Monday, July 13, 2015

Long-Winded and Repetitive Bible-Age Epic

Source: Publisher Website
The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman (2011; Pocket Books, 2015, 592pp.)

Today, Israel's fortress of Masada is nothing more than ruins. In 73 AD, it was the last stronghold of a people fleeing from the brutal onslaught of the Roman empire. Told by four different women, The Dovekeepers chronicles the events leading up to the tragic Siege of Masada, which only two women and five children survived.

So, is it any good? Well, the majority of readers on Amazon think so. As for my opinion? Not since I tackled Independent People (a manic-depressive death-trap of a novel on Icelandic sheep-herding) have I experienced such literary agony. I don't know what everyone else read, but for such a reputed epic, it lacks the dramatic tension that kept me from wanting to know what happens next. It begins with Yael, the motherless daughter of a retired assassin, who flees into the desert with her father and a few friends after the Romans sack their city. Having nothing better to do, Yael starts a very open affair with the husband of one of her fellow travelers, much to the devastation of the man's wife. After Yael we hear from Revka, a baker's widow raising her two grandsons while their mad-from-grief father ignores them. Here, the author uses Revka as a vehicle to explore several boring subplots involving other characters, and goes overboard with the detail of what life in Masada was like. Then we have Aziza, the witch's daughter, who has lengthy, in-depth flashbacks about her violent childhood. At last, we have Shirah, Aziza's pagan mother who witnesses the brutal final hours of the fort's residents as the Romans close in, closing the book with a shocking climax that is astonishingly powerful (if only I didn't have to wade through this swamp of a book to get to it!)

My final score for this book is 3 out of 5 stars. Why three and not two (or even one?) Because regardless of my opinion, it's still has merits to recommend it (the ending, for example) and will definitely find an audience with fans of Bible-Age Fiction or long-winded epics. For others who like less description and more action, however, don't even bother picking it up.

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