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Publisher's Summary

Over five years in the writing, Alice Hoffman’s most ambitious and mesmerizing work ever, a triumph of imagination and research set in ancient Israel.

The author of such iconic bestsellers as Illumination Night, Practical Magic, Fortune’s Daughter, and Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, Alice Hoffman is one of the most popular and memorable writers of her generation. Now, 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 C.D., 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 comes 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.

©2011 Alice Hoffman (P)2011 Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Beautiful, harrowing, a major contribution to twenty-first century literature." (Toni Morrison, Nobel Laureate in Literature)
"I am still reeling from The Dovekeepers - from the history Alice Hoffman illuminates, from the language she uses to bring these women to life. This novel is a testament to the human spirit and to love rising from the ashes of war. But most of all, this novel is one that will never be forgotten by a reader." (Jodi Picoult, author of Sing You Home)
“In her remarkable new novel, Alice Hoffman holds a mirror to our ancient past as she explores the contemporary themes of sexual desire, women's solidarity in the face of strife, and the magic that's quietly present in our day-to-day living. Put The Dovekeepers at the pinnacle of Hoffman's extraordinary body of work. I was blown away.” (Wally Lamb, author of The Hour I First Believed)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Kate
  • Goshen, KY, United States
  • 10-14-11

Draining story - but beautifully written/told

Do not 'read' this if you are depressed. The writing is lovely. The narration is incredible. But your heart will break again & again. I'm torn between my appreciate for the wonderful aspects of this story & the sadness it drew out of me. I guess that's a sign of a good book.

36 of 39 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

No Olive Branch

There is no peace to be found here, there is no olive branch... Suspicious, guarded, and impassioned, four disparate women find themselves in the ancient and foreboding fortress of Masada only to realize that for them, there is no refuge-- from mankind, or destiny. While dutifully tending the doves, their stories and secrets unfold and their lives entwine through creative and talented writing by Hoffman, and nicely performed narration. With the ferocity of the warriors they are surrounded by, and their inherent spirit, the women come to embody and protect those very traits the doves they care for symbolize: family and love, gentleness and peace. While each narration is compelling, I found the historical research and wonderfully detailed descriptions--ancient Masada (with its mysterious and mystical history), and the austere beauty of the Judean desert--to be the sensory hooks that kept my interest more so than the characters. I understand the technical difficulties that are inherent in pulling 4 distinct personalities from one head, and with that said, there are times during the narration that the characters lose their individuality and definition, causing the tight thread of a great story to slacken a bit. The genre of "Magical Realism" is difficult for analytical readers...When characters possess such prescience, the ability to think beyond societal parameteers with the wisdom of centuries, AND magical powers, I always end up asking myself, "so, why are they in such predicaments;" if they can conjure the rains and summon spirits, why don't they find better living quarters, monogamous mates, a decent meal? As the novel concludes, when the pairs of doves are released from the holds of the massacred city to fly and live on, I realized the answer and who the dovekeepers are. Agree it is reminiscent of Red Tent; an entertaining and slightly haunting read to let your mind drift through, with the possible caveat to SOME male readers, there is no "kind" in mankind in this novel.

34 of 37 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Entrancing!

This book is Alice Hoffman at her best! It is historical fiction mixed with great imaginings about the lives of women in ancient Israel. Lots of research went into this book, but it reads like really good fiction. I got totally caught up in the stories of the women of Masada. History often leaves these stories by the wayside, and what Alice Hoffman has done is a gift to all people living now. The characters endure tremendous hardships, but the book's tone is one of hope. The narrators are perfect. I think it would have been a great book to be a narrator of as it is so well written.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Grade of B-

Hoffman is a gifted writer and her prose is solid. However, this book didn't keep me enthralled and waiting for what happened next. The four narrators don't flow well from one to the other and I stopped caring what happened to the characters after the second narrator finished. Perhaps if the whole tale were told from the first narrator's point of view, I would have felt more of a connection to the women. Well written, but doesn't live up to the excellent reviews.

57 of 65 people found this review helpful

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  • Maurice
  • JONESBORO, GEORGIA, United States
  • 03-27-12

Following The Story, You Will Love The Book

Learning the events surrounding ancient Jewish history has been of great importance in my Christian faith; the tragic incident that occurred at Masada was one such event. Although the story is semi-fictional, my being familiar with the: places, events, customs, and peoples involved made this novel a very rich and involving read. You really get into the characters, their relationships to each other and the situations surrounding them from Jerusalem, to Masada, and then... Oops, no spoilers!

This is also a good read for anyone not familiar with the occurrence at Masada or even the Jewish people, just follow the story and you will love the book.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Taryn
  • Suffern, NY, United States
  • 12-05-11

Not The Red Tent

This book was not at all like The Red Tent,as I thought it might be. It was too long, too depressing and 2 of the narrators were horrible. One narrator sounded like she was being tortured and the other sounded like she came from Brooklyn! I think the historical facts and descriptions of daily life were fascinating but that is where it ended for me. I agree with another listener who suggested that perhaps reading the book might be better!

17 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Perfect story for audio

A wonderful story made all the more compelling by four, well-chosen narrators. I recommend it for everyone of all ages, and genders!

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

forced dark irritating narrative

The book may not be as bad as the experience of listening to this narrator makes it seem--but then again it may be. If she was going for harsh, monotone, scolding...then it was perfect. I couldn't stand to listen to one more word and had to give it up.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Unimpressed

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

Only lasted about two hours in. This book was boring and depressing for the entire first two hours, gave up hope after that.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Danielle
  • Liverpool, NY, United States
  • 03-06-12

Not quite what I was hoping

What did you like best about The Dovekeepers? What did you like least?

Intriguing idea and inventive story telling, but the first story was too detailed and other stories left too much out. The pacing was off. Having a different reader for each character was terrific, but the first reader did not pronounce the Hebrew words correctly and it was terribly distracting.

If you’ve listened to books by Alice Hoffman and Heather Lind before, how does this one compare?

I listened to The Red Garden, which was also good but not great, though the reader, Nancy Travis, was excellent.

Did the narrators do a good job differentiating all the characters? How?

Yes. Each had their own style, but they couldn't overcome some weaknesses in character development and pacing.

Could you see The Dovekeepers being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Definitely. Not sure of actresses.

Any additional comments?

I really wanted to love this book, but I didn't. There was enough that was interesting to keep me going, but it always felt a little bit like work. I was very much looking forward to the Big Speech by the group's leader (history tells that he was very eloquent), but it wasn't especially inspiring, and the female reader did a terrible job trying to sound like a man's voice. Disappointing. Not a bad book, but not as good as it could and should have been.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful