The Marriage of Opposites

by Alice Hoffman

Book, 2015

Barcode

123460387

Call number

FIC HOF

Collection

Publication

New York, NY Simon & Schuster 2015

Description

"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"--

User reviews

LibraryThing member bookfest
I always enjoy Alice Hoffman, but perhaps I was particularly drawn to this book because I had lived in St. Croix, which neighbors St. Thomas, the Caribbean island where the story is set. Jews settled in St. Thomas early in the colonial days and, I believe, hosts its oldest synagogue. Rachel is the
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daughter of a Jewish merchant who adores her and gives her many of the benefits usually reserved for boys. However, when the family business is at risk, Rachel is married off to her father's business associate and becomes mother to his three children... and then another three... and then... but I wouldn't want to spoil the story. Rachel is willful and fights through many of the prejudices of the tight-knit Jewish community. Some call her a witch. But her favorite son, who is destined to be a great artist, pushes much further to change the social order and the conflicts Rachel felt with her own mother revisit her, with the roles switched.
As usual, Hoffman creates a setting full of colorful details and characters you don't want to say goodbye to.
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LibraryThing member karconner
I enjoyed Alice Hoffman's new book. The descriptions of the setting were vibrant and artistic. The characters were flawed, strong, and human. The intertwined stories of the various characters were believable, interesting, and enjoyable. The fact that Rachel and Camille were real people only made it
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more interesting.
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LibraryThing member c.archer
"The Marriage of Opposites" is a beautifully written book that delighted me. Each part of the story is masterfully and well written to create a visual and sensory world that the reader could be a part of.
The book is centered around a girl and eventual woman named Rachel who grew up in the early
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1800's on the island of St. Thomas. Her family was Jewish and a part of a small group of Jews who came to the island to make a new start, free from prejudice and persecution. Rachel's relationship with her family is fiery with constant clashes and misunderstandings between her and her mother. Her closest friend is the maid's beautiful daughter, Jestine. Throughout the book, these two remain friends, disagreements and societal issues not withstanding. There is a beauty in their connection to one another that is a strong thread and a constant throughout the book. This is a friendship that transcends simple friendship, and Alice Hoffman does a wonderful job of giving us a real taste of its special qualities. Each of the girls must let go of their girlhood dreams for the future when society and family interfere, and they each follow duty rather than their hearts, albeit reluctantly. One woman looses the love of her life, and eventually one woman finds hers.
For me, the beauty of the story was in the telling. There is an almost magical quality in the setting and time period of this book. It was not always pleasant, but even in the suffering, there seemed to be something special and spiritual about it. The Jewish factor was unique and played a significant role in the life of Rachel and her family. The racial prejudice (both towards the Jews as well as the African slaves and servants) was another factor in the tension of the story that worked well.
I received this book as an advanced reader copy through Netgalley, and I didn't known much about the book prior to beginning to read. I was surprised to find out that it was actually a historical fiction account of a real family- that of the famous French impressionist artist, Camille Pissaro. Rachel, who is actually his mother, eventually marries the love of her life after her first arranged marriage ends in the early death of her husband. The young man sent by the family from Paris to take over the family business, is named Pizzaro. He almost immediately falls in love with Rachel, as does she with him. His relationship as a cousin of her deceased husband makes a marriage between them impossible due to the Jewish laws of the island. Love wins out eventually after years of challenging and fighting the established order. Jacob (Camille) is one of the children born to Rachel and Frederik. It wasn't until he is older in the book, as his artist skills and passion become evident as something special, that I made the connection to the name and the real artist.
This book tells the story of Camille Pissaro and his family as well a unique experience of people during a distant era. It is accomplished with fascinating details and characters that seem exotic and colorful. I enjoyed reading each page until the very end of the book, and I highly recommend it to serious readers of historic fiction. I thank the publisher and Netgalley for the opportunity to read this work.
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
Fictionalized biography of Rachel Monsanto Petit Pizzarro, mother of one of the fathers of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro. Born into a Jewish mercantile family on the island of St. Thomas in the West Indies, Rachel is married to a man twice her age and though she tries to make the best of it,
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raising this man's children, it is unhappy. Upon his death, she meets his nephew who has come from France to run the family business. She and the nephew fall in love and marry, being ostracized by their Jewish community. Then follows the birth of her children by him, the third son, Camille, showing at an early age, a talent for drawing. He studies painting in Paris. Then the whole family move to Paris. Glorious evocation of both St. Thomas of that period and of Paris.

