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Staff Pick: “Marriage of Opposites”

"The Marriage of Opposites" by Alice Hoffman
Simon & Schuster

“The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman

Fans of historical fiction, this one’s for you.

In “The Marriage of Opposites,” published in 2015, Alice Hoffman gives us the story of Rachel Pomie, who was born in 1795 on the island of St. Thomas and was destined to give birth to the father of Impressionism, Camille Pissarro.

Hoffman deftly weaves what historians know about the 18th century painter’s parentage with a great storyteller’s gift for character and plot development. But this isn’t Camille Pissarro’s story: “The Marriage of Opposites” is all about Rachel, about an arranged marriage, a scandalous love, her sometimes cold and detached parenting, her fierce friendships and stubborn (if sometimes wrongheaded) determination. There’s so much drama here: class, religion, loyalty, passion and betrayal.

The descriptions of the flora and fauna are lush; Hoffman’s writing lets you experience the oppressive humidity, the unforgiving sun. And the introduction of magical realism melds smoothly with the novel’s spiritual overtones.

It’s a rich, multilayered, rewarding novel that will make you want to do your own research into this complicated family.

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