Kim's Reviews > The Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
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's review
Dec 17, 11

bookshelves: contemporary, mmxi
Read from December 05 to 16, 2011

There are many reasons why I wouldn’t like this book:

1. I hate feeling dumb.

2. It’s set in Ancient Israel, 70 C.E. to be exact, and the fact that I had to ask what C.E. meant --being a child of B.C and A.D --did not go over well (Refer to #1)

3. It’s set in Ancient Israel and I, shamefully, have absolutely no clue what happened back then. I mean… besides the Last Temptation of Christ and bible stories that I kind of sort of remember. (#1)

4. The author also wrote Practical Magic, which I have not read but I have seen the movie and besides it being pretty damn awful, I got a serious complex having to look at Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock slink around in little black dresses. AND she’s also a favorite of Oprah which causes controversy on its own level that I don’t care to go into but still am squeamish about…

5. Hype. Wasn’t it one of the books nominated for a GR Book of the Year?

6. It’s a book that one of my co-workers would look at and say ‘Oh, I’ve read that!’ (a definite sign to stay away)

7.It’s set in Masada… and I don’t know about you, but I had no idea what Masada was. Maybe it’s my Titanic, I don’t know. But, going off of #1, I didn’t like it when I mentioned this to a friend and he said ‘Oh, when (view spoiler) and I was only about 200 pages into it and had already started to care for some of the characters and well, HATE IT when surprises are ruined. (run-on sentence, whatever…)and.. well (#1)

So, yes, there were many challenges to face reading this book. I’m not even sure why it was on my To-Read list… it’s not like any of you suggested it to me. Or, I think I might have run across this ditty at some point because I had a déjà vu type moment when I read it:

“For those who say that the Witch of Moab never loved anyone, that she was selfish, concerned with her own fate alone, I can only say that she was ruined by love and delivered by it and that she left something glorious to the word, a child who loves to stand in the rain.”

Okay, yes, you’ve written it off as a chick lit book. I get it. I would too based on that.. which is, by the way, on the last page of the novel and couldn’t have ruined my opinion of the story no how.

This book is elegant. That’s probably the highest praise that I can bestow right now. I crave to be elegant. I am clumsy and messy and blabber and start sentences with ‘and’ and disregard all my 7th grade English teacher, Mrs. Van Houten, taught me about punctuation.

The story is based on actual events, you can even see some of the items mentioned in it at museums and such. But, what Hoffman has done has created characters around this story. The lives of four Dovekeepers and the people who surround them. She presents them to you in such a way that you actually feel like you were handling doves (that is, if you liked them… and c’mon… too many weddings show that the cliché is true.) The women are capable and graceful and intelligent. They have a quiet strength and live with many ghosts. They have all come to Masada for different reasons and fate leads them to one another and we hear each of their stories in their own voice. The Assassin’s Daughter. The Baker’s Wife. The Warrior’s Beloved. The Witch of Moab.

Hoffman’s writing style was simple, short sentences. Statements, rather. But, beautifully written, so much so that I would find myself going back to the pages that I marked off to re-read passages. So much said in so little fashion. “I took my hand from his. He looked like ice, but ice is known to burn.” Or “ When the wind is so strong that we women know we will choke on the rising dust if we fail to tie our scarves across our faces, boys will always ignore the elements and race through storm clouds, dreaming of glory.”

The first page of the book, before the map even, has this written on it:

“Let my burden be your burden, and yours be mine.”

Much better than that crap people recite from that wedding song. Life is hard. People die and people suffer and the most honorable thing you can do is help carry the weight.
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Reading Progress

12/12/2011 page 305
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 61) (61 new)

message 1: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! ARE elegant. Of all the wonderful readers around, you're in that class.

Masada sounds Japanese to me.

message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim See? I would have thought so too... who would have know it's so freakin' famous??

Thank you, Eh... But it's hard to feel elegant with coffee stains on my shirt. :(

message 3: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Hah, yes, everything of mine has a stain somewhere. Today, it's salsa on my jeans and a little hole in my shirt over my belly. I don't even have kids to blame!

message 4: by Vale (new)

Vale Great review!

message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Vale!

Wendy Excellent and thorough review!

message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thank you, Wendy!

Sumiko “Let my burden be your burden, and yours be mine.”

... Life is hard. People die and people suffer and the most honorable thing you can do is help carry the weight.