Some of the narrative is in third person but some in the voices of Rachel herself, Camille [my favorite part explaining his love for color and what feelings he wants to express in his paintings] and others. The author has a way with words and is a marvelous storyteller.

Recommended.
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LibraryThing member nyiper
I was unsure about this at the beginning but once I was pulled in I throughly enjoyed this historical treatment of the mother of a famous painter. I did not realize it historical fiction until I reached the end! Character depth was beautifully developed in the different family personalities and
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relationships so much so that I felt I really could see these people and their emotions. The heat and atmosphere of St. Thomas, contrasted with the chill of Paris, were vividly described.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Reading about a place I have been is always special. Of course, I wasn't in St. Thomas in the mid nineteenth century but some of the plant life and wildlife remains the same. Hoffman and her new passion for writing about historical characters takes on the mother and her son, Camille. many thought
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to be the father of impressionism. She also seems to gravitate to strong women and Rachel certainly was that and more. Her ability to bring to life characters, time and place, as well as her descriptive power to bring the colors and sounds of St. Thomas to the forefront. Also the political force and the hatred of Jews that led them to St. Thomas. Here they would form their own society, a society that would for some portion of her life, condemn Rachel and her growing family as well as her new husband.

Loved the character of Rachel, she was amazing . A woman out of time who defied many in her quest to be true to herself. At one point Camille goes to Paris and I loved that part of the story as well. Rachel's best friend, a negro who she was raised with, Justeen, has her own remarkable tale to tell. She becomes a second mother to Camille. As a seamstress she understand his desire for colors, beautiful colors and muted colors, any colors at all.

There is some magical realism in this story, as well as much folklore. Some wonderful secondary characters each with their own backstory. Having read Hoffman for years I love her new foray into historical happenings, but I miss her stories of whimsy. Would like to see her write another of those. Still a wonderful, if a tad long, story.

ARC from NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Reading about a place I have been is always special. Of course, I wasn't in St. Thomas in the mid nineteenth century but some of the plant life and wildlife remains the same. Hoffman and her new passion for writing about historical characters takes on the mother and her son, Camille. many thought
Show More
to be the father of impressionism. She also seems to gravitate to strong women and Rachel certainly was that and more. Her ability to bring to life characters, time and place, as well as her descriptive power to bring the colors and sounds of St. Thomas to the forefront. Also the political force and the hatred of Jews that led them to St. Thomas. Here they would form their own society, a society that would for some portion of her life, condemn Rachel and her growing family as well as her new husband.

Loved the character of Rachel, she was amazing . A woman out of time who defied many in her quest to be true to herself. At one point Camille goes to Paris and I loved that part of the story as well. Rachel's best friend, a negro who she was raised with, Justeen, has her own remarkable tale to tell. She becomes a second mother to Camille. As a seamstress she understand his desire for colors, beautiful colors and muted colors, any colors at all.

There is some magical realism in this story, as well as much folklore. Some wonderful secondary characters each with their own backstory. Having read Hoffman for years I love her new foray into historical happenings, but I miss her stories of whimsy. Would like to see her write another of those. Still a wonderful, if a tad long, story.

ARC from NetGalley.
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LibraryThing member dalaimomma
I received my free ARC on The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman through a Simon & Schuster Book Club giveaway. I have never read a book by this Author so I did not know what to expect from it. Let me tell you, I was captivated from the start. This is a beautifully written book...every
Show More
word...every detailed sentence just flows so elegantly onto the next.

