The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman

06 Aug
The Dovekeepers, by Alice Hoffman

Have you ever seen ‘Warhorse’, the acclaimed, Oscar nominated movie? The one that follows a single horse through World War II, telling the story of the war through the people that the horse touches? Despite the fact that it is a beautiful, epic story, with gorgeous scenery, compelling stories, and powerful acting, I found it to be strangely empty. Predictable. I found myself thinking, “Okay, the next shot will be a sunset,” or “Cue dramatic music!” because that’s what epic, blockbuster Hollywood movies would do, and therefore that’s what Warhorse should do. And it did. And therefore I was never enthralled in the story enough to be swept away by it.
The Dovekeepers is like that movie for me. It is an epic tale that is set in ancient Jerusalem, Egypt, and Moab and is told, in turn, through the memories and experiences of four different women. There are layers of, emotion, language, religion, culture, and history piled upon what seems, to me, to be a rather thin and predictable plot. I personally started to feel suffocated midway through the book. The narrative is told in four parts, one for each woman, and each part begins with that woman’s childhood and continues up to the ‘present’ plot moment. Perhaps it was this very chunky structure that broke any momentum the story gained during its more lyrical passages. I kept waiting, with great anticipation (because I really wanted to love this book), for my heart to leave my own chest and reside, for even a short while, in the fictional chests of one of these four women, to feel what it might have been like to be strong, determined female in a time in history when strong, determined females where labeled as witches or harlots, and shunned or murdered for even looking men in the eye. Unfortunately, like the movie ‘Warhorse’, this book has all the right ingredients, but never rose above the formula it was following.
Critics have acclaimed this book, much like ‘Warhorse’, and it deserves that praise for Hoffman’s beautiful writing. However, I feel the best books are those lift a reader out of their daily life and transport them elsewhere on the wings of a well told story. The Dovekeepers is too heavy to fly.

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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Fiction


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