Posts tagged ‘Masada’

The Women of Masada – “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman

 “The Dovekeepers” by Alice Hoffman, Published 2011 

I enjoyed this book. Though long and at times a bit repetitive, it was worth the small amount of drudgery.  The story of Masada is heart-breaking but is important and using historical fiction Hoffman does a great job of engaging the reader in the tragedy.

Around 70 A.D. Jews who had been cast out of their homelands by the Romans created a new home for themselves in Masada, a mountain fortress created by King Herod.  They survived years of skirmishes with the Romans until 73 A.D. when the Romans finally invaded Masada, and according to Jopheus, a Jewish historian of the time, all of the Jews committed mass suicide (this is a controversial point).  The sole survivors were two women and five children.

English: Masada northern palace built by King ...

Image via Wikipedia

Though you know how this tale will end, Hoffman takes this historical event and weaves in her story of four women.  All of them come to Masada seeking refuge and healing. They don’t find exactly what they are looking for but all four find what they need to meet their destinies. They become dovekeepers, collecting their eggs and using their excrement as fertilizer to help the crops grow. It is not  the most respected task but this work and the doves become a way to keep the women connected to each other.  All four women grow to love and respect each other – so relationships that arise out of suspicion and brokenness become something beautiful and meaningful for all four women. There are men that break them, love them, fail to truly see them and ultimately in one way or another desert them. But Hoffman makes a careful point that, with or without the men, these women have to find the strength in themselves and each other to survive.

Hoffman has given the women of Masada a voice.  This book is harrowing and tragically sad.  It is a story about not just persecution of the Jews but also the persecution of women.  But it is also a story of enduring faith and strength, that is there even when the characters least expect it.

  “The voice that arises out of silence is something no one can imagine until it is heard.” 

For other reviews please check out:

Also by Alice Hoffman – “The Probable Future” 


January 2, 2012 at 11:16 am 13 comments


There is some great literature out there, but there is a lot of bad literature as well. We shouldn't all have to read it. These are my recommendations and thoughts about the books I read.


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