Review Blog

Aug 31 2015

The marriage of opposites by Alice Hoffman

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Scribner, 2015. ISBN 9781471112102
(Age: Adult/young adult) Recommended. Alice Hoffman is a highly successful author with more than thirty works in her manifest. In The Marriage of Opposites Hoffman paints her perspective on the family life of Rachel Pomie and her son Camille Pissarro. Camille Pissarro helped introduce the world to Impressionist painting and is widely viewed, along with Claude Monet and others, as one of the shapers of Impressionism.
Hoffman's impression of Pissarro's family focuses attention on Pissaro's mother - her rebellious childhood, her forbidden love, two marriages, and her life on the Island of St Thomas. However through Hoffman's study of Rachel, the reader begins to understand the man Camille, his journey, and what led him to become the great painter widely recognised today as the Father of Impressionism.
Rachel Pomie began her life on the island of St Thomas. Her grandparents had fled to the New World from France during the Inquisition. Finally in 1754 after the King of Denmark passed an edict allowing Jews to do business with non-Jews, Rachel's parents arrived on the colourful Island of St Thomas, Island of Turtles. It was here that Rachel grew up and where she married Camille's father, Frederic. Rachel and her best friend Jestine, the daughter of her mother's maid, roamed the jungles on the island, dreamed dreams and watched for turtles and pelicans. Yet Rachel always longed for Paris, the city of her ancestors. A city she had not experienced . . . a city that seemed to elude her.
Hoffman's attention to detail is both astounding and captivating. For readers who like to lose themselves inside the poetry of storytelling, this novel is a must. Her prose is flecked with folklore and colour - from the vibrant environment of St Thomas, to the neutrals of the Paris winters. Throughout, there is the intrigue of family secrets kept dark, rebellion against beliefs and rules held by a small Jewish island community, and the overwhelming desire to travel abroad. This novel is a must for adults who enjoy a lyrical narrative and their fiction spiced with historical elements.
Colleen Tuovinen

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