Redd Becker Book Review
Alice Hoffman writes historical fiction to her own drummer. The Marriage of Opposites draws from the painter Pizzarros’s family’s life, but it brings a depth of compassion in the telling. Not until the end of the book did I consider the historical implications of her story.
As with any good fiction, the lives of the story become bigger than our own, if for only those few hours we read. In this case, we walk in the shoes of a Jewish girl, raised on St. Thomas. We learn about the Danish openness to Jews at a time when the world shut Jewish people out. We learn about the heat, the colors of the ocean, the Fragrance tree, the restrictions of religion, the trials of love and family and friends and the making of witches.
Descriptions are full. One never knows when you’ll miss a bit of important information if you skip them, but I must admit, I did skip some of them and still enjoyed the story immensely.
Alice Hoffman Plays with POV
Writing style defines great authors. Hoffman’s style plays with the reader by presenting her character’s story in a mash of point-of-views (POV). Although the POV changes, we never loose sight of Rachel’s story. We see solidly through her eyes for the beginning third of the book, at which time Hoffman steps back. She then writes several sections in third-person. At first the third person narrator introduces us to her son, Jacobo’s views, but it isn’t long before the narration goes into an omniscient perspective that gives the reader a broader perspective of the environment and the people in Rachel and Jacobo’s lives.
For writers, the study of Alice Hoffman’s use of perspective is a worthy endeavor. She slips from one perspective to another bravely and brazenly. Still the story flows. The reader tracks events without a miss and, ultimately, the novel is enhanced by her technique. Only a skilled writer can pull this off with such finesse.
I finished the story wanting to eat molasses on toast with Rachel.
My RatingThe Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
Published by Simon & Schuster on August 4th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
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.