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The Marriage of Opposites

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  41,798 Ratings  ·  3,830 Reviews
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 mothe
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Simon Schuster (first published August 1st 2015)
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Pattie No. I checked it out from the library. It was a fabulous read. The writer's prose is as sensual and lush as the Caribbean island where most of the…moreNo. I checked it out from the library. It was a fabulous read. The writer's prose is as sensual and lush as the Caribbean island where most of the story takes place.(less)
Deborah Hall You can also check out books from the library in digital content, or hoopla is an app for android or iPhone content also

Community Reviews

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Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
I thought the "Dovekeepers" was absolutely a fantastic book.....
Yet... For some reason...I thought "The Marriage of Opposites", was going to be a much more straight forward simple story, one that was even familiar to me. Simple.. Sweet historical love story. I was wrong... nothing was 'simple'. There was 'love'... but I was reminded ... How complicated love can be.
It's been a very long time since I've cried --bawling-- after completing a book. I literally set my Kindle down, closed it and cried
Apr 24, 2015 rated it liked it
No doubt about it, Hoffman is a talented author. She's got a unique style and her stories are always so diverse. This one is no different. It is lavishly lyrical in spirits, visions and superstitions. She spins a story that is culturally rich with texture and history. It takes place in St. Thomas in the late 1800's and is split into 3 stories: Rachel, Jacobo and Lyddie. I adored Rachel’s story - her 1st marriage, arranged to a man significantly older, determined her life and what it spanned to b ...more
Reading The Marriage of Opposites really made me think.....The Rules of Magic is my favorite Alice Hoffman book, but have I found a new favorite? Oh yes, it is my new favorite as I adored this book. One of the things I love about Hoffman's books is that each one is so different. Yes, she has a running theme in many of her books and this one was no different....the color red, red haired women, birds, and of course, love (no magical realism in here, but not missed). But the stories she weaves are ...more
Iris P

The Marriage of Opposites

op·po·site ˈäpəzət/
noun plural noun: opposites
a person or thing that is totally different from or the reverse of someone or something else.

"My father had told me that no matter how comfortable we might feel, we must live like fish, unattached to any land. Wherever there was water, we would survive. Some fish could stay in the mud for months, even years, and when at last there was a high flooding tide, they would swim away, a
Angela M
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
A work of historical fiction written by Alice Hoffman was all I needed to know and I was immediately interested in reading this book . I loved the Dovekeepers and while they are very different stories , Hoffman's lyrical writing and story telling had me fully engaged in this family saga. I have to admit that I did not know much at all about the artist , Camille Pissaro, and certainly nothing about his mother or his early life in St. Thomas or later in Paris .

I couldn't help but love Rachel , wh
Diane Wallace
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it
One of A.Hoffman's best writings..great to see her going back in time telling us all about what was happening back then: like a spiteful,mean and nasty mother... while her educated daughter was force to get married to an older man who already had another wife(polygamy)...all this was taking place in the 1800s and is still happening's an incredible story that was well written because of the pattern of today's world/society..
Diane S ☔
Mar 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Reading about a place I have been is always special. Of course, I wasn't in St. Thomas in the mid nineteenth century but some of the plant life and wildlife remains the same. Hoffman and her new passion for writing about historical characters takes on the mother and her son, Camille, many thought to be the father of impressionism. She also seems to gravitate to strong women and Rachel certainly was that and more. Her ability to bring to life characters, time and place, as well as her descriptive ...more
This family saga about the life of Camille Pissarro’s mother evokes a great sense of place for the West Indies island of St. Thomas as a site of intersection of race, culture, class, and religion in the early 19th century. In the tradition of the line of Hoffman novels I have sampled so far, she excels here in storytelling and character development. It is unusual for her to focus on breathing life into historical figures, achieved with much imagination based on skeletal facts provided in the aft ...more
May 18, 2015 rated it liked it
One of A Hoffman's best writings...which deals with the history of a mother who could not handle her daughter's stubbornness and insight to learn everything about live and the love she had for her father..this was more of a period piece/era storyline that the author wrote telling us the readers about what took place back in those days like the 1800s..while her educated daughter was forced to marry this older man twice her age,who himself already had a wife(polygamy) incredible well written s ...more
4.5 Stars

I’ve been approved twice for early copies of Alice Hoffman’s books and both times I nearly did cartwheels around my house. I am a fairly new fan of Hoffman’s but what I have read swept me away into new dimensions. I honestly lose my bearings once I open the pages of her books- it’s as if a gentle hand lifts from the pages and guides me into a new and magical world.

