Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Dovekeepers (Alice Hoffman)

Profoundly moving, Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers is historical fiction but thoroughly researched.  Since it was so long ago, no one can be totally sure of all the facts surrounding the Roman siege on Masada, but Hoffman's novel about one of the most important events in Jewish history is an important read for everyone.

The Dovekeepers tells the tale of four women with separate stories who, against all odds, make it across the desert to escape the Roman persecution in Jerusalem.  Each one is unforgettable and so important to Masada's narrative; how their stories, along with those of the men in their lives, eventually intertwine makes Hoffman's novel multilayered and rich.  What happened at Masada is not a secret, and knowing how these people would eventually take their fates into their own hands is both utterly inspirational and completely heartbreaking.

Hoffman is a responsible teller of this early historical event.  The book never goes overboard with the dramatics, as a novel like this shouldn't. I highly recommend The Dovekeepers for those who want to learn more about Masada's horror.


Monday, April 6, 2015

West of Sunset (Stewart O'Nan)

Ahh, the glory days -- when Ernest Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, Humphrey Bogart, and F. Scott Fitzgerald all roamed the earth at the same time.  Reading Stewart O'Nan's West of Sunset is like taking a trip back to this glamorous period, with cameos from the greats of Hollywood's Golden Age.

West of Sunset focuses on Fitzgerald during the last few years of his life, when Gatsby had been out for awhile, and the money was running out.  Literary buffs know that Zelda, his wife, had long suffered from mental illness and was confined to an asylum.  To make ends meet, Fitzgerald moved out to California to write dialogue for movie scripts; while there, he fell in love with a Hollywood gossip columnist and beganThe Last Tycoon.

The best thing about West of Sunset is O'Nan's ability to form pictures in your mind.  I love historical fiction and especially this time period, but I think anyone would appreciate the author's depiction of this thoroughly flawed man just trying to put one foot in front of the other.