In 70 CE, nine hundred Jews held out for months against armies of Romans on a mountain in the Judean, desert, Masada. Only two women and five children survived. Based on this tragic and iconic event, Hoffman weaves a spellbinding tale of four extraordinary bold, resourceful, and sensuous women, each of whom comes to Masada by a different path. Yael’s mother died in childbirth, and her father, an expert assassin, never forgave her for that death. Revka, a village baker’s wife, watched the horrifically brutal murder of her daughter by Roman soldiers; she brings to Masada her young grandsons, rendered mute by their own witness. Aziza is a warrior’s daughter, raised as a boy, a fearless rider and expert marksman who finds passion with a fellow soldier. Shirah, born in Alexandria, is wise in the ways of ancient magic and medicine, a woman with uncanny insight and power.The lives of these four complex and fiercely independent women intersect in the desperate days of the siege. All are dovekeepers, and all are also keeping secrets — about who they are, where they come from, who fathered them, and who they love. (courtesy of alicehoffman.com)
This is a story about 4 women during a very specific time in Jewish history. I don't have any knowledge about this particular time of Jewish history, but it didn't take away any pleasure from my reading experience at all. Ms. Hoffman did indicate at the end of the book about the type and amount of research that went into this book. Even if she didn't, I probably wouldn't have cared the way she built this specific time and place in my head. The use of practical magic layered with their people's history and faith threw me off a bit in the beginning but the more I read, I thought it further gave texture to the story, added a different dimension.
I thought it was beautifully written. All 4 women were strong in their own way. I love how each of their story wove to form a kind of tapestry. I could easily talk about each one of them in detail, and talk about how each of them came to be, the pivotal things in each of their lives that would forever change them, about love found and lost, but I might as well tell the whole story if that's the case so I won't.
Heading towards the ending, there was no doubt what was to happen and all I could do was brace myself for the impact. It was heart-wrenching. I admit I shed a tear or 2 over the ending. After finishing this book, I had to decompress a little to let these women get out of my head. And seeing that I had to make a conscious effort to let these characters go, that's how I know how much I liked this book. It wasn't an easy read, that's for sure, but for me, it was worth it. Ms. Hoffman can definitely write.