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The Dovekeepers - Alice Hoffman This book took me almost a week to get through, which is a long time for me. It started off very slow, but got easier to read after the first narrator, Yael, gets to Masada. The whole thing was well-written, the characters are sympathetic - to an extent - and it was, uh, interesting.
But here's the thing: all I think about was how stupid it all was. I don't usually feel this way about religion; I'm skeptical, but not, like, cynical, but all I could think was how stupid their religion was. All of the women are so frustrating; every dumb mistake they make or bad decision is "how it was written," like they have no control over their minds or bodies. There is no concept of individuality. And usually I like magic and the style of magical-realism, but usually authors don't use it to get their characters out of every tight fix. I mean, as long as it was written that magic would work in that instance.
And finally, I don't know anything about the Sicarii and very little about Jewish mythology, so I don't know how accurate a representation this novel is of those things and who to blame for my disgust, but here goes. It killed me how the Jews at Masada, instead of making allies or attempting to build an army or resistance against the Romans, or even just not killing a bunch of people, killed all of the other Jews - men, women, and children - for their goats and oil and stuff. I couldn't suspend disbelief long enough to understand their views on slavery, how they thought of both themselves and other as slaves. And I can't, for the life of me, understand how this story - one of (spoiler?) mass murder/suicide - can be an inspiring story for an ethnic people or religious group, as by the end of the book, it is clearly meant to be.