The story is about a brilliant rebel of a girl, Rachel Pomié. From what I gather, this is the fictional story of a real life woman, mother to a real life famous Danish-French Impressionist, Neo-Impressionist painter by the name of Camille Pissaro. There are historical truths through out the book but for the most part written through the great imagination of Alice Hoffman.

Growing up in a time when women had no rights in society and in the home, Rachel defied anything and anyone that told her what she was suppose to be or what she was suppose to do to ensure a steady future for herself and her family. A girl whose dream is to flee the home she knows to embark on an adventure filled life in Paris, France. Her rebellion was charming, uplifting, however, her determination to go against anyone that wanted to steer her right came with a price. As Rachel’s story unfolds we are introduced to the lush landscape and tragic lives of the intricate people of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in the early 1800's and later the lives of those in Paris, France. The tropical backdrop...the vivid description of the Islands flower and foliage population...the fruits, the pungent comfort food, herbs used in times of illness, the insufferable heat that this tropical destination is known for. I envisioned myself right there in those descriptions. I could feel, taste, see everything. Alice’s writing style makes it difficult not to. However beautiful, lives are laborious and tragic in this small world society ruled by culture, religion, and racial status and through Rachel’s story we become introduced to some pretty amazing characters. From her bossy bull-headed mother Sara Pomié, to her life long best friend, Jestine, the beautiful daughter of Adelle, an African servant in the Pomié home and whom Rachel looked to for solace and wisdom over her own mother, to the spirits of the fateful people passed away that she respected in death and shaped some of her decisions around, to the life unfolding of one of her own children, a son, Camille Pizzaro and his own defiant struggles in society, and how he overcame his parents staunch ideas of taking on the family business near his home to fulfill his desire of being a prominent painter in France. Alice is great at making an interwoven mess of forbidden love, determination, family rebellion, lies and scandal, each page revealing an old dark secret, another consequence, an impact felt through each person in the story. There is a constant historical reminder throughout the narrative stressing the lack of rights that the women of this time had and yet it becomes so blatantly obvious as a reader that every single one of these women shaped and formed and created the decisions, the paths, the fates of their families. They did the best they could under the circumstances they were given as a woman of that time and whether they failed or succeeded it certainly shaped the outcome for all.

This book is not only a page turner for its scandal but it also gives you a desire to want to stop and reflect on the tragedy, a world so far away from one’s own life and yet so relating. I’m also not going to hold back the fact that I cried an “ugly cry” one or two times towards it’s ending that lasted until the last page and a few minutes after. This is a beautifully tragic book. An easy read but rich in details, characters, and story line. Hands down a summer favorite, I plan on returning to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas via The Marriage of Opposites...
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LibraryThing member melaniehope
I began The Marriage of Opposites with no expectations in mind. I had not read this author before or heard of the artist Camille Pissaro, the father of Impressionism.
I loved everything about this book. The story takes place on the beautiful island of St. Thomas and tells the story of Rachel, a
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headstrong, rule-breaking girl who eventually finds herself in a forbidden love affair with a much younger man.
The writing was wonderful and the love story swept me away. I so enjoyed that sections of the book are told in the view point of different characters. I thought the whole book would be in Rachel's view, but then it switches to her husband, her son, a friend's daughter...and each section is fascinating as seem through that character. I can't wait to read more by this author. I received a complimentary galley via Netgalley.com.
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LibraryThing member maryreinert
Rachel Pomie is the only daughter of a successful Jewish businessman on the island of St. Thomas in the 19th Century. She is smart and her father teaches her the way of business; however, as a woman, the only option she has in life is marriage. Rachel's relationship with her own mother is troubled
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as she is seen as head-strong and rebellious. When her father marries her to a much older businessman in order to save his business, Rachel becomes the immediate mother to his three children. Fearing marriage and motherhood, she makes the best of the situation and finds that she loves these children as her own; she soon becomes a mother herself and soon a widow when her husband suddenly dies. A nephew of her husband, Frederic, comes from France to assume control of the business. Although not blood related, Frederic is considered to be Rachel's nephew as well. They fall in love but because of the family relationship, are not allowed to marry according to Jewish custom and they are shunned by their synagogue and community.

