A Brief Overview of the Book Dovekeepers

The Dovekeepers is a historical novel written by American author Alice Hoffman. Set in ancient Israel during the Roman Empire, the book narrates the gripping tale of four extraordinary women who find themselves bound together during a time of turmoil and hardship. Published in 2011, this captivating work of fiction has garnered immense acclaim for its rich storytelling and vivid portrayal of a significant historical era.

The Setting: Ancient Israel during the Roman Empire

Spanning over four decades, The Dovekeepers explores the lives of its protagonists against the backdrop of ancient Israel. The setting reflects a tumultuous period in history when the Romans conquered the region and dominance hung in the balance. The author crafts a compelling narrative that provides readers with a keen sense of the time, with its political unrest, religious fervor, and cultural clashes.

The Plot and Characters

The story revolves around four women: Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah. Each woman has her own unique background, desires, and struggles, which unfold through alternating perspectives and timelines.


Yael is portrayed as a fiercely independent and determined young woman who seeks revenge for her mother’s death. She becomes a dovekeeper, guarding the dovecote, and embodies resilience and strength as she navigates through difficult circumstances.


Revka, a former baker’s wife, faces the most heart-wrenching tragedy in her life when she witnesses her daughter’s horrific assault. She then chooses to follow her son-in-law, Sia, to the fortress of Masada, where she assumes the role of a dovekeeper. Revka’s character brings an emotional depth to the story as she grapples with loss and seeks redemption.


Aziza is portrayed as a young and spirited girl who defies societal norms by disguising herself as a boy, allowing her to train as a warrior. She becomes an essential figure in the defense of Masada, demonstrating her strength, courage, and determination.


Shirah is a powerful and enigmatic figure, known as a witch and a healer. She possesses a deep connection to nature and uses her knowledge of herbs and potions to aid others. Shirah’s character adds an element of mystery and magic to the story, further captivating readers.

Critical Reception and Awards

The Dovekeepers has received widespread acclaim from critics and readers alike.

Although it didn’t receive any major literary awards, the book was a New York Times Bestseller for several weeks and gained recognition for its skillful storytelling, immersive historical setting, and well-developed characters. Many praised Alice Hoffman’s meticulous research and her ability to transport readers to the ancient world.

Reviewers also commended the author for tackling complex themes such as love, loss, survival, and female empowerment. The book’s exploration of the lives of women in ancient Israel resonated with readers, who appreciated the strong female characters and their struggles for autonomy and self-determination.

In Conclusion

The Dovekeepers is a captivating novel that vividly brings ancient Israel to life. Through its intricate storytelling and well-drawn characters, it explores themes of resilience, love, and the indomitable human spirit. Whether you are interested in historical fiction, women’s stories, or simply a gripping tale that transports you to another time, The Dovekeepers is a must-read.

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