How Similar Is 'The Dovekeepers' To The Book? Alice Hoffman's Detailed Novel Is Streamlined For TV

Personally, I don't think that an adaptation should be measured by how faithful it is to its source material, but it's still a question that comes up every time a popular novel is brought from page to screen. And CBS' new two-night miniseries takes that adaptation very seriously. The Dovekeepers is based on Alice Hoffman's novel of the same name, which tells the story of female dovekeepers in Israel circa 70 CE, as an impending invasion from the Roman Empire forces an entire city to fight for their way of life. It's kind of like a female-centric version of 300, set within a different culture, minus the abs and plus a lot of complex examinations of femininity in the ancient world.

The biggest difference between The Dovekeepers miniseries and novel is that the original book delves into the lives of four separate women, while the TV series only has room for three (Revka, the baker's wife from the book, seems to be largely absent). But Hoffman's novel is a long, detailed document of hundreds of pages, while the show only has four hours over two nights to communicate its entire story.

In her 2011 review of The Dovekeepers novel, The New York Times' Sarah Faysaid, "instead of a gripping work of fiction that lives up to this praise, is a long novel full of middling descriptions, hackneyed characters and histrionic plot twists." And while that's not a great description of an important American novel, it is an accurate description of a good soap opera, and soapy antics seems like the best recipe for a successful network show right now. So hopefully, even if the Times was right about the melodrama, which is by no means a universal opinion, the miniseries has plenty of other things to fall back on.

Like the book, The Dovekeepers TV series largely reframes the story of the Jewish resistance in Masada, Israel, which was originally chronicled by Flavius Josephus between 75 and 79 CE. But until Hoffman's reimagining of Josephus' account, women were largely left out of the narrative and ignored. Instead of focusing on Josephus the writer or the warriors who fought against the Romans, Hoffman follows these women who work with doves and demonstrate their strength in other ways. And that feminist expression is the most important thing from The Dovekeepers to remain constant from book to miniseries.

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman, $10, Amazon

Images: Kurt Arrigo/CBS (2)