Customer Reviews


1,101 Reviews
5 star:
 (656)
4 star:
 (244)
3 star:
 (94)
2 star:
 (66)
1 star:
 (41)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


615 of 631 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Weighty and Fulfilling Read - Highly Recommended
"Dovekeepers" is the first book I've read of Alice Hoffmans'. In fact, one evening my wife looked at the book while I was reading in bed and said: "You're reading Alice Hoffman? I've read Alice Hoffman. But you don't read Alice Hoffman!"

And so I DID read Alice Hoffman and I liked Alice Hoffman. This is a very good book. It's real deep and very weighty...
Published on September 9, 2011 by Jason Golomb

versus
26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Such a great premise, but the author's ambitions outstrip her talents
The first 50 pages of this book are amazing. Cliché as it sounds, I felt transported to the land of Judea in 70 C.E., brought vividly to life from the streets of Jerusalem to the harsh desert (reflecting the harshness of the narrator's life). And it was fascinating to see how much history had already transpired, even though the book is set over 1900 years ago...
Published on March 7, 2012 by E. Smiley


‹ Previous | 1 2111 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

615 of 631 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Weighty and Fulfilling Read - Highly Recommended, September 9, 2011
By 
Jason Golomb (Northern Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
"Dovekeepers" is the first book I've read of Alice Hoffmans'. In fact, one evening my wife looked at the book while I was reading in bed and said: "You're reading Alice Hoffman? I've read Alice Hoffman. But you don't read Alice Hoffman!"

And so I DID read Alice Hoffman and I liked Alice Hoffman. This is a very good book. It's real deep and very weighty.

"Dovekeepers" orbits around the real life events of the early 70s A.D. in ancient Judea. Rome was large and in charge and in the midst of shattering a Judean rebellion (seen commemorated in the famous Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum only a few hundred yards from the Colosseum in Italy). Several hundred Jews fled Jerusalem to the desert near the Dead Sea and moved into the former mountain fortress of King Herod at Masada. While the proud Jewish rebels held off a Roman legion for several years, Rome ultimately prevailed and all but two women and five children killed themselves rather than allow themselves to be overrun.

Hoffman's novel follows the lives of four women who all find themselves on Masada. Each woman has a dedicated 100-150 pages that weave in and out of each other's stories with the collective whole building a comprehensive picture of their mutual plight. The stories connect the women together in ways that are obvious and follow the primary arc of the novel, but also in ways that are surprising and poignantly fulfilling. The connections build and develop on many levels: physically, emotionally, and symbolically.

The book is full of characters who are broken and hurt; affected by some deep trauma catalyzed by the Roman attacks on Jerusalem; driving each, by their own will or otherwise, to the fortress in the desert. One of Hoffman's women is Yael, a deeply fractured and self actualizing individual who sums up the disparate journeys that brought the women to Masada: "We came like doves across the desert. In a time when there was nothing but death, we were grateful for anything, and most grateful of all when we awoke to another day."

You'll feel the weight of each character's pain and sorrow increase as the novel progresses. There are few happy endings. Hoffman's themes cover the gamut from fate and destiny, to religion and love, and the depths of devotion.

Faith is a thread that runs throughout Hoffman's carefully woven tapestry. It's not just a religious entity, but something that binds individuals, family units, as well as the entire rebel community. In Revka, Hoffman ponders the rebel Jews: "If we lost our faith, we would become like the clouds that swell across the western sky when the wind pushes them into the desert promising rain but empty inside." It's through Revka also that Hoffman finally (about half-way through he book) provides a heart-wrenchingly warm and genuinely surprising treat at the end of her particular novella. For the first time the furrow on my brow melted into a smile on my face (note: it didn't last very long).

Hoffman's Judean world is one of religion and tradition, of myth and magic: a world where everything in it has significance...symbolic or real. Some vignettes read almost as something out of a fantasy novel, but there's no melodrama to their weight.

