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From the bestselling author of The Dovekeepers comes a love story about one of history's most captivating 'invisible' women: Rachel, the mother of Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
Growing up on the idyllic island of St Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel dreams of life in faraway Paris. Rachel's mother, a pillar of their tight-knit refugee community of Jews who escaped the European Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for refusing to live by the rules. But Rachel's fate is not in her own hands: in order to secure the future of her father's business, she is married off to a widower with three children. When her husband dies suddenly and his handsome nephew Frédéric arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes control of her life, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal affecting her entire family, including her favourite son, Camille Pissarro, who will one day become a founder member of the Impressionists and one of history's greatest artists.
Set in a world of lush, exquisite beauty, The Marriage of Opposites shows Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. The marriage of Rachel and Frédéric is an unforgettable story of an extraordinary woman and her forbidden love.
Praise for Alice Hoffman's The Dovekeepers:
'Beautiful, harrowing . . . A major contribution to twenty-first-century literature' Toni Morrison
'Hoffman reminds us with every sentence that words have the power to transport us to alternate worlds, to heal a broken heart, and to tie us irrevocably to the people we love' Jodi Picoult
'A book as monumental as its subject, magical, moving . . . A genuine masterpiece' Daily Mail
Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things) finds inspiration for her particular brand of magical realism in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas and the personal history of a nonfictional woman named Rachel Pomi , who lived on the colony in the 19th century. Rachel begins the story as the headstrong daughter of a French merchant, whose Jewish ancestors came to the New World in pursuit of religious freedom and found refuge under the protection of the King of Denmark, a champion of civil rights who also outlawed slavery on the island. Rachel grows up with her best friend Jestine, the beautiful daughter of her family's servant, Adelle, but upon adulthood, their paths separate. Rachel, caught up in the expectations set for her as a member of the small community, marries Isaac Petit, a widower nearly 30 years her senior with three small children, in order to help her father's business interests. She puts away her dreams of moving to Paris and accepts the role of dutiful wife, producing more children and becoming distant from Jestine, who faces her own challenges finding her place in society. When Rachel's husband dies and his nephew arrives to oversee the family business, Rachel is swept into an encompassing love that violates the community's moral code and isolates her family but produces a son, Camille, whose peculiar way of seeing foretells his role as a leader of French Impressionism. Hoffman's subject matter and her evocative writing style are a wonderful fit for this moving story, which illuminates a historical period and women whose lives were colored by hardships, upheavals, and the subjugation of personal desires.