Speaking with Alice Hoffman via facebook: Review: “The Dovekeepers”


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Social media has its upside. I was able to contact Alice Hoffman, a very prolific writer via Facebook and asked her some questions. Her answers are contained in this book review. She is my favorite author.

Review of “The Dovekeepers
“The Dovekeepers,” is the fictionalized story of what might have happened at Masada located in Southern Israel.  If you’ve ever toured Israel, you’ve probably visited the remains of the fortress. It was originally occupied by King Herod. It’s situated on top of a high rock and surrounded by steep cliffs.  Israeli soldiers take an oath on Masada, “Masada shall not fall again.”

Masada protected Zealot Jews and their families from the Romans in the first century. After the fall of the second temple in Jerusalem, Jews were being taken as slaves or killed.

Unfortunately, the Jews were only safe at Masada for three years. It took the Roman Tenth Legion that long to reach the fortress. What they found inside the compound shocked them. Nine-hundred-sixty Jewish people were dead. They preferred death to becoming enslaved and killed by the Romans. According to historian, Flavius Josephus, two women and five children escaped death.

Alice Hoffman is a prolific writer who has published a total of twenty-one novels, three books of short fiction and eight books for children and young adults. This is the first adult book she’s written about her Jewish heritage. “ I am not religious, but am culturally attached to my heritage,” said Hoffman.

Many other authors such as Tony Morrison, Jodi Picoult, and Wally Lamb are praising “The Dovekeepers.  “For me, “The Dovekeepers” is the most complicated book I’ve ever written and the most emotionally honest,” said Hoffman.

“The Dovekeepers” is fictional, but Hoffman researched it thoroughly. It took her five years to write this novel. Hoffman also studied artifacts from this period. She was inspired after she took a tour of Masada. “I was moved and connected,” said Hoffman.  The book started coming to her when she was looking at the artifacts displayed in the Masada Museum. After she read some history, she had her novel.

Brave and courageous women are the main characters of this book: Revka, a woman who had led an ordinary life as a baker’s wife until her daughter and husband were brutally murdered; Yael, an assassin’s daughter; Aziza, raised as a boy warrior and Shira, a woman from Alexandria who studied potions and magic.

While doing past research, Hoffman discovered that some women during war-time, disguised themselves as men and went into battle. She was fascinated by this idea and that is how the character Aziza developed.

“Sometimes characters simply arrive, other times they don’t work out. They always surprise me,” said Hoffman.  When she finished the book Hoffman realized each of the characters represented a part of her personality.

The four women in this story are the “Dovekeepers.” The dove’s waste is used to fertilize the land so crops can grow. At first, survival is easy. Herod left storerooms of food behind, but as the time goes on, the storerooms become barren, the weather becomes too hot and dry to grow crops and life becomes desperate.

In the meantime, the Jews watched the Romans constructing battering rams and other weapons. They knew it was only a matter of time before they would be conquered.

Interwoven in the plot are love stories, births and deaths. There is plenty of passion too.
The writer manages to take us back in time. “The inside story is about forgiveness,” said Hoffman.

Descriptions of the battles between the Zealots and Romans are vivid. The tragic end of the people of Masada is masterfully told. Hoffman does end the book with some hope.

When asked how it feels to be admired by so many readers, Hoffman said, “ I am lucky enough to have wonderful readers.”

This book is readily available on the web and at bookstores. Among her other books are “At Risk,” and “Practical Magic.” If you enjoy reading a fantastic author, read any book of Alice Hoffman’s. You won’t be disappointed.

Author Alice Hoffman

Author Alice Hoffman

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