Rachel is closely attached to Jestine, the daughter of a maid in her household. As the story unfolds, Jestine, her mother Adelle, her "cousin" Aaron, and Rosalie, the maid in her husband's household become vital to the story and we see tangled relationships that are never discussed but which affect everyone. When Jestine's daughter, Lydia, is taken away from her by Aaron and his French wife, Jestine is devastated. Rachel bares more children with Frederic. One son, Jacob Camille Pizzarro, is unique from childhood. With no interest in the business, his life is consumed by painting, particularly a style of painting that is not realistic.

The story follows the life of Camille Pizzarro and his relationship with the family and particularly his mother. It is a strained relationship yet one of love. Eventually Rachel together with Jestine leave St. Thomas and live in Paris where Jestine is reunited with her daughter Lydia. As Rachel ages, times change but old entanglements still bind. Camille falls in love with a Catholic maid in the household. Rachel stands firm in her disapproval causing much of the same rejection that she and Frederick withstood.

A good historical novel with interesting characters and settings. Rachel is not particularly a likeable character, but an interesting one. The author has written a believable, interesting, and touching novel about what it means to be family and how tradition shapes those family relationships.
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LibraryThing member dalaimomma
I received my free ARC on The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman through a Simon & Schuster Book Club giveaway. I have never read a book by this Author so I did not know what to expect from it. Let me tell you, I was captivated from the start. This is a beautifully written book...every
Show More
word...every detailed sentence just flows so elegantly onto the next.

The story is about a brilliant rebel of a girl, Rachel Pomié. From what I gather, this is the fictional story of a real life woman, mother to a real life famous Danish-French Impressionist, Neo-Impressionist painter by the name of Camille Pissaro. There are historical truths through out the book but for the most part written through the great imagination of Alice Hoffman.

Growing up in a time when women had no rights in society and in the home, Rachel defied anything and anyone that told her what she was suppose to be or what she was suppose to do to ensure a steady future for herself and her family. A girl whose dream is to flee the home she knows to embark on an adventure filled life in Paris, France. Her rebellion was charming, uplifting, however, her determination to go against anyone that wanted to steer her right came with a price. As Rachel’s story unfolds we are introduced to the lush landscape and tragic lives of the intricate people of Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas in the early 1800's and later the lives of those in Paris, France. The tropical backdrop...the vivid description of the Islands flower and foliage population...the fruits, the pungent comfort food, herbs used in times of illness, the insufferable heat that this tropical destination is known for. I envisioned myself right there in those descriptions. I could feel, taste, see everything. Alice’s writing style makes it difficult not to. However beautiful, lives are laborious and tragic in this small world society ruled by culture, religion, and racial status and through Rachel’s story we become introduced to some pretty amazing characters. From her bossy bull-headed mother Sara Pomié, to her life long best friend, Jestine, the beautiful daughter of Adelle, an African servant in the Pomié home and whom Rachel looked to for solace and wisdom over her own mother, to the spirits of the fateful people passed away that she respected in death and shaped some of her decisions around, to the life unfolding of one of her own children, a son, Camille Pizzaro and his own defiant struggles in society, and how he overcame his parents staunch ideas of taking on the family business near his home to fulfill his desire of being a prominent painter in France. Alice is great at making an interwoven mess of forbidden love, determination, family rebellion, lies and scandal, each page revealing an old dark secret, another consequence, an impact felt through each person in the story. There is a constant historical reminder throughout the narrative stressing the lack of rights that the women of this time had and yet it becomes so blatantly obvious as a reader that every single one of these women shaped and formed and created the decisions, the paths, the fates of their families. They did the best they could under the circumstances they were given as a woman of that time and whether they failed or succeeded it certainly shaped the outcome for all.

