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Cover image for The marriage of opposites : a novel based on the life of Rachel Pizzarro
Format:
Title:
The marriage of opposites : a novel based on the life of Rachel Pizzarro
ISBN:
9781451693591

9781451693607
Edition:
First Simon & Schuster hardcover edition.
Publication:
New York : Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Physical Description:
369 pages (large print) ; 24 cm.
Summary:
"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"-- Provided by publisher.
Geographic Term:
Holds:

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Hoffman
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FICTION - HOFFMAN
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FICTION - HOFFMAN
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FIC HOFFMAN 2015
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HOFFMAN
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FICTION HOFFMAN
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Hoffman, A.
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Hoffman, A.
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Hoffman, A.
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FIC HOFFMAN
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HOFFMAN Alice
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HOFFMAN
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Summary

Summary

"[A] luminous, Marquez-esque tale." - O, The Oprah Magazine

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.


Author Notes

Alice Hoffman, an American novelist and screenwriter, was born in New York City on March 16, 1952. She earned a B.A. from Adelphi University in 1973 and an M.A. in creative writing from Stanford University in 1975 before publishing her first novel, Property Of, in 1977.

Known for blending realism and fantasy in her fiction, she often creates richly detailed characters who live on society's margins and places them in extraordinary situations as she did with At Risk, her 1988 novel about the AIDS crisis. Her other works include The Drowning Season, Seventh Heaven, The River King, Blue Diary, The Probable Future, The Ice Queen, and The Dovekeepers. Her book, The Third Angel, won the 2008 New England Booksellers' Award for fiction. Two of her novels, Practical Magic and Aquamarine, were made into films. She has also written numerous screenplays, including adaptations of her own novels and the original screenplay, Independence Day. Her title's The Museum of Exteaordinary Things, The Marriage of Opposites, Seventh Heaven, and The Rules of Magic made The New York Times Best Seller List.

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things) finds inspiration for her particular brand of magical realism in the Caribbean island of St. Thomas and the personal history of a nonfictional woman named Rachel Pomié, who lived on the colony in the 19th century. Rachel begins the story as the headstrong daughter of a French merchant, whose Jewish ancestors came to the New World in pursuit of religious freedom and found refuge under the protection of the King of Denmark, a champion of civil rights who also outlawed slavery on the island. Rachel grows up with her best friend Jestine, the beautiful daughter of her family's servant, Adelle, but upon adulthood, their paths separate. Rachel, caught up in the expectations set for her as a member of the small community, marries Isaac Petit, a widower nearly 30 years her senior with three small children, in order to help her father's business interests. She puts away her dreams of moving to Paris and accepts the role of dutiful wife, producing more children and becoming distant from Jestine, who faces her own challenges finding her place in society. When Rachel's husband dies and his nephew arrives to oversee the family business, Rachel is swept into an encompassing love that violates the community's moral code and isolates her family-but produces a son, Camille, whose peculiar way of seeing foretells his role as a leader of French Impressionism. Hoffman's subject matter and her evocative writing style are a wonderful fit for this moving story, which illuminates a historical period and women whose lives were colored by hardships, upheavals, and the subjugation of personal desires. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

