The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman
Wow, is all I can say about this book. This is a must-read for anyone with any interest in the dramatic, heroic story of Masada. By telling the story through the voices of 3 main fictional women who live on Masada before and during the siege of the Romans, the author takes the reader through the harshness of desert life and the barbarism and the humanity that coexisted there. As you develop an empathy for each character and their personal plight, you then go through the actual siege with them and even though the outcome is known, the story is still gripping and suspenseful. This is to the Masada story as Mila 18 was to the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and the story is just as dramatic.
I learned so much from this story. I learned about the Essenes, a sect of Judaism that existed at this time which dictated strict adherence to the Jewish laws and a strict avoidance of any violence whatsoever. I also developed an appreciation for the mystical beliefs that still prevailed at that time. Even though Judaism preached belief in one god, there was a lot of belief in sorcery and spirits and angels and demons as well. Mostly, though, this story gave me, in vivid — really graphic — detail, an idea of how harsh life in the desert is. I felt as if I myself was tasting the sand in my food and feeling the pelting heat of the sun. I felt a relief as they did when the rains came.
I loved this book. I’d love to hear how you feel about it if you have the good fortune to read it!