Review: The Dovekeepers

WOW! a 5 star rating for me!! this book was FANTASTIC! it reminded me of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent– a bit of history that outlines the powerful bond between women as they struggle in a man’s world to protect the ones that they love. so heartbreaking at times– makes you thankful for being born in this century!!

the story takes place in ancient Israel in the fortress of Masada– a stronghold where 900 Jews stood their ground against the forces of the Roman Empire. the true story goes that when the people of Masada could no longer hold down the fort they chose to commit mass suicide rather than bow down to Rome. 2 women and 5 children survive to tell the tale. this book is a fictional story of who the survivors might be.

each section is written from the perspective of one of 4 women who work together as dove keepers in the dovecotes of Masada. each ends up there for her own reason and has her own story to tell. Yael is the assassin’s daughter, Revka is the baker’s wife, Aziza is the warrior and Shirah is the witch of Moab. their triumphs and tragedies are powerful– you’ll be cheering one minute, crying the next. I. Loved. This. Book!

(this was the first book that i have ever read by Alice Hoffman and i can say that after reading it i am definitely a fan! i can’t wait to read more by her– glad to see she has a large body of work to choose from! here is what she has to say about the writing of this book: )

Review: On Canaan’s Side

“How strange, how strange. We may be immune to typhoid, tetanus, chicken-pox, diphtheria, but never memory. There is no inoculation against that.”

 (Lilly Bere, On Canaan’s Side)

This wonderful story of a life, is told to us by in 89-year-old Lilly Bere following the death of her beloved grandson, Bill. Lilly tells/remembers/relives her story over 17 days, where each chapter is entitled, Second Day, Third Day, Fourth Day without Bill, etc.

Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand (also on my Kobo to read…) states in the Advance Praise section that, “Somewhere on the second page of this book, your heart will break and you will devour every glimmering image….”

Oh how true Helen, how very true! Just how the chapters were titled alone broke my heart! And what a wonderful  female voice Barry has given us. This book is something where you should go off and find somewhere to tuck yourself away and just listen and follow Lilly Bere as she takes us through her life. You will for sure fall in love with Lilly Bere.

In her last seventeen days you are drawn deeply and emotionally in to Lilly’s journey through life, from her first beloved whom she came to America with, to her very best friend Cassie, to her husband Joe, to her son Ed and to her grandson Bill. And with so many more characters in Mrs. Bere’s life that you grow to love just because you realize how deeply they too love her, notably Mr. Nolan, her companion in her late years and Mrs. Wolohan, her employer that has allowed her to retire in a nice little cottage by the lake and visits her daily.

“It is because of this that I cannot help but to love her. She is much younger than me, and I was already nearly fifty when I went to work for her mother, and some time after, for her, when she married. Why she has harboured me, why she has protected me, all these years of my retirement I do not know. Why she has allowed this long long tenancy of her little house, which might be put to a hundred other uses, and indeed, being so near the sea, is very valuable, stnading plumb on its little yard, remains to me a mystery.” (Lilly Bere about Mrs. Wolohan)

 It’s just simply a lovely and heartbreaking story, written in such gorgeous writing with such a patient voice. Sebastian Barry has given us a great gift in a character like Mrs. Bere. Again, a character I will truly miss. Mrs. Lilly Bere will haunt me in such a sorrowful way for some time. So many times in this book I would say out loud, “Oh no…” with such sympathy and sorrow. Another definite 4 star read for me.

“To remember sometimes is a great sorrow, but when the remembering has been done, there comes afterwards a very curious peacefulness. Because you have planted your flag on the summit of sorrow. You have climbed it.” (Lilly Bere)

Cool news, it’s so cool beans!

Before The Literary Hoarders started this blog, we each catalogued an ever expanding list of books on this fabulous, wonderful site, (thanks to Jackie for finding it!).

If you haven’t checked out Goodreads, you definitely should! Every book you ever think to search for, find out about, what is coming out, etc. is on there.  Also on the site is the ability to see the whole wide world and what they are reading, what they thought about what they read, recommendations for your next great read, join readers in groups of like-read people and “friend” them too.  (There is also a growing contingent of people that participate on Goodreads only and have banished themselves from Facebook. (if I could perhaps mention one little suggestion to Goodreads, could we have a little Status line?) Anyway…on to the point of the post….after being introduced to an online book club by Michelle in Mississipi, called Opinionless, I began participating monthly in the reader’s choice for the month and online discussion via Skype on the last Tuesday of every month.

For November I am so excited to say we are going to be reading Canadian author, Nicole Lundrigan’s book, Glass Boys AND Nicole is going to JOIN US!

                          (it’s always nice to put the face to the name don’t you think?)

Two of the Literary Hoarders for sure are joining in and we need to give a shout out (and shameless plug) to Aaron’s coordination skills in setting this up for the Opinionless book club (and for starting the club). If you would care to join us, please do! Please pick up a copy of Glass Boys, read it and then head over to the site and link yourself up for the event…hope to see you there!