A ghost wife, a stolen child, wandering eyes, hidden ledgersand morebind the 19th-century Jewish community on a paradisiacal island in the West Indies.To this marvelous mise-en-scne, Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things, 2014, etc.) adds a historical character: Rachel Manzana Pomi, the Creole mother of impressionist painter Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro. Descended from Spanish and Portuguese Jews who "knew when to depart even when it meant leaving worldly goods behind," Hoffman's Rachel nurses a grudge as bitter as the fruit of the apple tree her grandparents toted to the Antilles when they fled France: that her mother, Mme. Pomi, favors the nephew she adopted as a baby over her own child. "Girls were not worth very much in her eyes, especially a disobedient girl." With her friend Jestinethe mixed-blood child of the family cookRachel keeps a lookout for turtle girls (mermaids with shells) and, aping the French fabulist Charles Perrault, chats up the market women for "small miracles common only in our country" to tell when she finally gets to Paris. "My mother didn't like this sort of talk; people of our faith didn't believe in past lives or spirits." Faith leaves Rachel as well when her father arranges a match to a business associate twice her age, who dies, trapping her on the island with seven children; she's shunned by her synagogue when she falls into bed with a young relative of her late husband who arrives from Paris to settle the books: "The good man and the enchantress. Some people said I was made of molasses; one bite and you couldn't get enough." Wearing "haint blue" to chase ghosts won't bring back the luck she gave away to her old friend Jestine when she needed it. But her youngest, Jacobo, whose sketches and open manner charm even tight-lipped members of the synagogue's sisterhood, just might. Lilting prose, beautifully meted out folklore and historical references, and Hoffman's deep conviction in her characters (especially those "willing to do anything for love") make reading this "contes du temps pass" a total pleasure. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Defiance and Wonder It may seem as though Hoffman, best-selling author of more than 30 books for adults and teens, magics spellbinding fiction out of thin air, but in fact, she often improvises on historical events and figures. In The Museum of Extraordinary Things (2014), she fictionalizes New York City's catastrophic 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire and its ripple effect on an Orthodox Jewish family. In The Dovekeepers (2011), she presents an unusual perspective on the 70 CE siege of Masada, where 900 Jews held off Roman soldiers. Now, in The Marriage of Opposites, she offers a rare look at nineteenth-century Jewish life in the Caribbean and discloses the dramatic family history of a seminal French painter. The novel begins in 1807 on the island of St. Thomas, a glorious natural paradise shadowed by the horrors of slavery, which, though outlawed, persists amid virulent racism. The Jewish community, made up of refugees from anti-Semitic atrocities in Europe, seeks safety in strict religious conformity. And no woman, no matter her background, has any rights, not even to her own children. Young, headstrong, yet dreamy Rachel Pomié embodies two evocative traits shared by many of Hoffman's irresistible women characters. She is awestruck by nature, reveling in and revering the island's vital, lush beauty, and she is mystically attuned to mysterious forces, especially the spirits of the dead. She is also a true original. Because her Jewish family has roots in France, that country becomes her imagination's polestar as she memorizes maps of Paris and reads voraciously in her father's extensive library. Ardently independent and sharp-tongued, she refuses to abide by racial or gender restrictions, cleaving to her best friend, Jestine, the daughter of their African cook, and turning away all suitors until her family's finances plunge, and her panicked father arranges her marriage to Isaac, a much older widower with three young children. Rachel doesn't love her husband, but she adores his children, and she and Isaac have four more together. Then he dies, leaving Rachel without a home or livelihood. She is perfectly capable of running their shop, but legally, she must defer to her husband's family, waiting for a representative to arrive from Paris to take charge of her and her children's futures. Enter handsome, good-hearted, diligent 22-year-old Frédéric, who is expecting to meet an old lady, his aunt, technically, by marriage. Instead he is lightning-struck by voluptuous, tough, and impertinent 29-year-old Rachel. The scorching is mutual, scandalous, and condemned as incestuous and apostate by their Jewish neighbors. Hoffman discerns a mythic dimension in the intensity of their passion, the anguish of their ostracism, and their determination to secure permission to marry as their children, including their highly unusual third son, Camille, are born. Rachel could easily have remained the focus of this beguiling novel, but as Hoffman begins to write from the point of view of the color-bedazzled, sly, rebellious, and charming boy who will become the renowned painter Camille Pissarro, a leader and mentor among the impressionists, we see the world afresh as a perpetual dance of radiance and darkness, form and space. Of course, Hoffman herself is an artist, rendering each setting with sumptuous and incandescent detail and capturing every shade and hue of suffering and bliss. As witty as she is lyrical, she writes ricocheting dialogue. This rhapsodic blend of keenly observed historical elements and vibrantly fabulistic invention generates an entrancing saga of sacrifice, forbidden loves, betrayals, and family tragedies endured in a world fractured by religion, class, and race and redeemed by art and by love. Hoffman is at her resplendent best in this trenchant and revelatory tale of a heroic woman and her world-altering artist son. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Given the resounding success of her previous two novels, Hoffman's latest, with zealous publisher support, will lure her fans and readers curious about the lives of artists.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