This book is not only a page turner for its scandal but it also gives you a desire to want to stop and reflect on the tragedy, a world so far away from one’s own life and yet so relating. I’m also not going to hold back the fact that I cried an “ugly cry” one or two times towards it’s ending that lasted until the last page and a few minutes after. This is a beautifully tragic book. An easy read but rich in details, characters, and story line. Hands down a summer favorite, I plan on returning to Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas via The Marriage of Opposites...
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LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
The Marriage of Opposites, Alice Hofffman, Gloria Reuben, Narrator, Tina Benko, Narrator, Santino Fontana, narrator, Alice Hoffman, narrates the afterword.
This novel is about the history of the Pissarro family. It takes place on Charlotte, Amalie, St. Thomas, in the early 1800’s, when it was
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under Danish rule. Jews seeking refuge from oppression in Europe and Russia fled there for their safety from the pogroms in Russia and the Spanish Inquisition. The Pomie family left France and settled there. It is where Rachel Pomie, Camille Pissarro’s mother, began her colorful life.
As tale unwinds, the reader is given a glimpse into the unfortunate circumstances propelling the Jews from their homelands. Coupled with that information is the folklore and background of the island and the customs of the Jews. Both are rife with superstitions, rules and regulations, some of which seem so rigid as to defy sensibility and decency, some of which seem like island witchcraft. There is a more open interracial society there, but boundaries and class distinction prevail over all else.
The first half of the book is devoted to the life of the headstrong Rachel Pomie, from Creole heritage, a woman who was of European background, but who had never actually lived in Europe. The second half is devoted to Camille Pizzarro, her so, who changed the spelling of his name so as not to be confused with a Spanish Conquistador.
Rachel is married off as a young teen in order to try and salvage her family’s financial situation. She is basically sold. Her husband, the widower Isaac Petit, is more than twice her age and a father of three. During their marriage Rachel bears several more children of her own and is a dutiful wife. When he dies, her fortune reverts to his family, as was the custom regarding women, and she is left in dire circumstances.
Abraham Petit, the nephew of her husband is sent to the island to manage the finances and sell the assets with little regard given for the future of the remaining family members. Fate intervenes, however, and although he, known as Frederic, is almost a decade younger and is forbidden to marry her due to the rules of incest, finds himself smitten by Rachel and they fall madly in love with each other. They remain completely loyal and devoted to each other for the rest of their lives. They enter into a forbidden relationship and later a marriage which is sanctioned, reversed, and then sanctioned again, years later. They defied the rules and their behavior brought shame to the family and unwanted repercussions to their children. Many children are born to them, the most famous and the one this book concerns itself with, is Jacobo Abraham Camille Pissarro.
The issue of race and religion is explored well. The hypocrisy is examined and becomes obvious. Class lines, color lines and religious lines are often crossed in the shadows, but not accepted in the open air. Heritage becomes blurred because of it, and some who are haughty are shamefully dishonest about their own heritage and behavior. Their family name and honor is upheld at all costs which makes a mockery of the term honor.
I was disappointed in the largely negative portrayal of Jewish behavior, with flawed characters and religious leaders, in contrast with the way the author portrayed others, like the housekeepers and their children, the ones she made up out of whole cloth. They seemed to do nothing improper, unless forced by circumstances beyond their control, and were model human beings. Most of the book, therefore, lies in the area of fiction which makes it somewhat confusing at times since it cannot, therefore, parallel their lives accurately except for the merest outline. None of the female characters that are major parts of the story are real. Adelle, Jestine, Rosalie and Lydia are made up out of whole cloth, although they really direct much of the narrative. Since all of their relationships are also false, the book, in my opinion, becomes less historic fiction and more of a novel that incorporates some famous names.
The most interesting part of the narrative, to me, was the folklore and history of the island and the Jews who lived on the Island of the Turtle. I would recommend that the reader do some research about the family to understand the story more fully and to be able to discern and separate the fact from the fiction. Rachel and Camille marched to the beat of their own drummers, and overall, it seemed to be a tale of love that defied rules and regulations, love that crossed barriers and altered landscapes. Yet those characters that rejected and defied the rules, continued to perpetuate those old ones and impose them, seemingly unfairly, on succeeding generations, blind to their own past defiance, unwilling to alter their ideology for their progeny.
It is a tale of cross cultures, of racial and religious boundaries that are broken under cover. The family dynamic was repetitious and I found the fictional part of the story took over so much that the historic facts faded into insignificance. It turned out that my favorite characters were not even real so that even though their stories were very interesting, they were meaningless with regard to history. If the characters Rachel grew up with were not real, then it made her whole background seem questionable to me, as well. I enjoyed the story for the story value, not the history presented.
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LibraryThing member mountie9
The Good Stuff