And to Nicole – a few fellow Ontarians will be on board to enjoy the evening. Thanks for taking the time to talk to us!

Glass Boys Synopsis:

When Eli Fagan discovers the secret his eleven-year-old stepson has hidden in an old pickle jar, he is filled with blinding rage. As he destroys the jar’s contents, brothers Roy and Lewis Trench, in a drunken prank, stumble into Eli’s yard, and their poor timing costs Roy his life. Though the courts rule the death a tragic accident, the event opens a seam of hate between the two families of Knife’s Point, Newfoundland. Powerfully written, with vivid and unflinching prose, Glass Boys is an utterly riveting, deeply moving saga of the persistence of evil and the depths and limits of love.

About Nicole Lundrigan:

“If there is a new wave of New­found­land fic­tion going on, Nicole Lun­dri­gan may be one of its lead­ers… Lun­dri­gan writes about New­found­land the way William Faulkner wrote about the Amer­i­can south.”
Dar­rell Squires
The West­ern Star
You can read more on Nicole’s website:
Right now she is reading February, by Lisa Moore and I loved this quote she included at the bottom of her blog post about the book and about fiction in general:

Read­ing Feb­ru­ary reminds me of what good fic­tion really does. A novel can take you far, far away. But some­times, with a lit­tle sweep, it car­ries you home.

Review: The Dressmaker

I was able to read this gorgeous gem of a book courtesy of Netgalley for Knopf Doubleday publishers.

What caught my eye was the cover, as you know I do indeed judge a book by its cover and this one was striking (in my opinion). I read the description as far as ..”The Titanic” and dove right in…

The Dressmaker, by Kate Alcott comes just in time for the centennial anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic (May 1912).  This compelling historical novel, about a spirited young woman who survives the disaster only to find herself embroiled in the media frenzy left in the wake of the tragedy (some taken from Goodreads) is an engrossing read weaving the actual with the fictitious from the Titanic tragedy.

We know the Titanic, we know what happened on that horrible evening, we’ve seen the epic film, but this novel takes us beyond the sinking of the ship. It takes us into the lives of a few of the survivors, into the immediate Senate hearings following the disaster and in particular in to the life of Tess Collins (fictional), Pinky Wade (fictional), Sir and Lady Duff Gordon (actual), Jim Bonney (fictional) and Jack Bremerton (fictional).

Alcott weaves some fantastic fiction with the actual in our main heroine, Tess Collins. Tess decides in a moment of spontaneity to leave behind the life of wretched servitude and walks out to where the Titanic is docked in search of a new life. By chance she meets Lady Duff Gordon (Lucile), world-renowned fashion designer. Tess will do anything to be given the opportunity to become part of Lucile’s world and to prove that she is an expert dressmaker, including that of becoming her personal maid. For a few wonderous nights Tess is able to experience the beauty of the Titanic and is where she meets Jim, the sailor and Jack Bremerton, the dashing millionaire.

I was immediately taken by this book. From the cover, to the author’s notes providing details about the facts and the fiction on to how this story seamlessly and beautifully weaves two together. I was sad when I knew my time with Tess was coming to an end.

What is so beautiful about this book is how Alcott has taken the tragic story beyond the sinking and so wonderfully imagined their lives, and ordeal as survivors. My breath was taken away by how she richly portrayed Tess, Lucile, Pinky and Jim and their feelings, their stress of the ordeal that followed them after the sinking. Alcott does an amazing job of detailing the public’s perception of the survivors. Again, by weaving the fact with fiction you read how these few which survived a harrowing experience, extreme ineptitude of the ship’s crew, survived freezing cold waters and fought for their survival. By the media frenzy surrounding the Senate hearings we find that the public actually villanizes the survivors.

In reality, the Duff Gordon’s took off on a lifeboat with only 12 people on board and refused to go back to look for survivors, and were said to have pushed people away that were struggling to climb on board. Sir Duff Gordon was said to have paid the crew on the lifeboat, whether as a bribe or as thanks, it is not really known.

It is in this surrounding frenzy following the Duff Gordons, that Tess must struggle with what she feels is right for her future. To stay with Lucile means immense opportunity to starting a new life in fashion, yet it also means remaining with a selfish, mean person that cruelly denied saving people from the Titanic.

“I know how frightening it all was. What I can’t understand if fear so great that people would be pushed away.”

“I’ve admired her from the first day we met, but not today.” (Tess on Lucile Duff Gordon)

Alcott has created a wonderful heroine in Tess. She is headstrong and determined, not whiny or impossible. She maintains strength in her conviction and the romance aspect of this novel does not in any way lessen or take away from her character. Her struggle to choose between a life with the dashing Jack Bremerton, or the strong and steady Jim Bonney is written in a very true way to Tess’ personality and character. It does not overpower the rest of this story.  A definite 4-star read for me. (and I won’t give away any hints as to whom she chooses. 🙂 )

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