Book Review

July '16

The Marriage of Opposites (Hardcover)
Alice Hoffman

This fascinating book was published in hardcover August, 2015, and paperback June 7, 2016.  Alice Hoffman is the author of more than 30 works of fiction, none of which I have liked as much as this!

The setting of this multigenerational family saga is the very lush island of St Thomas, in the early 1800's.  Rachel, the central character, is a headstrong daughter of a Jewish family, prominent in their community of refugees who escaped the Inquisition.  Rachel is smart, speaks her mind, and doesn't like to follow rules.  She is married off to an elderly widower who already has three children; this merger of families will save her family's business. After he dies, his family sends Frederic, a handsome young nephew from France, to come save what is now their business and decide what to do with Rachel and the children. The relationship between Rachel and Frederic becomes a scandal, as they fall in love, and have more children together. (One of their children will become known as The Father of Impressionism, Camille Pisarro.) The Jewish elders refuse to recognize thier marriage for some time, as they are related - though only through marriage.  Rachel is sustained throughout by her dear maid and friend Adelle, and her daughter Jestine.

The Marriage of Opposite got off to a bit of a slow start for me, as the first four chapters cover a great deal of Jewish history, and description of time place and setting.  Once the story was set, I couldn't put it down.  Hoffman masterfully blends fact and fiction, adding in love and romance, business and travel, plus a dash or two of mysticism that adds fabulous texture to her storytelling without overpowering the story.

This is a pleasure to read, and will be fabulous for book club discussion.  I listed to parts of it on audio, and really enjoyed that experience;  the narrator's voice is mesmerizing.