The perfect book for me, especially after struggling through On the Road
Once again Hoffman has created an engrossing story laced through with a hint of magic
Has brought to life a relatively unknown (Especially to me) historical character and created a fascinating tale of forbidden
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love, family, betrayal, art and history
Hoffman has a true gift for storytelling, I always become lost in her stories and don't want to put them down. Her words are lyrical and poetic
Enjoyed Rachel's love for her father's library and his books - I truly understand
Learned a lot about the fascinating history of St Thomas
Each and every character felt so very real to me
Hoffman's description of St Thomas is so beautiful, I feel the need to jump on a plane and head there right now
Will be putting my Staff Pick sticker on it tonight

The Not So Good Stuff

As always horrified by the prejudice against Jews and the restrictions
As a Mom, I really didn't understand Rachel's attitude towards her son and his choices, especially after her childhood. Probably realistic, but it irritated me

Favorite Quotes



"The colours I used might not have been of this world; instead they showed what lay below the surface of this world, the spark of colour at the deepest core."



"Then I understood that when someone begins to tell you her story, you are entwined together."



"We're likely to see our children as we wish to, not as they are."



"The night world was blue and black; a hot velvet curtain dropped down from the branches of the trees."



4.5 Dewey's

I received this from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review
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LibraryThing member GayWard
Fascinating; well written; feel the heat and cultural influences in St. Thomas; almost ethnography of conflicts in small town or island; skillfully brings in all senses as artistic awareness of Camille Pissaro awakens. Passion vs. arranged marriage; societal expectations vs. desire; responsibility
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vand obligation vs. talent; tropic island vs. Paris winter
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro is a headstrong woman living in19th century St. Thomas. Her father marries her off to a widowed business partner, and when he dies, she falls in love with his nephew who comes from France to take over his uncle's business. This causes quite a scandel in the Jewish
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community, but they are eventually accepted. Most of the book concerns Rachel and her struggles with her community who don't accept her because she is a woman. One of the youngest of her ten children is named Jacobo, who turns out to be a lot like his stubborn mother. He fares poorly in school and in the family business, but he is quite an artist. In fact, he becomes Camille (his middle name) Pissarro, the Impressionist painter, and this book is based on his family's history. In the mid-1800s, with the American Civil War destroying shipping and business in the West Indies, they move to France, where Rachel struggles to accept her artist son.
Good premise for a book, but wow, it moves so slowly!
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LibraryThing member Pattymclpn
Hmm. I liked this one, but I did not love it. It sort of meanders along. It is not a fast action packed book. The characters in this book are complex and multifaceted and the book has many different situations that they are pushed into. The story is a deep one and Hoffman is a wonderful
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story-teller. The main story is about Rachel and her life and marriages. Rachel is a strong woman who in the end finds true love with her much younger nephew and still seeks acceptance. I thought that she was very hard on her own child Camille when he wishes to purse his true love, painting. Camille is Camille Pissarro who will become famous as the Father of Impressionism. Jestine is Rachel’s best friend. She is the family maid’s daughter. Rachel’s brother is in love with her. This leads to complications when Jestine becomes pregnant. It is not socially acceptable to have a child with the maid’s daughter. The solution to this dilemma is horribly cruel. The book evolves into a generational saga. I think I liked the beginning the best in this one. I liked the background we are given about Rachel growing up and the setting in St.Thomas.

The story is based on real life people in history. I felt that it illuminated many of the problems present when one goes against the mores of society. It is a book of love, heartbreak, adversity and the search for acceptance. I give this one a 3.5 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member lauriebrown54
I have loved pretty much every book Alice Hoffman has written, so I was excited to receive this one for early review. For the most part, I was not disappointed.