In looking for a good way to summarize the books' tone, I found a couple of strong quotes. This first comes from Shirah, `The Witch of Moab': "Being human means losing everything we love best in the world. But would you ask to be anything else?" This second is from Revka: "...our waking life is formed by our sorrow. " In each character is anchored a heavy weight.

In this misogynistic society, few men come across in a truly positive light. Though Hoffman writes very sparingly, in her few words, she's able to expresses a multiplicity of ideas and thoughts. Characters are never solely what they seem to be and there is very little that is purely black or white. Hoffman's world is filled with shades of gray.

This book is going to resonate strongly for a lot of readers. It may be a bit polarizing because of its very serious nature. But as a first time reader of Hoffman, and a male, I feel fuller for having read this novel. I highly recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


177 of 190 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, great, great book, September 12, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
First I admit to being a huge Alice Hoffman fan. This book, however, is not Hoffman's typical book. It is as the book description says very ambitious. For me, Hoffman's ambitions succeeded beyond my imagination. I loved this book, the characters, the setting, the debates it caused in my own mind over faith and religion.

Still, I think this book requires a lot of patience to read. It isn't a genre fiction novel and is long because it was designed to be that way in order to give the characters and the history involved as much space as possible. This is not a book to sit down with and try to read during commercials while watching television. It's a book that requires time and effort--but that time and effor will be well worth it! Just don't expect an average Alice Hoffman book and read it for what it is--a great literary fiction novel. Few writers could bring off this book at all and certainly not with Hoffman's writing expertise. Parts of the book are just brilliantly written and worth reading just for that beauty alone.

Overall, fantastic read. Already wishing there was a new Alice Hoffman book on the horizon!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


70 of 74 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece, September 29, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I am actually quite humbled to offer up a review on Alice Hoffman's THE DOVEKEEPERS because I am not so sure any words I use to review it will do it justice. This book is not to be missed. The story is based on history brought to life through the amazing writing talents of the author. I don't believe I've read a work of fiction that so seamlessly brings together the very essence of a period in history by integrating characters, environment, historical setting and emotions in such a way that the reader can feel, smell, hear and breathe in the same environment in which the characters live. The level of detail is extraordinary, and blended so well with the daily lives of the main characters that the reader is just swept away and creates a world as real as the one in which the reader sits while reading. I enjoyed the way Hoffman brought her female characters to life one by one, then threaded their stories together to reveal little nuances about each one.

Prior to reading THE DOVEKEEPERS, I knew nothing about the story of Jews who held out against the Roman army at Masada in 70 C.E., but this story made it easy to become immersed in that period of history, as well as in the lives of the four female main characters. Hoffman's research in this period in history is evident in almost every sentence, yet she presents it in such a beautifully blended manner that the reader does not feel as if they are being beaten up with historical facts. It is a story of treachery, cruelty, dysfunctional families, sex, love, debauchery, friendship, loyalty, and above all else, strong women enduring a traumatic and difficult period in history. But it is written with such superb, lyrical prose that the reader can't help but be drawn in and live front and center with each main character.

THE DOVEKEEPERS makes me want to take back every 5 star review of a book I've given on Amazon because this is truly the title that deserves it the most. Don't hesitate to buy this one!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


78 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alice Hoffman at her Best!, September 14, 2011
By 
JJ "avid reader" (Meridianville, Alabama United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
When I first read the synopsis of this book, I wasn't sure if I wanted to read it. The subject matter pertained to a time in history that I know very little about. The book just didn't seem like the Alice Hoffman books that I have read and loved. However, I was hooked from the very first page; The Dovekeepers is a combination of history and fiction beautifully written. I should never have doubted Alice Hoffman's ability to take any subject matter and create a spellbinding book! She tells her story through the voices of four different women. The change between the women's stories flowed effortlessly. I was quickly caught up in the lives of each individual woman. Alice Hoffman manages to convey human anger, joy, sorrow and love with eloquent and memorable metaphorical phrasing. I even found myself rereading paragraphs over again; I didn't want it to end. It would be wonderful if Alice Hoffman could continue this story, even if purely fictional, with the characters who managed to survive the seige of Masada. This is simply a must read & deserves 5 stars!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Such a great premise, but the author's ambitions outstrip her talents, March 7, 2012
The first 50 pages of this book are amazing. Cliché as it sounds, I felt transported to the land of Judea in 70 C.E., brought vividly to life from the streets of Jerusalem to the harsh desert (reflecting the harshness of the narrator's life). And it was fascinating to see how much history had already transpired, even though the book is set over 1900 years ago.

