The Marriage of Opposites
“A luminous, Marquez-esque tale” (O, The Oprah Magazine) from the New York Times bestselling author of The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on a tropical island 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 older 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.
“A work of art” (Dallas Morning News), The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. “Her lush, seductive prose, and heart-pounding subject…make this latest skinny-dip in enchanted realism…the Platonic ideal of the beach read” (Slate.com). Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Frédérick “will only renew your commitment to Hoffman’s astonishing storytelling” (USA TODAY).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
We enjoyed every moment we spent lost in this enchanting novel about the headstrong Rachel Pomié, mother of the famous impressionist Camille Pissarro. In the hands of the wildly talented Alice Hoffman, Rachel’s home—the Caribbean island of St. Thomas—teems with beauty, fascinating history, and rich folklore. Rachel's rebellions against her mother’s conservative Jewish values impact her story in dramatic ways—and her defining quest to live a life full of adventure, love, and creativity fired up our imagination.
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.
Great saga, lots of emotions!!
I have to admit I had never heard of Pissaro, but he did hang with some artists I had heard of.
Anyhow, I went into this open minded as I hadn't read the author or heard of the artist. And I found it to be an absolutely enjoyable and entertaining story. There are lots of things going on in this story and the author did a great job keeping them separate and introducing them. There were a couple of jaw dropping moments, several chuckles, a couple of tears, some mild anger and a lot of smiles for me while reading this. While the blurbs talk a lot about the painter, he isn't even born until more than halfway through the book. There's a lot about his mother and living on a island with not a lot of people. She is a strong woman who should have been a son with her ways of thinking during this time period. She is not well liked and keeps the gossip mongers busy. She breaks a lot of rules and I admire her stamina. She is definitely someone you don't want to cross!
While I have heard of the author, this is my first book by her. It won't be my last. And I definitely recommend this book.
Thanks to Simon and Schuster and Net Galley for providing me with this free e-galley in exchange for an honest review. It was great entertainment on a lazy Saturday!!
Great story on many levels
The Marriage of Opposites is a wonderful story about a time (1800s) and a place (St.Thomas) I knew little about. It was fascinating to learn of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews who fled from those countries to St. Thomas, then owned by the Dutch, where religious freedom was a right. Alice Hoffman's story beautifully unfolds taking the reader to that time with masterful characters. I enjoyed the span of the story and it's telling in shifting perspectives by those characters. The fact that Rachel's son becomes the famous French impressionist painter Pissarro is a great element. Hoffman's stories are always eloquent and enlightening!
Wonderful work of historical fiction. The authors way with words is utterly enchanting. The descriptions used for st Thomas and Paris make you feel like you're actually there. The story is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Really makes you think. I highly recommend this book.