The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman: Review and Advice
I reviewed the Dove Keepers on GoodReads.com here’s the review and some comments for authors.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This woman is my favorite author. Period. She paints with the English language and with her mind. The Dove Keepers is up to her usual standards and a serious read. I’ll review it when I finish. Am reading the hardbound version.
I finished the book, but it was not the pleasure I anticipated. As other reviewers have said, the story telling in this novel is far below what I have come to expect from Alice Hoffman. I seriously felt as though she set out to write an epic, and by God she was going to make it epic length. It didn’t work for me on many levels.
History is one of my greatest loves in reading – fiction or non – and I cared about the history here. However, the story’s pace and tempo languished amid such wordiness and prose that did nothing to move the story forward, that I struggled each time I picked up the book. Much of the dialog seemed stilted and contrived — it was as if there’s a certain though pattern an author must set ancient women characters on, and Hoffman set hers on that trail whether it felt real or didn’t. Male characters felt terribly one-dimensional. I couldn’t find the passion and empathy I wanted in any of the people in this story. It’s as if they had their jobs, they did them, and even they weren’t terribly concerned with how they connected with each other.
I’m telling you, I WANTED to love this book but I couldn’t.
Yes, the manuscript should have made its way into the hands of an editor who understands pacing and narration. I think perhaps 25% of this could have been cut and the story wouldn’t have suffered, it would have gained a wider readership. I almost wish Alice would write this again now that time has passed and she might be a bit more willing to murder a few of her darlings.
Additional Comments for Authors and Writers
As a mentor and teacher, one of the things I emphasize most with my clients and students is editing for wordiness. Yes, we all get caught up in admiring our own prose sometimes. We write something, then read it, and feel we have created a dazzling description, a phenomenal character, or a scintillating passage of dialog. Be careful with that!
It isn’t just an old saw, it 100% true that authors can benefit by putting their finished, edited writing aside for a few days and then revisiting the work. You cannot judge your own book or story when it’s fresh in your mind and you are emotionally engaged with the words. My feeling with Ms. Hoffman’s work was that she and her editor were so delighted with this epic work that they forgot to see it from a reader’s POV. Had they cooled it off a bit,t hen gone back, I truly believe they would have pared it down and made it better.
I felt the same way when I read Stephen King’s 11/22/63 this year. It rambled and digressed and in places, bored me to tears. Put your work down, go do something else for a few days, and re-edit. Yes, it’s work, but you will benefit.
Your assignment this week — should you choose to accept it — is to one of these two books and let us know how the prose appealed or did not appeal to you. Can’t wait to see what you think.