The Marriage of Opposites

Author(s): Alice Hoffman

Staff Picks- Read our reviews below

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

A return to form for Alice Hoffman, this book is easily as good as her other novel The Dovekeepers, though entirely different.

Set on the island of St Thomas in the early 1800s, her novel describes the life of Rachel, the mother of Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro. Descriptions of life on St Thomas are richly evocative, sensual and magical - a childhood in an idyllic setting which is offset by the harshness of Rachel's mother, the strict rules of the Jewish community she is part of and the tragedies that occur.  Rachel has always dreamed of going to Paris and her childhood is spent soaking up the books and maps in her father's library as well as spending time with her best friend Jestine, their housemaid's daughter, with whom she will share a lifelong bond.

At a young age Rachel marries an older man, a widower whom she doesn't love. Unlike Jestine, she has never been sentimental about love. She takes on his existing children and has more of her own before his untimely death, after which his estate and business are left in the hands of relatives in France. They send a nephew  from Paris, and he is awed by the lush beauty of the island, and the fiery character of Rachel whom he immediately falls in love with. Breaking Jewish law, they embark on a deep love affair that will last decades, and from whose union Camille Pissaro is born. The book goes on to describe his life, his passion for painting and his fraught relationship with his mother. 
An epic novel that describes friendship, love, family, heartbreaking loss, long-kept secrets and the passage of time beautifully. I loved it!


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'What is it that makes American authors excel at depicting marriage? Alice Hoffman's The Marriage of Opposites is one of the best novels on the subject ... not least because the opposites of its title embrace not just gender but race, class and religion ... Hoffman's sensuous prose is ideally suited to describing the landscape ... As intoxicating as the finest island rum' Independent on The Marriage of Opposites

Alice Hoffman is the author of thirty works of fiction, including Practical Magic, The Red Garden, The Dovekeepers and, most recently,The Museum of Extraordinary Things. She lives in Boston. Visit her website:

General Fields

  • : 9781471112119
  • : Scribner
  • : Scribner
  • : 0.266
  • : September 2016
  • : 198mm X 130mm
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Alice Hoffman
  • : Paperback
  • : 916
  • : English
  • : 813/.54
  • : 384