Book Review: Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

[Katie Noble | Entertainment Editor]

When it was announced that Alice Hoffman – New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers – was releasing a new book, I was quick to jump at the chance to read it. Upon finishing the book, I am still in awe at how much Hoffman actually managed to fit in it.

The novel follows Rachel Pomié and her family over the span of about 80-or-so years – on the small island of St. Thomas (now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands). The Pomié family are members of the island’s small Jewish community in the capital of Charlotte Amalie, and during this 80-or-so year history it’s safe to say that they encounter their fair share of scandal.

book cover

Young Rachel is locally known as a strong-minded child who, although the apple of her father’s eye, continues to defy and disappoint her mother. Rachel and her friend Jestine (the fatherless daughter of their family’s maid), is taught language and literature in her father’s library, while her mother and her witch-like friend Madame Halevy watch from afar. Rachel is indeed one of the most unlikeable characters I have ever read but luckily this didn’t remove anything from the beautiful story. It is worth noting however that although this story begins with Rachel in St. Thomas, it is more-so about her son’s origin story, French impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro. (The novel is a fictionalised account of true events in regards to Camille’s upbringing and later family life).

Hoffman’s story is incredibly slow-burning, however it is impossible to get bored due to it’s whimsical nature that almost borders on magical realism. As a child, Rachel possess the power to commune with spirits and although this falters as she ages, throughout her life she continues to dream of a care-free life in Paris with her good friend Jestine. Hoffman’s prose is captivating and often I found myself stopping to re-read a passage once or even twice again.

I found the historical aspect of this novel truly fascinating. I really enjoyed how it focuses on such a small-town part of family life amongst the back-drop of American civil war and political uncertainty in France. On the surface, The Marriage of Opposites is very much a family drama, dealing with the daily clashings of class, religion, and race. Deeper though, it is a truly beautiful story about how love can be one’s ultimate goal, and that it can indeed conquer all, if you let it.

Received for free via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Expected publication: 4th August 2015 from Simon & Shuster.

Have you read anything by Alice Hoffman? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @TridentMediaUK!

 

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Book Review: Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman