Review: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

The Dovekeepers
by Alice Hoffman

Release Date:  October 4, 2011
Scribner Publishing


Over five years in the writing, The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing novel, a tour de force of imagination and research, set in ancient Israel.

In 70 C.E., nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on Masada, a mountain in the Judean desert. According to the ancient historian Josephus, two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman’s novel is a spellbinding tale of four extraordinarily 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, an expert assassin, 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 young grandsons, rendered mute by what they have witnessed. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and an expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, 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. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets—about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and whom they love. The Dovekeepers is Alice Hoffman’s masterpiece.


Never before has a book entranced me the way The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman has. I’ve literally just finished reading this book and I can’t get my mind to settle down. It’s almost as if I’ve ran a race, my adrenaline is pumping and my heart beating a mile a minute, scenes from the book keep going around and around in my head. My urgent need to tell everyone about this beautifully haunting book is taking over all other thoughts, so I need to get this review out before I explode! 

Alice Hoffman is the author of Practical Magic and The Red Garden, plus many, many other novels but The Dovekeepers is her first historical fiction work. Hoffman was inspired by a trip to Jerusalem, when she visited a place called Masada, a fortress built by Herod the Great that is situated on top of a large mountain, where a group of nine hundred Jews in the first century CE, who had fled their homelands from the invading Romans converged together to escape the slaughter of their people. 

The Dovekeepers is the story of four women – Aziza, the girl-warrior; Shirah, the Witch of Moab; Yael, the lioness; and Revka, the revenging mother – who came to Masada after their homes and towns were destroyed, each arriving a completely different woman than who they had been before the invasion. They tell the stories of their own life, prior to and including their time in Masada, up to that fateful day and each story is more haunting and profound than the next. Hoffman’s writing is among the most exquisite I have ever read! She has expertly woven a tale of tragedy and hope, hate and love, magic and human nature and I was mesmerized by every word. 

This book should come with a warning as it has the power to thoroughly enthrall a reader, causing them to block out the world around them completely. My household chores were abandoned, husband and child ignored, I was just absorbed into the pages of this novel that everything else took a backseat to the fascinating story enfolding in front of me. 

I cried when I finished the novel, not only because of the sad fate of the people of Masada, but because I will miss these four bold and unyielding women. I will carry their story in my heart forever.



  1. This book sounds amazing, Amy! It is obvious how deeply it touched you. It is an indescribable feeling when a book has that effect upon a person; the last time it happened to me I didn't want to read anything else for at least a week.

    Hopefully she will grace us with more of her historical fiction writing talent in the future!

  2. That is so true, Svea! I feel like I need at least a day or two to absorb the whole experience before I start reading another book, it was just that powerful! I also hope that Hoffman writes another historical.

  3. This sounds amazing! I've always liked her work. Have to get this one for sure! Thanks! Anne Barnhill

  4. I love Alice Hoffman's books and I am eagerly waiting to read this one. I ordered it from the library and will hopefully be reading it soon. After reading your review I am even more excited to read it! It is wonderful when a book touches you as much as this one did to you. I hope I enjoy it as much!!!

  5. OK I just dowloaded this one to my Kindle, after reading your fabulous review, and I don't EVER pay full price for a Kindle book! Your review was just the motivation I needed to start another book... Thanks!

  6. Thank you for this beautiful and heartfelt must be extraordinary, and I am adding it to my list.

  7. Awesome review! I love when books move people like this. Thanks for sharing your review...I'm off to add it to the To-Read list!

  8. I really want to read this at some point. I have enjoyed Hoffman in the past and this sounds really good!

  9. wow...that's all I can say. The story and your heart felt review make me want to rad this. plan and simple. Thanks!

  10. O man! I am so happy you loved this one! She is one of my favorite authors and I so value your opinion on HF. I may have to go buy this one. Awesome. By the way, I dent know it was five yrs in the making! I am so excited she wrote an awesome HF book!

  11. I've heard that this was a good one

  12. Oh wow, this is an amazing book! I loved it and would definitely recommend it.

    I heard an interview with Alice on a local radio show called The Book Report and it was very interesting to get a bit of back-story on the writing of this novel. The interview is available on their site in the archives section if anyone is interested.

  13. Amy-what a lovely review!

    I read this over Christmas time and LOVED it, I was so riveted by the writing, I cant even bring myself to write a review on it yet...:)

  14. PS- that was me commenting above (Bite on This..:)

  15. The story was very well written, interesting and informative. It made me want to find out more information about Masada and that period in history. The story more than met my expectations.

  16. Fantastic read. Already wishing there was a new Alice Hoffman book on the horizon!

    Great data for Ipe Decking website

  17. Fantastic read. Already wishing there was a new Alice Hoffman book on the horizon!


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