In 1817, on the small Caribbean island of St. Thomas, teen aged Rachel Pomie, member of the small Jewish community, is told by her father
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that he has arranged a marriage for her. Her father and the prospective groom wish to merge their businesses, and the groom, thirty years older than Rachel, is a recent widower with three small children. Despite her dreams of going to Paris, Rachel enters the marriage with surprising dignity and maturity. Now she is trapped on St. Thomas.

Luckily Monsieur Isaac Petit is a man ahead of his time. He loved his first wife and is gentle and thoughtful with Rachel, viewing her as a partner in the job of raising a family. Rachel makes friends with the Petit’s maid, as well as with the ghost of the first Mrs. Petit. But when Isaac suddenly dies, she finds herself alone with seven children, and no money- in their community, women cannot inherit anything. Everything she has thought she owned is now the property of Isaac’s family in France. A nephew will be sent to sort things out and run the business. Rachel finds this infuriating.

When the nephew- several years Rachel’s junior- appears, they fall in love. According to their community’s laws, they are family even though there is no blood shared between them, and thus cannot marry. Shunned when they have an affair despite lack of blessing from a rabbi, Rachel moves heaven and earth to obtain the blessing of the rabbi and be married after several years of effort. Anything can be done for love.

Which is why it is so ironic that when their youngest son, Camille Pizarro who will be acclaimed as the father of Impressionism, falls in love with the cook’s daughter, Rachel refuses to give her blessing to the match. The girls is both working class and not Jewish.

This is not just the story of Rachel and her husbands. It’s also about the love between sisters- even when the sister cannot be acknowledged; parental love; love that must be kept hidden; the horror of slavery; the lack of women’s rights in the 19th century; the persecution of Jews; and magic. There is a lot going on in this story, on several levels. It’s told so beautifully that the story leapt into my mind in glowing color. St. Thomas is a place of incredible physical beauty and the sense of place, both there and in Paris, is very important to the story. I have to admit that while Rachel is a very sympathetic character in the first portion, she is much less so later on, and we have no way of knowing why she changes so. But people do change when the shoe is on the other foot. A wonderful story that held me totally.
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LibraryThing member Alphawoman
Beautiful writing. Living in the semi tropics I loved the description of being engulfed by the spongy air. She said it much more elegantly. Story dragged a bit towards the end. But then picked up when in France. Some of the minor characters were more interesting than the main. The husband Frederick
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kind of bland but I suppose he was destined to be over shadowed by his bigger than life wife, Rachel.

I understand the book is based on historical fact but I did not quite understand why some women, such as her mother and her mother's best friend aka the witch, we're allowed to remain in the homes after their husbands death but Rachel was evicted from hers with her 10 or more children. ...I quite honestly lost count! Hard to believe she only lost 1 child with her many pregnancies.

I also was surprised that she, so adept at following her hearts desire fought so hard to deny her son his dreams.
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LibraryThing member lesleynicol
This is the imagined story of Rachel Monsanto Pomie Petit Pizzaro born in 1795 on the island of St Thomas ,Virgin Islands. She married Frederic Pizzaro in 1825 and they became parents of four sons including Jacob Abraham Camille Pizzaro (Pissaro) who grew up to become one of the leading artists of
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the Impressionist era.
Rachel was married at 17, was widowed and then fell in love with Frederic who was her husbands nephew. There love was frowned upon by their Jewish community because of this connection, but it endured for many years until his death in Paris many years later. They went to live in France to be with their only surviving son as he pursued his artistic career.
Although the characters in the book are real, the stories of the Pizzaros' West Indian employees, neighbours and friends are invented. The writer gives many details of a very colourful life on the island and paints a wonderful picture of what life could have been like in those colonial times. Her attention to detail is marvellous.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book by Alice Hoffman who is one of my favourite writers.
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LibraryThing member writestuff
Camille Pissarro was one of the greatest artists of Impressionism in the late 1800s. Born in St. Thomas to Jewish parents, he eventually moved to Paris where he made his name. Alice Hoffman’s historical novel recreates the life of Camille’s mother, Rachel. Married off to an older man when she
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was just a teenager, Rachel becomes mother to this widow’s children, and later has several more children of her own. When her husband dies unexpectedly, his handsome nephew Frederic arrives…and Rachel finds true love, although their marriage is frowned upon, catapulting her and her family into scandal. Camille was Rachel’s favorite son by Frederic – a boy who grew into an artist with amazing vision. Luminous and historically intriguing, The Marriage of Opposites is a book to savor.
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LibraryThing member SheTreadsSoftly
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman is a highly recommended novel of historical fiction about the mother of painter Camille Pissarro.

