I was really intrigued by the premise of this novel – a well-researched, albeit fictional account of 4 of the female survivors of the Roman assault on Masada. I’ve not read Hoffman before, so I was certainly aware of her reputation. Then I got into it. The pace is achingly slow and the research (in places) so glaringly obvious that I couldn’t believe that the whole book would be like this. I thought Hoffman was adopting a kind of detached tone for the ‘before’ picture and that the energy of the book would change at some point. Then I noticed that the narrators would switch, so I hoped that my objection was just going to be to the first narrator. In fact, there’s little to distinguish the first two or any of the four narrators.

I trust Hoffman’s research and I learned a lot, but that’s not why I read this book. The underlying theme of women finding strength during difficult times in a male-dominated society was deftly handled; the story, however, was not.

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