It’s often easy to step into self-pity; it’s part of being human. Whether from sadness, stress, hardships, fear, all of the above or something different, it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to sink into a world of isolation. However, in “The Dovekeepers,” Alice Hoffman reminds us that pain, challenge and hardship are felt the same across the seemingly strict boundaries of culture, space and time.
“The Dovekeepers” details the stories of four Jewish women over four years. Living in the city of Masada in 70 C.E., these four women (Yael, Revka, Aziza and Shirah) describe life inside stone walls as they, and hundreds of other persecuted Jewish people, take a stand against the Romans. Their stories are interwoven but still allow for a clear chronology of events that culminate and finally conclude in a shocking and tear-jerking event.
Hoffman gives elegance and composure to a period of history that was anything but revered. Her characters are genuine and realistic, beautifully lacking the over-imposed pride or nobility often found in heroines. They embody challenge, brave the future and experience the truths of love and sacrifice, which are often one and the same in their realities. Her mature writing style gives the rational and intense authority the story needs to span thousands of years and still carry weight and importance in today’s world, just as Masada is an impressive fortress, still standing today despite the brutal attack waged upon it by the Romans and the following years of inevitable erosion.
Hoffman brings her characters to life and draws her readers into their struggles and fortunes, but the most captivating piece of “The Dovekeepers” is its basis in truth. Though it is a work of fiction and the women’s stories aren’t factual, they are compelling possibilities and considerations housed in the truth of an unbelievable and tragic historical event. “The Dovekeepers” will live on in readers’ hearts and minds, bringing with it the story of Masada.