The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

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Book: The Marriage of Opposites
Author: Alice Hoffman

Goodreads Synopsis:

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, Fréderick, 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 Fréderick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable.

My Review:

I’m calling it: this is my favorite Alice Hoffman book. Hoffman weaves a beautiful tapestry of family secrets. Hoffman’s story spans several decades and generations, but it feels intimate. Part of this is due to Hoffman’s skill as a writer; each paragraph is a tightly- woven exploration of relationships between mothers and children, friends and neighbors. The book also explores themes of race, class, and religion in subtle, beautiful threads.

One thing I love is that each character feels fresh and unique, their voices distinct in how they interact with others and what they notice. Even the secondary characters feel fully fleshed out, with their own arcs and identities. In fact, the island of St. Thomas feels like another character, it’s given so much attention. I loved reading the immersive descriptions of the setting, ranging from colors and sounds and the feel of the climate.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read all year, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in family dramas, historical fiction, and lyrical imagery.

The Marriage of Opposites is available on Tuesday, August 4th.

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