December 2, 2012

The Dovekeepers

Find The Dovekeepers on Goodreads
Genres/Themes: Historical Fiction, Women's Fiction
My Rating: ★★★★☆

This book was much better than I expected. When I started this book, I was having such a hard time reading it. I wanted to just drop it and give it 2 stars. Don't!

The first story, I didn't think was all that good. I just wanted to strangle Yael. The second part featuring Revka was much better. The third portion with Aziza was my favorite. I could relate to her a lot more than the others, but I can see where different women would find it easier to relate to one of the other women of the story. The last part with Shirah was also very good. After finishing the story, I googled Masada to get a better picture of where the main part of the story took place. Putting the images together with the story just ripped at my heart.

I would definitely recommend this book to any woman, especially if you are interested in history or religious history.

From Book Club Discussion (spoilers):

I enjoyed the book a lot more than I thought I would. I don't think I would have read it on my own. I also would have dropped it before finishing it because I didn't much care for Yael's story. I pretty much forced my way through so I could finish the book and participate in the discussion. I was glad I did because I enjoyed the other three stories tremendously. It helped that the writing style was easy to read and flowed very well. I think that was one of the main things that got me through Yael's story.

1. The novel is split into four principal parts, with each of the main characters—Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah—narrating one section. Which of these women did you find most appealing, and why?
My favorite story was Aziza's. I love gender bender stories especially when it's a woman acting a man. I could also relate to her the most. I liked how she didn't follow strict with tradition and moved out of the "woman's place".

I think that was one of the reason's Yael frustrated me so much. She was so meek and willing to to let men trod on her. Everything was her fault, so the men would remain pure. When she gave her brother the pomegranate and promised to put him always before herself, I was ready to throw the book against the wall! It reminded me of the scene in Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, where she's given an apple, and her brother demands it. She refuses and eats it, and her father punishes her for not listening to her brother's demands.

I really enjoyed Revka and Shirah's stories, but I couldn't relate to them as much. Mainly because they are older than me, have experienced so much more than me, and have had children.

2. What do you make of Channa's attempt, essentially, to kidnap Yael's baby Arieh? Is Channa different from the other major female characters in the book? Do you find your opinion of her changes?
I think Yael was kind of stupid to let Arieh be taken over there so many times. It was kind of obvious that it was going to happen. I can also understand why Channa would do it. At first I thought of her as evil, but when you look at it as if you were reading the book from Channa's point of view, Shirah would be the evil one. I wish Channa had been involved with the doves too so that we could have heard her side of the story too.

In an attached letter, Hoffman explains that the historical foundation of her story comes from Josephus, the first-century historian who has written the only account of the massacre. How does knowing that the novel is based on history and archeological findings affect your reading of the book?
I enjoyed it a lot more knowing it was based on known history. I did some research, and often times, books like this are only loosely based on facts. This one seemed to have had a lot of research done and was written as well as it could have been without actually having been there all those years ago. It especially struck a chord with me when I looked up images of the place. You can still see the ramp that the Romans built. 

And here is an interesting article I found about the blue dye used to make the blue string in the prayer shawls.

4. Women's knowledge in The Dovekeepers is handed down from mother to daughter, sister to sister, friend to friend. Why do you think it is so difficult to know what the lives of ancient women were really like? Do you see any connection with the way in which your own family stories are handed down through the generations?
I know that it was often hard to know what women were like back then because most of the history of women was passed down in spoken word. Not many women knew how to write, had the luxury of materials to write with, or were not able to preserve their writings. Men often times tossed writing by women in favor of their own deeming theirs more important.

As for passing down through the women of a family, there is a lot of that in my family. There are certain heirlooms, traditions, recipes, and stories in my family that are passed down to the first daughter of the first daughter, etc. There are also some that are shared amongst the women of our family. For example, practically every women on my Dad's side in the last 150 years carried and signed a handkerchief during their wedding. When I get married, I will be expected to do the same. Every woman on my father's side of the family is expected to have white roses in their bouquet, and orchids on my mother's side. I also inherited a box with clothing from seven generations of women in my family. My mother and I still need to add to it, which will make it nine generations. One of the dresses from my great-great grandma was shockingly small. Only a 12 inch waist!

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