Rachel Manzana Pomié grew up on the tropical island of St. Thomas in the early 1800s. Her father is a merchant on the island and her family was part of the
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Jewish community who settled there for religious freedom under the protection of Denmark. Her family brought an apple tree with them to the tropics because it is the basis for their name, but, although the apple tree lived, it never flourished. The family also survived, but did not flourish on the island. While her father taught her to read and doted on her, her mother is harsh and does not want a daughter. Her mother favors a nephew she adopted as a baby.

Rachel knows her mother's harsh tongue and manner, but she is decidedly an unconventional girl who just happened to live in a time not well suited for her strength of character, societal rule breaking, and love of reading. The family maid is a source of great comfort and support and her daughter, Jestine, is Rachel's life-long friend. Rachel longs to go to Paris, but the nephew is sent instead. Rachel is then married off to Isaac Petit, a widower over twice her age, to save the family business from financial ruin. Isaac has three children and Rachel quickly adds 3 more children to the family.

When Isaac suddenly dies, as a woman Rachel is left with nothing. Her husband inherited her father's business interests and now his nephew will inherit it all. Rachel is 29, caring for 6 children and about to give birth to a seventh. When the nephew, Frédérick, who is 22, arrives, it begins a love affair of the heart and a marriage that breaks Jewish laws and causes them to be outcasts in society. From their marriage Jacobo Camille Pissarro is born.

Hoffman's expressive writing style, rich in descriptions, folklore, and historical fact, is well suited for this novel. She manages to capture life on St. Thomas in the 1800's and brings Rachel to life, showing her formative years, island superstitions, struggles, and determination. There is some magic realism thrown into the story. While closely following the historical facts, Hoffman embellished and added some characters for depth.

The Marriage of Opposites will appeal to those who enjoy historical fiction - especially historical fiction that is well well-written, carefully researched, closely follows historical facts, and realistically and accurately portrays the historical time, place, and setting. While it does move a tad bit slow at times, The Marriage of Opposites brings a small part of history to life.


Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of Simon & Schuster for review purposes.
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LibraryThing member seeword
Love and family intrigue among the 19th Century Jewish population on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas. The story of the family French impressionist painter Camille Pissarro.
Library book.
LibraryThing member GlennBell
The book is a somewhat interesting biography of Rachel Pissaro. She is th the mother of Camille Pissaro, who is a famous artist. I enjoyed the description of St. Thomas and of Paris. I am not sure that there is a point to the book. I imagine that most people would write a biography on the artist
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and not his mother. I was disappointed with the superstitions of the main characters but perhaps that is how it was. The racial injustice and sexism was unfortunately accurate. The story reminds me that we did and still do live in a world of ignorance and stupidity. I moderately recommend this book.
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LibraryThing member kimkimkim
This highly descriptive, well written book was perhaps a bit too repetitive and too long. For me it was a brushstroke below 4 stars.
LibraryThing member joannemonck
An very interesting novel about life in 1807 on a Caribbean Island where a group of Jewish immigrants have become a class unto themselves who hold onto all the old ways and a daughter who bucks the system to a point. The daughter does some things the way she is supposed to and others in her own hot
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blooded way. Her youngest son who is like her in many ways grows up to become the great artist Pizzaro.
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Original publication date

2015-08

ISBN

1451693591 / 9781451693591
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