“The Marriage of Opposites” was no exception. Although it took me a chapter to really get a feel for where the book was taki
Cathrine ☯️
Sep 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites
This is a completely biased and prejudicial review from an avowed Alice Hoffman fan.

She describes “purple air smelling of hyacinths”, a blue eyed woman “whose soul was as quiet as snow”, and a dress made from dyes of heron and midnight blues, with pale lilac so flowerlike “that bees rumbled nearby” then sewn from threads "spun in China, carried overland through the desert on the backs of camels and then sailed across the ocean from Portugal.”

And how is it that I have never seen a Camille Pis
Apr 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel, while reading it I did not know it was based on a true story.
I loved Rachel and the parts of the story centered on her the most.
I really enjoyed all the parts that took place on St Thomas, and the mysticism incorporated into this novel.
Jul 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
After 1/3:

I am thoroughly enjoying myself! Vibrant colors, island life, folklore and history all rolled into one. Real life characters that draw you in. Physical attraction and love.

In conclusion:

I totally loved this book. Every aspect of it. Life on the island of St. Thomas (one of the American Virgin Islands) pulled me in and kept a tight grip on me, from the first page to the last, even the epilogue. I was engaged emotionally and intellectually. I breathed the air of the island, saw the colo
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it
A slight degree of disappointment that this was not as great as the reviews led me to expect! Nevertheless it was an enjoyable read albeit a little slow in parts. Rachel was an interesting main character. She turned out to be quite unlikable but things certainly happened to her. I lost count of how many children she had and also how many of them died. Like many biographies, real and fictional, the story seemed to falter slightly towards the end as the author tried to find a finishing point. Neve ...more
Aug 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Awash with as much color and depth as as Pissaro painting, Alice Hoffman's "The Marriage of Opposites" tells the story of three generations of a family living in St. Thomas, including the famous painter Camille Pissaro.

With lyrical prose, Hoffman engages readers with multi-dimensional characters and a strong sense of place and time. While this historical fiction story includes a famous person, I loved that the real "star" of the novel is Rachel, Camille Pissaro's mother, a fascinating character
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016
4.5 What beautiful writing! This book is about the painter Camille Pissarro, I had never heard of him before. It sent me to google so that I could see the paintings he had done. I highly recommend this book to those who love historical fiction. The writing is almost poetic in parts. I loved it!
I have to read more by Alice Hoffman.
The exotic Caribbean island of St Thomas in the early 1800s is the setting for "The Marriage of Opposites". The story centers on Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro, the headstrong and passionate mother of the Impressionist painter Camille Pissarro (who changed the spelling of his last name). Her family was part of the Jewish community which formed in St Thomas as Jews fled from the Inquisition. Rachel's father arranged her first marriage, which was more of a business agreement, to a kind older widower. ...more
Jun 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Because I'm not in the habit of reading book blurbs before I start a novel, I was half way through this book before I realized it's fiction based on true historical figures, in this case artist Camille Pissaro and his mother. Since I was already loving the beautiful language and setting of St. Thomas, the historical context only added depth.

Another real winner from Alice Hoffman, whose work I love.
Thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster of an advance reader copy of this book.

I am a big Alice Hoffman fan. I loved “The Dovekeepers” and “The Museum of Extraordinary Things,” so I was very excited to be granted early access to “The Marriage of Opposites.” It fits into the Alice Hoffman genre very nicely – historical figures brought to colorful life with just a touch of magical realism.

“The Marriage of Opposites” recounts the life of Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro, the mother of Camille Pissa
Jenny (Reading Envy)
(I received a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss but this does not alter my review.)