FOR A PERIOD of her young life, Virginia Woolf wrote while standing at an elevated desk poised near her sister Vanessa's easel. The writing table's curious height enabled Virginia to peer at the world from the same viewpoint as her artist sister, to witness all at once the world itself, the world transcribed in ink and the world brushed onto a canvas. Later, when Woolf created the character of the painter Lily Briscoe in "To the Lighthouse," she knew the mix of delicacy and passion that collide to create a great work, and she was schooled in the fine craft of transforming daubs of paint into strings of words. "The Marriage of Opposites" - which is based on the life of the renowned Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro and the story of his parents' unlikely romance and marriage - is deeply concerned with the development of an artist and his work, and the familial experiences that shape an artist's vision. In that particular way, it's not unlike "To the Lighthouse." But although Alice Hoffman sketches an intriguing protagonist, her predilection for her own dreamy, moody landscape design overwhelms the narrative, as if to distract us from its stretched, disintegrating form. "The Marriage of Opposites" is a riot of color and fever, entirely obsessed with the passion of an artist but devoid of the sense of delicacy. Born at the turn of the 19th century on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish West Indies - a place of "fragrant and heavy" air, and heat so extreme it causes French ladies to faint "moments after disembarking" - Pissarro's mother, Rachel Pomié, lives in a palm-shaded, vine-tangled, wicked fairy tale. She is the only living child of a kindly shipping merchant who allows her free rein in his map-filled library, and a harsh, unforgiving mother whose dissatisfaction continually reaches new heights. Young Rachel is a type - the neglected child who immerses herself in literature to avoid her sad home life - but a compelling one. As Rachel yearns to leave behind island life and cross the sea to Paris, her dreams of long boulevards and shady jardins evaporate when her father informs her of her engagement to Isaac Petit, a fellow Jewish merchant. Rachel inherits Isaac's three young children in the marriage, but Isaac dies six years later. Shortly thereafter, despite the salty glares of townspeople and condemnation from the Jewish community, Rachel beds, falls for and marries Isaac's nephew Frédéric, who has been sent from Paris to settle his uncle's affairs. As Rachel not so slyly notes, after the marriage, "We didn't leave our chamber for 12 hours." This is decidedly not a marriage of convenience, and Hoffman's writing is most adroit as she traces the psychological upheaval that accompanies morally and religiously forbidden love. Camille is the third child of this against-all-odds union, and much of the second half of the novel concerns his development from fidgety schoolboy to daring, misunderstood en plein air master. But at precisely the halfway mark, when the novel might have turned into a vibrant portrait of an artist as a young man, it careens into a tirade of maternal anger. Rachel, a woman so unconventional she married her deceased husband's nephew and so daring she petitioned the Grand Rabbi of Denmark to ask his blessing for the marriage, transforms without cause into a caricature of the disappointed parent, displeased that her child has chosen a creative rather than practical career. She mocks his aspirations, sneers at his work and even whips out the eternally guilt-inducing "Did you know it took three days for you to be born?" This absurd, unfounded anger at Camille consumes Rachel's life - and in turn the rest of the novel. It's a bizarre and wholly unbelievable alteration; Rachel's feelings may stem from her own thwarted ambitions, but they're never properly explored by either her or Hoffman. Every opportunity for complexity is discarded in favor of flat and baseless bitterness. Frédéric and Rachel's other children melt away. A fascinating side story of a mixed-race child's abduction by her white father is neglected. The complications of mothering a genius are fertile ground, yet Hoffman tills the same spot over and over until it yields only shriveled and wizened crops. Where is Camille - the man whom Cézanne called a father and Gauguin considered a master - in all of this? What did he see when he peered over his easel onto the dusty roads of St. Thomas and then the verdant allées of rural France? It's hard to say. "The Marriage of Opposites" is so intoxicated by its protagonist's bitter scent that it fails to notice the artistic genius blooming among its undergrowth. Where is Pissarro - the man whom Cézanne called a father - in all of this? HILLARY KELLY is an editor at Washingtonian. Her work has also appeared in The Washington Post and The New Republic.


Library Journal Review

Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things) here tells a story of Rachel Pomié, mother of impressionist painter Camille Pissarro. The novel follows Rachel's childhood on St. Thomas in the early 1800s, her dreams of Paris, her arranged marriage and subsequent widowhood, and her affair with and later marriage to Fréderic (nephew to her late husband). Midway through the book, the focus shifts to Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro, which was the given name of the artist, youngest and favored son of Rachel. Gloria Reuben, Tina Benko, and Santino Fontana provide a lyrical and engaging narration to this historically based tale. -VERDICT Hoffman's fans and those of historical romantic fiction in general will enjoy. ["Hoffman brings into focus the birth of impressionism and the forces that shaped Pissarro's artistic drive through the complicated, rich, adventure-filled life story of his fiery mother": LJ 6/1/15 review of the S. & S. hc.]-Denise A. Garofalo, Mount Saint Mary Coll., Newburgh, NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.