The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites

Large Print - 2015 | Large print edition
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"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: Thorndike, Maine : Center Point Large Print, 2015
Edition: Large print edition
ISBN: 9781628996777
Branch Call Number: LP HOFFM-A
Characteristics: 559 pages (large print) ; 23 cm


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Sep 09, 2019

I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this book and learning about the painter Camille Pissarro. Some parts of the book just seemed too long ie Rachel and Fredricks repeated attempts to be married and other people ie Rachel's other children seemed forgotten as the book progressed. Hoffman certainly captured the atmosphere of the time and the interaction between people on St Thomas. Her descriptions of colors, lighting were wonderful when relating to the weather, cloth, clothing , painting and surroundings. I'll remember haint blue :)

May 19, 2019

Hoffman continues to prove she is an adept story teller. From life on the Caribbean island of St. Thomas to Paris, Rachel Pomie, is a strong spokesman for women in the 1800’s. Based on a real person, Hoffman has created more than just a love story, she takes us into the hearts of both owners and slaves as she dissects both the passion and the sadness of what life throws out to you.

Dec 19, 2018

A story about Pissarro's mother on a tropical island piqued my interest. The author's narration appealed to me like viewing impressionist paintings. My take may not be what many other readers remark, may not even be what the author intend.
Rachel's twice marriages of convenience (not the "opposites") is the genesis of a great artist and his marriage of opposites (though for the convenience of a caring maid to begin with), as well as a financial source to feed a big family, esp. a starving artist.

If I dwell on plot & character development, along with (explicit and implicit) relationships weaved, I'd be poking holes and dissatisfied. History, as one sees or expresses, is debatable. A historical novel as written in the form of this book, I can take advantage of its mythical and magical power perceiving in different angles to my various liking.

P.S. I learned, through prose, Jewish history and migration, savored (imaginary) creole cooking, immersed in both tropical storm and Paris rain. I will revisit Pissarro's paintings.

Dec 06, 2018

Excellent historical book. I could not put it down, very easy to read with the story flowing. All is so very well described and just the right amount, so that I found myself feeling that I am right there in a middle of the story.

Aug 24, 2018

Unlike other readers, I did not find this book slow-moving. On the contrary, I was swept up in the story and never lost interest in the fascinating lives of the characters. Granted, some of Rachel's behaviour was a bit hard to take, i.e., her insistence on trying to control other people's lives. Hoffman's writing is superb and her descriptions take you right into the beautiful and haunting places she describes, e.g., the pool at the waterfall with the blue fish. I didn't know anything about the Impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro and was delighted to find out his origins and to learn about his art.

SnoIsleLib_JordynR Mar 08, 2018

An enjoyable read for fans of historical fiction and romance. Some characters and storylines seemed a bit stilted and less fleshed out than I would have liked, but the descriptions of St. Amalie and Paris thrilled the imagination. In addition, it was a amusing to imagine what the personality of famous painter Camille Pizarro may have been like and fascinating to learn more about his roots.

Feb 02, 2018

Please take any of my criticisms with a grain of salt. This was the kind of story that I couldn't put down; I started it on Saturday morning and stayed up well past my usual bedtime that night to finish it. I had to know how it ended.

While Hoffman stuck close to history for Pissaro's family, she invented the other important characters. While Rachel's family was compelling, it was her best friend Jestine and her family that I couldn't get enough of. Scenes that included Jestine were my favorites, in part because her friendship brought out the best part of Rachel (and later her son Jacobo/Camille), but also because the character herself suffered without being tragic- or a martyr.

The same can't be said of Rachel. As a young girl she's willing to defy convention (in no small part because her mother personifies convention), and while she is willing to make a sacrifice for her beloved father, when she meets Frederic as a young widow she is willing to risk not only her own reputation but also the prospects of her children in order to satisfy her soul's desire. Although Rachel gets what she wants, the battle with the rest of St. Thomas' Jewish population changes her; when her son wants to run off to Paris (just as she did at his age) and later marry someone outside of their faith (which some might consider a little better than marrying within her late husband's family), she is his biggest obstacle, even after beloved grandchildren are born. She sees her mother in herself and herself in her son, but she refuses to make peace with either of them not in spite of but because of that.

That is a familiar family tragedy, but what makes it more perplexing is that she spends much of her life indignant over the treatment mixed race Jestine suffers. Rachel rails when her cousin, who loves Jestine, succumbs to pressure and leaves for Paris when Jestine is pregnant. He is a coward for not transgressing expectations, and her estimation of him doesn't improve throughout her life even if her outlook on social mores does.

There are two secrets which propel the primary subplot of the book. The first is easy to discern, but the other comes as a surprise (in part because the math doesn't seem to work out). As Rachel became less sympathetic, I found myself wishing for more of that story and less of hers. I wonder if this was a conscious choice Hoffman made.

St. Thomas, a character in and of itself, came alive for me as I was reading. I could well understand why a dreamer would want to leave it, and then also understand why it came to haunt people after they left. I think it's also worth asking what Rachel really desired when she wanted to leave for Paris. Was it adventure in a larger world? Or was it acceptance from the culture that had ghettoed her and her ancestors on St. Thomas? Her experiences of Paris as an older woman may not answer the question for her younger self, but the fate of another character who does have the "privilege" of growing up there is a poignant, almost cautionary counterpoint.

Jan 26, 2018

This is a beautifully passionate & intricately written historical fiction account of the family of Camille Pissarro that is compelling from the very first chapter. It also gives insight into the history of & life on St. Thomas of which I knew very little.

Jun 01, 2017

The main strength of this book is its descriptive powers. I knew nothing about St. Thomas, and now I do. Hoffman's tales of the variety of lives on the island in the 19th c. are marvellous. The people she focuses on are also well described, whether you hate them or love them. Hoffman's also great with secrets--just read the various reviews to see how badly different readers misinterpret them! The major love story is beautifully told, and so is the irony of Rachel's refusal to let her favorite son live his own life as she so passionately lives hers. I didn't feel the story went slowly; or if I did, I loved that part.

It would have made things much easier for me to follow if there had been a genealogy chart to sort out who was who. But then I suppose the secrets would have been given away too soon.

May 10, 2017

This is an amazing book which teaches those of us, who don't know anything about St Thomas, the history, the geography, the weather, the beauty and the negative about this island. It teaches us about how Denmark treated the jews and the slaves on the island. Even though it is slow in places, it seems to move like the molasses the Island is known for, sweet, exotic and slow.

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