Most Alice Hoffman books I have read have been quick reads, rich with magic and relationship stories, more beach reads than deep reads. This was a departure from that trend (while recognizing I have not ready all of her novels) in a historical novel of the mother of Camille Pissarro. I was also excited to read it because it is difficult to find books set on the various islands of the Caribbean. Rac
This book is a multigenerational saga. We follow Rachel from a girl to a mother and then we follow one of her children, Camille Pissarro, who becomes a famous impressionist painter also from his childhood to his adult years. This story takes place on St. Thomas island in the early 1800’s. There is magical realism weaved all throughout the story, but it never is too overbearing to the realness that this story entails. This family endures many hardships, including persecution from their fellow Jew ...more
May 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, audiobooks
Richly layered like a Pissarro painting, The Marriage of Opposites is mesmerizing and hypnotic. I listened to the audio version and decided to download the Kindle version just to SEE the words. I felt as if I'd been transported to another time the entire time I was reading this book. I studied Pissarro's work in college and have always admired his 'revolutionary style', so I found it fascinating to read about his childhood and his mother's story.
One of the best books I have read this year! The a
Susan Johnson
Apr 18, 2015 rated it liked it
I really wanted to like this book. I loved her " The Dovekeepers" and had high hopes that were not fulfilled. Here was the problem in a nutshell. The main character, Rachel, was the mother of the famed painter Camille Pissarro and one of the most unlikable characters around. She was obnoxious, rude , self-centered and annoying. Frankly, I was ready to give up after 100 pages because I dislike spending so much time with a disagreeable person but I had a book to review.

Rachel was raised on the is
I won a copy of “The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman, through the Goodreads Giveaway Contest. I have to admit that this is the first novel I have read by this author, and wasn’t sure what to expect.

“The Marriage of Opposites” by Alice Hoffman is the story of Rachel, the mother of Camille Pissarro, an Impressionism/Post-Impressionism painter. Rachel, lived on the island of St. Thomas in the early 1800s. Rachel didn’t follow any rules, but “knew what she wanted” The family, devout Jews, fl
Paige P
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman combines the factual history of Rachel Monsanto Pomie Petit Pizzarro, a Jewish woman, born in 1795 on the island of St. Thomas. True to Alice Hoffman's style, a hue of magical realism is blended into Rachel's unusual life story. Rachel's first marriage was arranged by her family to a much older man for the purpose of strengthening the family's merchant/shipping business on St. Thomas and to mother his children from his first wife. Years later after her ...more
This was my first Alice Hoffman novel. And what a tremendous novel this was. I must say, when I first saw the cover, I instantly thought of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, probably because the model looks South American. And true enough, the tone and the mystical aspects of the novel gave it a Marquez-esque and Allende-esque flavour. I wonder if others thought the same.

While I'm not the biggest fan of historical fiction, especially when it's got fictionalised actual historical figures
MaryannC.Book Fiend
3.75 Stars. This was a lushly descriptive novel about Rachel, a headstrong young woman who marries an older man she doesn't love only later to fall in love with his nephew. The author did a lovely job of describing the island setting of where Rachel lives. It is a story filled with island superstitions and mysticism, the rich colors of the flowers, the greenness of a lizard darting through the dense foliage of trees. Alice Hoffman writes with an almost spellbinding prose that makes her story so ...more
Jun 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
I came to this novel with no idea that it was based on bare bones facts about Camille Pissarro's mother, and Pissarro himself. If anything, I was pleased to discover this once I had finished as it added an extra layer of richness to an already outstanding story. To know that the characters who now feel so real to me were actually real people. They lived and loved. It might have been like this.

The book is a wonder of colour. In Rachel's voice, the reader sees a wealth of hues under the blinding
Nov 17, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a fictional treatment of the story of Rachel Pomie Pettit Pizzaro, mother of the famed impressionist painter.

It has a strong beginning as you get to know Rachel and the St. Thomas social structure. You get to know Rachel as an assertive girl and woman in an age when this was not accepted. You come to understand her dreams and how due to her family’s needs the dreams could not be realized. After one of the tension points is resolved, the book begins an all too slow unwinding.

A main focus
Dec 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was such an amazing book. it's the story of Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro, a headstrong young woman who is forced into a marriage not of her choosing at a young age, then later, after being widowed young, finds the love of her life. She and her beloved Frederic embark on a forbidden love affair, which scandalizes and strains their entire community on St. Thomas island during the early 1800s. Told mostly from Rachel's POV, but later from the POV of Camille Pizzarro, her youngest son, who grows ...more
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Alice Hoffman is the author of more than thirty works of fiction, including The Rules of Magic, The Marriage of Opposites, Practical Magic, The Red Garden, the Oprah’s Book Club selection Here on Earth, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, and The Dovekeepers. She lives near Boston.
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“Whoever knows you when you are young can look inside you and see the person you once were, and maybe still are at certain times.” 33 likes
“My father had told me that no matter how comfortable we might feel, we must live like fish, unattached to any land. Wherever there was water, we would survive. Some fish could stay in the mud for months, even years, and when at last there was a high flooding tide, they would swim away, a dark flash, remembered only by their own kind. So perhaps the stories they told of our people were true: no net could hold us.” 16 likes
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