The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites

by Alice Hoffman

Overview: From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas about the extraordinary woman who gave birth to painter Camille Pissarro—the Father of Impressionism.

Growing up on idyllic St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel’s mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel’s salvation is their maid Adelle’s belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle’s daughter. But Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

Building on the triumphs of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in a world of almost unimaginable beauty, The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Frédérick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable

Gail Reid (10/17/15): The themes in the Marriage of Opposites are universal: the love between two people, unsanctioned by the community; the intellectual desires of a woman when women were not formally educated; the insularity of a Caribbean island and the wish for a broader world; and the rebelliousness of a child with artistic vision.

Yet it is the setting that resonated most with me. Alice Hoffman has done a gorgeous job of creating ambience on the island of St. Thomas in the first half of the 19th century. I was enraptured by the colors of the tropics, the red flowers, the changing sky, the multiples shades of a blue ocean, the relentless heat, the constant yellow sun. The author takes this setting as the background for Camille Pissarro's early life and it is no wonder that impressionism arose from his palette.

I am not a real fan of historical fiction but I think this is a 5 star read.
Rating: *****

Debbie Weiss (09/19/15): I agree with both Faith and Judy --- this is an excellent book. I had never read a book by Alice Hoffman before and I loved her writing. It is descriptive, imaginative, mystical and informative. I loved all the characters in the book and was fascinated to learn about the Jews who settled in St. Thomas in the 1800's. As well, the life of Camille Pissaro, the famous artist, is followed from his youth. I found this book charming and I had a hard time putting it down.
Rating: *****

Judy Stanton (09/19/15): Though it was set in the early 1800s in St. Thomas, the Marriage of Opposites is a story with an age old theme - how it is often difficult for parents to accept their children's choices in a life partner. In the multi-dimensional characters whose lives are beautifully interwoven in this book, the expectations of the culture, religion and beliefs of "a people" often clash with the reality of where soulmates are found. The same can be said of children's choices in their calling or career. The book was made even more interesting through the author's research about the renowned impressionistic artist, Camille Pissaro, and the history of his Jewish family. The artist's eye, like that of his mother, Rachel, brought beautiful descriptions and color into the book, making the reader feel the tropical breezes, smell the ocean salt, and visualize the colorful parrots. A lovely story spanning generations, well told, compelling and very readable.
Rating: *****

Faith Bowers (08/09/15): Alice Hoffman managed to put her mixture of mysticism and love in her historical fiction novel of Camille Pissarro's growing up and the love his parents had for each other. It was very interesting to learn about the Jews who settled on St Thomas in the late 18th century. Rachel Poime had an idyllic youth though she was hemmed in by the laws which allowed nothing for women. She married twice first because it was best for the family business but fell in love with her step children and the second for love, Camille Pissarro's father.

I think I have read every novel written by Alice Hoffman and each novel is better written than the last. Each character is developed as we go along in their story of life on the island and their dreams of living in Paris.
Rating: ****

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