The Dovekeepers
by Alice Hoffman
Discussion Questions:
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? Were you surprised to find you had compassion for characters who were morally complex and often made choices that later caused guilt and sorrow?

2. Yael describes her relationship with Ben Simon as "a destroying sort of love" (p. 46). What does she mean by that? Are there other relationships in the novel that could be described in the same way?

3. From Yael's setting free the Romans' lion, to Shirah's childhood vision of a fish in the Nile, to the women's care of the doves, animals are an important component in the book. What did animals mean to the people of this ancient Jewish society, and what specific symbolic forms do they take in the novel?

4. The figure of Wynn, "The Man from the North," who comes to serve the women in the dovecote, is based upon archeological finds at Masada. In what ways does Wynn come to bring the women together? Compare Yael's relationship with Ben Simon to her relationship with Wynn.

5. How do spells function in the novel? What is the relationship between Shirah's Jewish beliefs and her use of magic? If you have read other Alice Hoffman novels that include mystical elements-such as Practical Magic or Fortune's Daughter-how do they compare to The Dovekeepers and its use of magic?

6. How do Shirah's daughters react to the intimate friendship that develops between Yael and their mother? Is Shirah a good mother or not?

7. 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?

8. "You don't fight for peace, sister," Nahara tells Aziza. "You embrace it." (p. 343) What do you think of Nahara's decision to join the Essenes? Is she naive or a true believer? Do you see similarities between the Essenes and the early Christian movement?

9. Why is the Roman Legion preparing to attack the Jews at Masada? From historical references in the book, as well as your own knowledge of history, explain the roots of the conflict. Do you feel the lives of the women in The Dovekeepers echo the lives of women in the modern world who are experiencing war and political unrest?

10. Revka's son-in-law, the warrior known as The Man from the Valley, asks Aziza, "Did you not think this is what the world was like?" (p. 378). Describe the circumstances of this question. After all her training for battle, why is Aziza unprepared for the experience of attacking a village filled with women and children?

11. In the final pages of the book, Yael sums up those who perished at Masada, remembering them as "men who refused to surrender and women who were ruled by devotion" (p. 478). Do you agree with her description?

12. For the women at Masada, dreams contain important messages, ghosts meddle in the lives of the living, and spells can remedy a number of human ills. How does their culture's acceptance of the mystical compare to our culture's view on such things today? Do mystical and religious elements overlap? How do they compare to your own views?

13. In the letter below, 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?

14. 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?



A Letter from Alice Hoffman

Once in a lifetime a book may come to a writer as an unexpected gift. The Dovekeepers is such a book for me. It was a gift from my great-great grandmothers, the women of ancient Israel who first spoke to me when I visited the mountain fortress of Masada. In telling their story of loss and love, I've told my own story as well. After writing for thirty-five years, after more than thirty works of fiction, I was given the story I was meant to tell.

The Dovekeepers is a novel set during and after the fall of Jerusalem (70 C.E.). The book covers a period of four years as the Romans waged war against the Jewish stronghold of Masada, claimed by a group 900 rebels and their families. The story is taken from the historian Josephus, who has written the only account of siege, in which he reported that two women and five children survived the massacre on the night when the Jews committed mass suicide rather than submit to the Roman Legion. It was they who told the story to the Romans, and, therefore, to the world. I have researched The Dovekeepers for many years, relying not only Josephus's account, but also on the findings of Yigal Yadin, the archeologist who lead the Masada project.

I was initially inspired by my first visit to Masada, a spiritual experience so intense and moving I felt as though the lives that had been led there two thousand years earlier were utterly fresh and relevant. The tragic events of the past and the extraordinary sacrifices that were made in this fortress seemed to be present all around me. It was as if those who had lived there, and died there, had passed by only hours before. The temperature was well over a hundred degrees and the horizon was shaky with blue heat. In that great silence, standing inside the mystery that is the past, surrounded by the sorrow of the many deaths that occurred there, I also felt surrounded by life and by the stories of the women who had been there. In that moment, The Dovekeepers came to life as well.



All My Best,

Alice Hoffman

Book Club Talking Points:

This is a book that is both compelling and thought provoking. The setting is ancient Roman times and it's based on the true story of how 900 Jews held out against these warriors in what is now known as the siege of Masada. In addition to the fascinating account of this historical event, the book also examines what it's like for the woman of this period. The writing is exceptional and full of passion. The themes in this book range from mother-daughter issues and family strife to betrayal and love.

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


More Reading Suggestions
Popular Books
If you have a passion for reading and, like most, have no time to find the right book, browse the most popular books trending right now. They are all page-turners, and they all let you escape from reality.

Popular Book-  The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
The Song of Achilles
By Madeline Miller
A tale of gods, kings, immortal fame, and the human heart, THE SONG OF ACHILLES is a dazzling literary feat that brilliantly reimagines Homer's enduring masterwork, The Iliad. An action-packed adventure, an epic love story, a marvelously...More


Popular Book-The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
In this entrancing novel "that speaks to the Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor in us all" (Kirkus Reviews), a legendary film actress reflects on her relentless rise to the top and the risks she took, the...More


Popular The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient
by Alex Michaelides
The Silent Patient is a shocking psychological thriller of a woman's act of violence against her husband-and of the therapist obsessed with uncovering her motive. Alicia Berenson's life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter...More


Popular Book- Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
Circe
By Madeline Miller
In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child-not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for ...More


Popular Book- The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren
The Unhoneymooners
By Christina Lauren
AFor two sworn enemies, anything can happen during the Hawaiian trip of a lifetime-maybe even love-in this romantic comedy from the New York Times bestselling authors of Roomies. Olive Torres is used to being the unlucky ...More


Visit Our Blog
Browse A Little
PBR book reviews and Reading guides for book clubs
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Pintrest Follow us on InstaGram
Visit out Etsy Shop
10 Books I Can't Stop Recommending
Bookish Gifts- Tote bags, Pillows and more