what I truly thought about the novel and how it made me feel. First, let me get this out of the way – there is no question that this book is expertly researched, incredibly well-written, and beautifully crafted. The research that Hoffman must have done in order to put this thing together had to be a huge undertaking. And the writing in this novel is absolutely gorgeous. Hoffman certainly knows how to put words together, to create passages that one wants to keep rereading and going back to over and over again, and she did that with such expertise in The Dovekeepers.

This book is not, however, an easy read. There are a lot of characters to keep track of (with unfamiliar names), much history to put together, and the events in the novel are complicated and very detailed. I chose to listen to this book and while I thought the audio was brilliantly done, for me personally I’m not sure that was the right choice. When I listen to an audiobook, it is usually short spurts of time so it takes a while to get through one – something that becomes a real problem with an audio of this length (16 discs). I would find myself forgetting characters or key plot points because it took me FOREVER to get through the entire audiobook. And because of the complexity of the story, when I would get off track or forget important details, I would become frustrated and not enjoy the story as much as I could have.

I believe I will reread this book at some point in print. If you can listen to The Dovekeepers for long stretches of time, I think the audio would be a great choice because the four narrators are excellent and the story does lend itself well to audio. For me personally, though, the audio didn’t work for my lifestyle and I will want to read the print to fully appreciate Hoffman’s beautiful writing and this intricate story.

See what I mean about not being able to properly review this one? I’m totally not doing it justice, I know. Yes I would recommend it. Read The Dovekeepers and tell me what you think.


11 thoughts on “The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman”

  1. Anyone who reads your post who likes to read will be intrigued. I felt like this when I read the book Shantaram. It was a big book, took me quite a while to read and I never thought I did it justice in the review!

  2. I loved this on audio, but also felt pretty darned proud of myself when I finished because it was so LITERARY. Totally not what I normally read. When I first got the audio, it was only on MP3 so I had to listen to short bursts in my car. After driving around for what seemed like forever, I decided to give up, but then noticed that the library got the regular audio and was able to load it on my iPod and get it finished. I ended up really appreciating the book but it was laborious. I LOVED the characters and that ending was almost like a movie.

  3. When it comes to choosing a book on audio 10-11 discs is usually my limit when I’m downloading it onto my iPod and/or checking it out from the library. I think for me this one would translate better in book form. Loved your thoughtful review!

  4. I have heard wonderful things about The Dovekeepers but have just not gotten to it. Now that I see it compared to Shantaram I am not sure if I want to even start.I That was some long, dense book. Although I love audio books I tend to listen to light, easy books. If it has a lot of characters or is too complicated I prefer to read it. Thanks for the great review!

  5. I’ll be skipping it…I’m generally not a fan of family sagas…or multi-generational tales…or whatever they’re called. Mostly because I don’t like to think about all the characters that I fell in love with that went and died.

    1. Read it, if you loves Alice Hoffman’s book, note that this is her best. Over 60 critivs have said so and even Hoffman stated in the Acknowledgements that this is the book she was “meant to write.”

  6. I just finished it. I didn’t find it hard to read however I agree that the switch between the characters was a little confusing in the first pages of each chapter. This is no reason not to read it though! I thought it to be well written and insightful, I knew nothing of the history of this period but I found it interesting and enlightening. It gave me a deeper understanding of the plight of the Jews at this time and I felt a sense of awe at how they had the strength to do what they did. (I will not spoil it for those who have not read it yet by describing) Overall I like the books of Alice Hoffman and look forward to her next work.

  7. This book really is a fantastic read and I would not take this review to heart, since in the short synopsis it gives it gets several facts wrong. While I agree that the names are hard to get used to, by the first hundred pages you should be well adjusted. This novel is also split into for different sections each narrated by one of the different female leads. It is not overly religious or strenuous and any one who names this novel underdeveloped or “poorly drawn” has not grasped the detail of the novel and probably skimmed through sections.

    This is a must read, Trust me, if you don’t like the beginning keep reading, because you will be glad you did in the end.

    Mistakes made in review:
    -Revka’s son-in-law does not die with his wife and is a major part of the storyline – don’t know how somehow who thoroughly understood the book could have made that mistake.
    -Aziza does not become a woman again because she falls in love, rather the exact opposite
    -Shirah’s magic causes much more trouble for her than good.

    Please re-read or re-listen to it again. Reviewing something and getting facts wrong is unfair to your readers. 🙂

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