When I first heard about this book, I thought it sounded amazing. Alice Hoffman is one of my favorite writers, and this book is all about history and religion, and I assumed it would have a heavy dose of magic.
I was on the waiting list at the library before the book was even released. But after I checked it out, it sat there for three weeks and then had to be returned - untouched. I was reading other books. It looked so heavy and it was around the holidays when I needed my reading to provide somewhat enjoyable escapes from reality.
I decided to check out the audio version of the book. I spend so much time in the car, time wasted listening to crappy pop music. Might as well be productive with my time.
While I'm glad I listened to it because I don't know that I would have stuck with it had I been reading it, I am also concerned that listening to it versus reading it might have effected my impression of the story. There were four different narrators for this book, as the book tells the story of four different women in the days before the siege of Masada. At times I found the characters to be so annoying, and I'm not sure if it was because of what the characters were saying and doing or because of the voice. I know that at least one of the voices annoyed me horribly. I found myself mimicking her words as I drove along listening to the story.
I didn't find this book as amazing as I'd expected it to be. I found it very interesting, and listening to this prompted me to learn more about what happened in Masada. Reading about the remains discovered at the sight made Hoffman's ending particularly interesting.
I thought the book was a little long. I think the same story could have been told with a few less words. There were times when I found the story dragged, too much repetition. Also, I didn't like the characters very much. I understand that as readers we're supposed to view them as strong, fierce women, but I wasn't that impressed. I grew tired of hearing the first woman go on about her love for a man who simply used her because he'd grown tired of his wife and there was no one else around. She kept referring to him as if he were the great love of her life, but from my perspective he didn't seem like a great man at all. He took advantage of a young girl, got her pregnant, all while his wife and other children are sleeping in the tent next to them. This happened to the first character in the story, and that might have set the tone for the rest of the book.
Several of these women seemed to be okay with getting involved with married men. I didn't find their actions to be strong or admirable, but rather pathetic. Were we really supposed to feel sympathetic for them? How are we supposed to feel for the wives being betrayed? They're also women, suffering through these same harsh circumstances.
Mostly, I was disappointed by the lack of magic. Oh, there were bits and traces, but much, much less than the typical Hoffman book. This was, for the most part, a historical novel. I'm glad I listened to it, but I didn't love it.