BEAUTIFULLY SAID. Summarizes the book for me. Thank you.

Hilary Lang Greenebaum now I Really want to contine.... am on page 2!
thank you

message 10: by Nina (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nina While this is funny, some of these are ironically very shallow reasons to initially dislike a book. :)However I can't truthfully admit I don't feel the same way about this book. I mean it's shamelessly feminist, and definitely gonna be an Oprah fave.I don't generally enjoy books with an agenda. However I agree, Hoffman is a highly skilled and talented writer and I envy her the ability to develop the extremely complex inner selves of her characters. At times she is capable of beautiful lines of poetry and her novels are extremely affecting.

Susan The story of Masada is so legendary, and a human drama in capital letters, that is well known by most history lovers. Don't feel bad about not knowing what C.E. and B.C.E. (common era and before common era, respectively) as they are terms fairly recently coming into secular usage by academics, theologians, and others who don't think it appropriate to refer to all time in terms of the birth and death of Christ. And BTW the best way not to feel dumb about things is just to keep reading :)

Heather Coulter Haha! I love your reasoning for why you shouldn't have liked it! let me say though, that while the movie for Practical Magic sucked monkey balls, the book was very, very good. It was understated and wonderful. I didn't know she was touted by Oprah... good thing, too, because I probably wouldn't have read anything of hers if I'd known that. Guess I should be more open-minded. :P

message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Heather... I'm trying to wean off my anti oprah stance...

Katharine I loved your #4 reason, especially what you said about Oprah. When she recommends something I usually run away--except for Anna Karenina but thankfully I had read it before she sunk her claws into it. :)

Aimee I enjoyed your review and appreciate the time it has taken for you to put it together. I have stacks of books with post-it notes in them so that one day I can go back and do the same.

I did read Hoffman's Here on Earth which I know was an Oprah book club selection and even though I have not finished this one yet it is far more superior.

message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thanks, Aimee.. I should take stock in post-it notes... or Starbucks since I constantly use their receipts for jotting down notes. :)

MARGO Thank you for posting your review Kim. I had it on my list for some reason and then I thought, "Yikes, 70 CE -whatever the heck that mean," and thought I am not high brow enough for this one so I removed it. I then came upon your review and you convinced me to give it a whirl.

message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Awesome! It's a great book... I'm reading Cutting for Stone right now and that's set in Ethiopia in the 1950s and it's not something I would thought to read either. Yay for mind expansion!!! :)

message 19: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I loved this book, I love your review, but I also loved Practical Magic, so you might not think too much of me :) This is the kind of review I understand - you know, written by a real person, the way you'd tell a girlfriend about a good book.

message 20: by Hanna (new) - added it

Hanna C'mon people! You never heard of Masada? Didn't you at least take RE in school?

message 21: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim What's RE?

message 22: by Sarah (new) - added it

Sarah Almost like any book to movie, Practical Magic was nothing like the movie at all. You should give it a try but really any of Hoffman's books are amazing.

ilovebakedgoods (Teresa) Your review helped me decide to give this book a chance. Some of your reasons you listed for why you wouldn't like this book are things I could have written. Also, I'm with you -- what is RE? It sounds familiar. I'm going to Google that, CE and Masada right now.

message 24: by Sue (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue I think the "RE in school" comment is Religious Education, and no - being public educated, I did not. As to CE and Masada, a lot of us had to look that up - no shame in that.

message 25: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Ahh... thank you Sue, I didn't take that either (obviously) and thank you Teresa! I hope you enjoy the book!

Elizabeth_agd I think that all your reasons are pretty close to my reasons for not wanting to read this novel. It finally came in from the library and in large print and was the last on my line of library books to read and so I plunged in (desperate for a book). It is, as you mentioned, a beautiful surprise with elegant writing. I'm a good chunk into the novel and am enjoying it a lot. I'm glad to not be the only one "afraid" to pick it up.

message 27: by Joan (new)

Joan Loved your review! And I loved the book, tho often felt ignorant as I read it.

message 28: by April (new) - added it

April Wow! This was recommended and I wasn't sure, but after reading your's moved to my TBR list...way up on my TBR list! Great review....(whether or not you followed all of Mrs. Van Houten's instruction, I think she'd be proud!:)

message 29: by Mary (new)

Mary I was debating reading this book until I read your review. You had me at elegant , which was good because your review was lengthy and I was distracted by something shiny.

message 30: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa Only parents of middle schoolers who pay attention to their kid's homework know what CE and BCE mean - and I, for one, applauded academia for changing the terms to NON-religious reference points (that is once my 13 year old explained them to me)!