Sadly, The Dovekeepers didn't live up to that initial promise. It's a decent story with a lot of inherent drama: about 1000 Jews fled to the nearly-inaccessible fortress of Masada, which became the last stronghold against the Roman invasion of their land. It's a slice of history I knew almost nothing about, which is one of the reasons I read historical fiction. The book is narrated alternately by four resilient, determined women, whose job is caring for Masada's doves (which provide eggs, fertilizer and eventually meat for the fortress). But it starts to feel more conventional once the women arrive in the fortress, and more and more problems with the writing crop up. Among them:

- Bloat. Here's one character musing on her people's chances against the Romans:

"In truth our people were no match for Roman soldiers, who had been trained for one thing, to be a machine of death. Our warriors were best when they slunk about like wolves, striking enemies in the dark. The rebels' only hope of success was an attack that was unexpected, when thanks to God's grace, their quickness and ferocity might win out over might. Against well-armored, organized troops, who had so much experience of warfare, our people were woefully unprepared. Our fathers and brothers were freedom fighters, not trained soldiers. Unlike my sister's father, the men at Masada had not been warriors from the moment of their birth, each with a horse already chosen and a knife in hand. They had been priests and bakers and scholars, their weapons knives and arrows and rocks, not bronze and iron. We were nothing against the relentless power of the Roman Empire."

In other words, lacking the Roman soldiers' training and experience, Masada's fighters depended on stealth? If Hoffman didn't consistently use 150 words where 15 would do, this book would probably have had 300 pages.

- Repetition. Another form of bloat. For instance, on one page, Shirah tells Revka that Revka will find the last ingredient she needs for a charm on the day when Event X happens. On the very next page, we get Event X. Says Revka: "I knew this was the day when the incantation bowl would be complete, for Shirah had vowed the missing ingredient could be added only when [Event X happened.]"

- Trying really hard to be weighty and talk about What It Means To Be Human. This means a lot of florid language. Hoffman has apparently never met a simile she didn't like, and her characters never let pass an opportunity to spout platitudes about the human condition, often with references to lions, leopards etc. The story can speak for itself, so why not let readers draw their own conclusions about what it means to be human?

- Identical voices. The four women all think the same way. Multiple narrators are notoriously difficult for one author to pull off, and the problem is that when everyone sounds the same, it's difficult to distinguish between them as people. Especially when, despite their different preoccupations, they all share so many traits to begin with (determination, self-doubt, etc.).

- Characters knowing things they shouldn't. Hoffman clearly felt constrained by the first-person POV, preferring to tell the stories of all four women throughout. So when Revka, who only met Yael and her family a couple months before, witnesses an interaction between Yael and her father, she describes it as follows: "The assassin kept his head bowed as he waited for Yael's decision, a sign of respect he had never offered to his daughter in the past." Which is something Yael might say, or an omniscient narrator might say, but when a third party makes such a sweeping statement with such confidence, it's jarring. And then there's Shirah's statement that Aziza at birth looked exactly like Shirah herself at birth. That's funny, because no one was there to tell her that--does she have a photograph? And so on.

