At Christmas, our bookclub members each wrapped up one of our favourite books for a gift exchange. The Dovekeepers was one of the gifts and is a great historical novel. It is the story of 4 resilient women, determined to protect their families during Roman domination over the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem during a 4 year period around 70C.E. These women blend their strength, intelligence, faith and healing powers to support each other through this violent period of history.
The story begins with Yael. Her birth resulted in the death of her mother. Her father who could not stand to see Yael’s resemblance to his late wife and doted only on his only son treating Yael like she was not even there. She grew up neglected and unloved and their lives were changed when they were forced into the desert, fleeing the Roman soldiers who ruined their village.
The second story was of Revka. She lived happily, with her husband. He was a baker but was killed by Romans forcing her to flee from the city with her daughter, son-in-law and 2 grandsons. Revka and her family were forced into the desert, seeking a new life until tragedy struck leaving one dead and the rest forever changed.
The third story was of Aziza, who had grown up in the ways of a warrior to avoid the temptations of men that her mother had experienced. She grew strong, learning the skills of men alongside her father. She lived as a boy until her mother fled after receiving a message from her love from the doves.
The final story was of Shirah, Aziza’s mother who was revered and feared by some as a witch. She knew medicines, midwifery and was able to help others. Village women came to her yet were not overly friendly. The four women were connected working alongside each other in the dovecotes, caring for the doves and removing their waste to fertilize the fields. As they worked, the learned more about each other and begin to share their lives and treat each other like family.
As the Romans closed in on the mountain, the woman stood together through injuries, sickness, the birth of illegitimate children and to save a captured slave. They were wise and strong. They shared their knowledge and amulets to keep the children safe. The Romans breached the wall and were shocked at what they found.
This story is based on the actual history of this battle with the Romans. It is hard to contemplate the brutal violence, death and destruction happening as these mothers protected their children. The story was very interesting, well-researched and hard to put down.