No shame in not knowing something. That's what good books are for: to bring knowledge into your life. BTW loved Cutting For Stone!

message 31: by Lisa (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lisa And go read The Poisonwood Bible. Excellent story set in the Congo. Fascinating and educational :)

message 32: by Patricia (new) - added it

Patricia Russell I have just started reading this book and agreed with a good number of your points 1-6!


message 34: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Thank you!

message 35: by Kelly (new) - added it

Kelly So you don't feel like you're missing out...the book Practical Magic sucked.

Julie Wright I'm glad to hear, that's one I'll skip for sure.

message 37: by Jocelyn (new) - added it

Jocelyn Putting this on my to-read list because I enjoyed reading this thread :) And because I've actually been to Masada on a family trip to Israel. There are two ways to go up the mountain: hike up a long, hot dusty trail or take a nice, relaxing cable car ride. My 16 year old self decided she was tough enough to hoof it up the trail. Let's just say I barely saw any of the fortress ruins because I passed out from exhaustion at the top and missed the whole tour! Such is life.

Carie Juettner I am reading this for my bookclub and am on page 85. Have already felt dumb about 30 times. (Although due to teaching The Devil's Arithmetic to students for years (which sounds like a new kind of algebra but us really a great young adult book about time recall to the Holocaust) I did at least know what Adonai and Malach ha Mavis meant.) Anyway, I was getting bird down in it and thinking I'd just read the first section and quit. But your review has inspired me to carry on. Thanks!

Carie Juettner Wow, if I could delete my previous comment, I would. So embarrassed at all my typos and auto corrects. Recall = travel. Bird = bogged. Add another closed parentheses where apt. My apologies. I should not use technology.

message 40: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Haha! No worries, Carie. Thank you!

message 41: by Brittany B. (new) - added it

Brittany B. This is one of my all time favorite reviews. Lolol!

Leslie Kent I loved this review so much. It sounded like me if I could word things witty. I've read lots of hers before but covered my eyes and ears when the O word was associated with her. I stopped reading her because either she was becoming formulaic, no matter how pretty the writing, or my tastes had changed. Or both. I picked up this book because it looked like she was doing something new. So far she is. Her magic creeps in but it's not the center of everything. Yes I'm still reading it. I like to read reviews before, during and or after. This was hilarious for many reasons but if it had only been funny for the reference to C.E, that would have been plenty. I don't know what that is either. (My father was a minister is that bad?) Hmm as I was typing this it dawned on me that Jews do not believe Christ has come yet. Is it something to do with that? Should I look it up or wait for you to answer? Depends on my a.d.d after I send this. Ok this comment spiraled out of control. Main points: a) funny review b) what is c.e? c) I'm going to follow your reviews now but promise not to write a novel on each one that I too read or am reading. d) I don't know how to follow reviews without trying to friend people so I won't be offended if you don't respond. I understand that I am crazy. Thx for review though. I do look forward to more.

message 43: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim Hahaha! Thank you, Leslie! C.E. is 'common era' but and BCE is 'before common era' but I'm still not sure what it means... :(

message 44: by Sue (last edited Feb 17, 2013 05:00AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Sue It's used instead of meaning "BC - before Christ" and "AD" - which I was always taught meant "after death," but actually stands for Anno Domini, which still means "in the year of our Lord." When I gave up and had to look up CE and BCE, I kind of figured it was more politically correct than BC and AD, which are Christian references. Guess it's been going on for a good long time and I was oblivious - I'm currently reading Michener's "The Source" and he uses CE and BCE too.

message 45: by Lee (new)

Lee Coleman nice review.

Nicole This review helped me decide to click "play" on this audiobook in iTunes. Let's get this road on the show...

message 47: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth Maller I'm surprised people didn't know about Masada. It's a tragic story of the Romams sacking Jerusalem and the people ran away. The Zealots we're amazing and ran away to save their people. The Dovekeepers is a great depiction of that time. I couldn't put the book down. It's one of my favorites.

message 48: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Catron-holguin books are about learning..not about making you "feel" #1 'dumb' your inagination

message 49: by Stephanie (new) - added it

Stephanie Catron-holguin *imagination :)

message 50: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim wise, wise words, Stephanie.

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