The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

source: free review copy via AmazonVine
title: The Marriage of Opposites
auhtor: Alice Hoffman
genre: Magical Realism
pages: 365
published: Simon and Schuster (August 4, 2015)
first line: I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I’d been given.
rated: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

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.

My thoughts:
After having read several of her books, I am a fan of Alice Hoffman’s. She has penned gems like Practical Magic and The Ice Queen, that became instant favorites when I read them. Then again, I wasn’t too crazy about Incantation and while Here on Earth had an engrossing storyline and was inspired by Brone’s Wuthering Heights but I really disliked the main characters.
I was curious to see what I would find upon reading The Marriage of Opposites.

The story starts off with Rachel Pomie in 1807 as she tells her story of living in St. Thomas in a small Jewish community. Rachel is young girl whose strict mother smothers and judges her and Rachel cannot wait to fall in love one day and live her own life.

I knew I must do all as I was told, yet something burned inside me, a seed of defiance that must have derived from a long-ago ancestor. Perhaps my mind was inflamed from the books I had read and the worlds I had imagined. I gazed at myself in the silvered mirror in our parlor and I knew I would do as I pleased, no matter the consequences.
p.17, The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Things do not go as planned as Rachel is married of to a much older widower and business owner, Monsieur Petit, who has three children. She resigns herself to her fate for a while though, and ends up not only loving her husband’s children, she comes to love him as well, more as a friend than anything. She ends up having four children with him and all the while she sees Petit’s dead wife’s ghost lingering around her, watching.

After Petit passes away, law says that his inheritance go to the next eldest male heir, which happens to be Petit’s nephew from Paris, Fréderic.

The story then flows to how Rachel and Fréderic fall into deep love and against all rules try to marry. The two are considered family, even though they are not blood related and their love affair is seen as scandalous and immoral. They are eventually shunned in the community.

Rachel has children with Fréderic, one being Jacobo Abraham Camille Pissarro, who goes onto become an artist. In real life, Pissarro helped inspire the Impressionist movement. The story is then told through Jacobo’s point of view.

The first half of the story intrigued me, I was captivated by Rachel and Fréderic’s love affair. They went through alot trying to be legally married.
There are themes of love, friendship and religion in the plot. Also a major part of the storyline is the lack of women’s rights during this time. Rachel is not expected to marry again after being widowed, she is viewed as a seductress that tempts Fréderic. Once Petit passes away, she is fully capable of handling the business, but is not legally allowed to so.
She is a strong-willed character who thinks for herself. Also, her best friend Jestine has a heart breaking storyline and the friendship these two share was well written and interesting to read about.

The ending wraps everyone’s stories up nicely and it is apparent Hoffman did her research concerning this family.

The writing was beautiful as per the author’s usual.

She was wound up in a nameless longing, and she blamed him for her raw emotions. His presence was like a spell, his name an incantation.
p. 137

Overall, an interesting book by Hoffman about a woman who struggles in life and eventually gives birth to a son who goes onto become a great artist.

Disclaimer: This review is my honest opinion. I did not receive any kind of compensation for reading and reviewing this book. I am under no obligation to write a positive review. My free copy of The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman arrived via AmazonVine.

15 thoughts on “The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

  1. Great commentary on this book Naida.

    This sounds like it has multiple themes that are of interest. Among other things, it sounds as if the characters are very well thought out and crafted. The exploration of social issues also sounds fascinating.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any books by Alice Hoffman yet. This novel sounds fascinating and complex. I like that the book features the impressionist artist, Pissarro. Excellent review, Naida!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Naida,

    Thanks for a very thoughtful review and appraisal of both author and book, you made it very easy to decide whether this book was one I would enjoy (which it is!), or not.

    I haven’t read any of Alice Hoffman’s books, but after checking out her extensive resume and the fantastic reviews and ratings her many books have attracted, I feel I really should be adding her name to my ever growing list of new authors to try!

    I loved the first quote you shared from early on in the story. It indicates wonderfully the strength of the characters Alice has apparently created and the depth of research she has put into ensuring the book is as acurate in detail as it can be.

    Thanks for sharing and I hope that all is well with you 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  4. There are several books by Hoffman that I would really like to read and now this one. I love stories about artists lives – even if this one is not necessarily about Pissaro. Sounds really interesting though. Enjoyed your review!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Drawn to this author by the titles of her books – I’m totally enthralled by the title The Museum of Extraordinary Things – these are definitely novels I’ll keep a look out for.


  6. I have this one on audio to review I think. It sounds as though it’ll be enjoyable. I’ve always a liked Hoffman’s writing especially her earlier works. I don’t think her later books have that same magical quality the others did.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m glad to hear you liked it. Yep, Practical Magic and The Ice Queen are two of my favorites from Alice Hoffman too. I also loved The Red Garden and Blackbird House. She does magical realism so darn good!

    Liked by 1 person

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