Review: The Dovekeepers

Just go, get it, read it, love and cherish it. 5 blazing star read!

It’s obviously up there as one of my top reads for 2011. I cannot imagine it would not become a very favourite of yours after reading either.

Alice Hoffman is one incredibly, amazingly gifted writer. This is my first Alice Hoffman, but I did buy The Red Garden this year and it has been waiting for me to open. Obviously, I will be pushing it up towards one of my first reads for 2012.

Synopsis from Goodreads: Over five years in the writing, Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel ever, a triumph of imagination and research set in ancient Israel.  In The Dovekeepers, Hoffman delivers her most masterful work yet—one that draws on her passion for mythology, magic, and archaeology and her inimitable understanding of women.

In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean desert, Masada. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic historical event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary, bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom has come to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her twin grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman, who finds passion with another soldier. Shirah is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power. The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege, as the Romans draw near. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love.
This novel is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece

Oh yes, it is truly a masterpiece! Of the four stories, my favourite by far was “The Baker’s Wife”. I read parts while eating my lunch out and I had to leave the place because I was going to cry. I don’t think patrons would be too interested in seeing me cry over a book while trying to enjoy their fries. 🙂

Just incredible, beautiful, amazing writing. Beautiful details where each word and sentence needs to be savoured. It is by far the most beautiful writing I’ve read this year.

She writes a wonderful, rich tale about the strength of women, their relationships with one another and with the men they loved, hated, and feared, their secrets and what brought them to this place together in their care of the doves.

 “Crowds gathered, mystified, wondering if it had been Gabriel, the fiercest of the angels, who had brought this omen to us, for surely no man would have dared to approach a lion.”

“All that I needed I had been given by my mother. All that I knew, I knew because of her. But all that I sacrificed was for my daughter.”

What struck me as I reached the end, was a feeling I felt when taking a Western Religion course during my undergrad. The Jewish religion, to me, comes across as the purest, most beautiful form of religion. There was a part in this book that had a powerful impact on me as well, in terms of the plight the Jews have and their constant fight to survive and exist. I think she spoke of it beautifully in Yael/Shirah’s writing: “Revka and I make certain this creature is well cared for, ready if we should ever need to depart suddenly. Our people never know when we have to flee. Everything that is important we carry with us, whether or not it has been written down.”

Review: Incantation

Incantation is a love story….a historical tragedy….and a whirlwind of a novel where a ‘secret’ is revealed, and you find yourself waiting to see what happens with bated breath.  The story revolves around Estrella deMadrigal, a lovely teen who lives during a harsh reality when Jews who refused conversion to Christianity suffered unimaginable consequences.   She’s a girl who lives in total admiration of her family, including her severe and immensely wise grandparents, her creative mother, and her brother who is studying to become a priest.  Her best friend Catalina, a question mark for the reader from the start, is her confidante, until she allows her true colors to shine through, thus confirming all suspicions.

The setting of the novel is horrific from the start, as books are burned, Jews are forced to wear red circles, neighbors are rewarded for turning one another in, and persecution abounds.  Estrella quickly moves from naïve to gravely aware, as she’s forced to cope with astonishing religious intolerance.

At only 166 pages, this book felt incredibly brief.  Alice Hoffman’s writing is rich as usual, and she somehow manages to develop the characters in a very short span.  I still found myself wishing that the book was longer though, as I wanted to know more about Estrella’s neighbors, her love, and her future.  Overall, it’s a beautiful and emotional read, and one that will make sure that you keep picking up more treasures by Alice Hoffman.  4 stars.