What a book!? The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman, was published last fall, and good friend Mary was sure it would be a book I would love.? Well, I loved it and I didn’t.? But it is certainly a book that makes a strong impression and stays in the mind.
At a time when the world was exploding, and the Romans had just destroyed the temple in Jerusalem (79 A. D.), Jews were driven from that city and many others, nearly all ending up dead in the desert, and others scattered to the four winds.? Some Jews, though, ended up on a mountain in the Judean desert called Masada.? This book is their story, from the point of view of four women.
These women, of all the 900 in Masada, were brought together when they were assigned to care for the doves, who provided manure for the orchards, and occasionally provided food.
We know the ending before we even begin to read – when the Romans finally take Masada, all the people are dead, having allowed themselves to be killed by each other rather than living to become Roman slaves.? Though ancient historian Josephus says 2 women and 5 children survived.
The details of daily life, the powerful loves and lives of the women, the spirit of the people, the feel of the landscape – all these placed me in that hot, dry desert, with the wind blowing almost constantly.? The measure of the seasons, waiting on the rain, withstanding the heat, is palpable throughout.
We move with the people through their times of exaltation to the beginning of scarcity on to the time of fear and despair.? This is definitely a journey worth taking.