By about 200 pages in, I was finding this book tiresome. I did finish it, and it was.... decent. It has great history and a strong sense of place. It handily avoids painting individuals or groups as pure good or evil. It's clearly well-researched and the characters are moderately interesting. But it's a bit of a slog. Readers more tolerant of florid language than I am will likely enjoy it more. But I can't help thinking that a more disciplined writer might have done so much better, especially with such fascinating material to work with.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


380 of 442 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Too Much, Too Long, September 3, 2011
By 
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I'm afraid this review of Alice Hoffman's latest novel, "The Dovekeepers", is going to be unpopular with her fans. I understand because I'm also a fan of Hoffman's novels - usually. But I think that in "The Dovekeepers", readers are just going to be overwhelmed with too much of the things that we usually like about Hoffman's novels. I'll try to explain:

"The Dovekeepers" is the story of the Roman defeat of the Jews at Masada ~70 C.E. told from the perspectives of four women who had sought refuge there in the stronghold built by King Herod. Each narrator's section of the story is quite long and detailed. Each contains much much much Hoffman-trademarked magic, omens, superstitions, potions, spells, witches, angels, demons,ghosts, amulets, symbols, beasts...you get the idea. I think if each of these stories had been shortened and had less of the "other-world"-ness it would have moved along better.

But, maybe that's just me. Maybe readers who really get into the magical, spiritual, ethereal stuff will just ADORE this novel. For me it was too much of what should be "just enough"; an avalanche of what should have been a sprinkling. However, I'm still a Hoffman fan, and will certainly look forward to her next offering.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


65 of 72 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious. Could not Wait for it to end, July 31, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Dovekeepers: A Novel (Paperback)
I have enjoyed other Hoffman works and I like history, even historical fiction. But this is awful. I kept at it hoping there would be something redeeming but no luck. The relentlessly breathless, quasi biblical, sometimes nonsensical narrative just wore me out.

It seems like Hoffman could never have her character say something simple like "I was tired". No, it had to be, "I was tired like the grasshopper is tired after the month of eating has passed and it has morphed into a cocoon of a demon of which my Mother had foreseen in her dreams and which would define my destiny."

I made that line up - but there was so much of that sort of thing that sometimes I wanted to scream. The basic story line was just overwhelmed by it all.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent magic, September 12, 2011
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I truly don't know how to begin to convey the spellbinding artistry that is Hoffman's writing. Based on the true story of how 900 Jews in ancient Judea held out against invading Romans bent on their destruction, Hoffman gives life to four extraordinary women, two of whom survive annihilation with five children when all others do not. Shirah, the Witch of Moab is just one of the fully realized characters that are imbued with life and longing in this mesmerizing tale. Yael, the bold daughter of an assassin; Revka, the gentle wife of a baker who is forced to commit unspeakable acts; and Aziza, a fierce warrior masquerading as a man tell their own stories and those of others in the most beautiful, evocative prose. As in the best historical novels, there is much basis in fact and fascinating details about life and lore during that time. You are transported as if you are spying these characters in the plaza and in the shadows of the settlement as they try to keep their secrets. This work is her best, a magnum opus, and not to be missed!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


54 of 63 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Masada did not need the Alice Hoffman treatment, November 3, 2011
By 
Let me start by saying that Alice Hoffman is a tremendously gifted writer. I love the magic and magical realism of her stories, and I think she has a good sense of people and emotions. At what she does, there are none better.

Still, when I grabbed a galley of The Dovekeepers at BEA, it definitely seemed like a departure from her typical work. In fact, the jacket copy made it seem as though The Dovekeepers was a passion project, "over five years in the writing." I have no doubt that Ms. Hoffman's heart was in the right place, but this reader is left with the thought that Masada didn't need the Alice Hoffman treatment.

Set in 70 C.E., this is the story of the Roman siege of the Jewish settlement at Masada, a mountain stronghold. Ms. Hoffman has humanized the historic events by telling the story in four parts through the first-person narration of four very different women. I went into this novel with the highest of expectations, but my ultimate response was quite negative.

I had several issues with the book, but probably the biggest was this--the tragedy at Masada is one of the most dramatic tales in all of history. There was no need to add witchcraft and fantastic elements. It's clear that Ms. Hoffman did a ton of research, and I don't expect that ancient Jews were just like contemporary ones, but I didn't even recognize the people she was writing about as Jews. They were like some kind of weird, superstitious pagans. And this is coming from a woman with absolutely no religious faith--but apparently I have strong feelings of connection to my Jewish history. And I felt she took tremendous liberties with a story that shouldn't have been altered out of respect. I was kind of offended.

For instance, the Jewish faith doesn't tend to dwell on any kind of afterlife. It's a vague concept at best. We focus on this life. However, Hoffman uses the phrase "world-to-come" 44 times in this novel! These people are obsessed with the afterlife. And there are plentiful references to ghosts, demons, magic, spells, witches, etc. I realize there is mysticism in Judaism--real Kabbalah, not the nonsense practiced by Christian celebrities--but it's a tiny part of the religion. And yet it seems to be all Alice Hoffman is able to write about.

Obviously, a lot of the issues above have more to do with me and my Jewish identity than the quality of the novel, strictly speaking. Beyond all that, the novel still has some problems. As noted above, the story is told through the voices and experiences of four different female narrators. I found the first narrator to be unlikable and unsympathetic in the extreme. I understand that redemption was a major theme of the novel, but it made getting into the story challenging. In general, I had a lot of trouble connecting to these women.

Finally, OMG, I can't believe how badly the endless exposition was handled! Truly dreadful. I could give you any number of examples, but here are a few:

"The settlement had been destroyed by the Romans. It was intended to be a paradise built by the Yahad, a group of believers from the Essene sect, Jews who practiced strict codes with fixed hours of prayer. It was said that our people had been cut into four quarters, each with their own philosophy, and then cut up four more times for good measure. Truly righteous, the Essenes has indeed cut themselves off from all others."

"My father came up to me and asked if it was my desire to be a zonah. I felt that he had slapped me. He compared me to the prostitutes who lived at the edge of Jerusalem and were willing to pull off their cloaks for anyone who would pay them, even Roman soldiers."

"Shirah was a practitioner of keshaphim, initiated into the secrets of magic. Our people believed that any item with a sun and a moon upon it must be taken to the Salt Sea and thrown into the water, but several women claimed to have seen such figures worn at the witch's throat."

I don't know that any other reader would respond to this novel the way that I have. In fact, I welcome comments from other readers about the points I raised. I see that, in general, The Dovekeepers has gotten extremely positive reviews. I'd much rather praise than criticize, but I just can't join the majority on this one. I will look forward to Ms. Hoffman's next effort. I am confident that it will be more to my liking.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I would have preferred a story that more closely represented religious beliefs/customs of the real people of Masada, December 14, 2011
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Let me start by saying that the author is obviously an excellent writer. My review takes nothing away from her obvious talents.

Last year I visited Masada. I've always been interested in the lives of the people who died there but never thought I would get to see it in person. I sat there looking over to the beautiful view of the Dead Sea and wondered how many times the people of Masada sat and looked at that same view. I wondered what they thought about, how they worshipped, if they fell in love, had weddings, babies, etc. Since spending some time there, I've been researching and studying it even further. That's why I bought this book, in an effort to put faces and stories to the tragic event.

However, I was disappointed to see the character and religious beliefs of the people of Masada represented in a way that was dramatically different from what they practiced. Some treasured scrolls were hidden well enough that they actually survived and have recently been found, so we know much about what they did believe and how important it was to them.

The novel is full of mysticism: bad fortune, demons, spirits, secret chants, charms, omens, mystical dreams, oracles, ghosts, medicines, love potions, and spells.

I would have known that it wasn't for me if I had been more careful to research the book before buying it.

My visit to Masada last year was a moving experience. People go there to honor those brave people who, rightly or wrongly, chose to die rather than to live in slavery. Their memory is traditionally honored with dignity befitting their own strong religious beliefs and customs.

I was looking for a novel more faithful to the historical facts, so this was not a good choice for me.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2111 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Dovekeepers: A Novel
The Dovekeepers: A Novel by Alice Hoffman (Paperback - April 3, 2012)
$16.00 $9.23
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.