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All booksHistorical fictionThe Marriage of Opposites
The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman
Historical fiction

The Marriage of Opposites

by Alice Hoffman

Quick take

In her 35th book, Hoffman continues to delight not just our imagination, but our senses as well. You can taste the coconut cake and feel your nose tingle from the island's jasmine and sea breezes.

Why I love it

Patrik Henry Bass
Essence Magazine

Thanks to Alice Hoffman's exquisite new novel I can check off at least two items on my intellectual Bucket List…

In The Marriage of Opposites, the prolific author creates a colorful canvas on which she tells the fascinating story of Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro's spirited and defiant mother Rachel Pizzaro, whose love for her son helped shape the future of painting.

Growing up in a strict refugee community in St. Thomas in the early 1800s, Rachel is a difficult and willful child, a trait on display from the story's opening lines: "I always left my window open at night, despite the warnings I'd been given. I rarely did as I was told. According to my mother, this had been my response to life ever since my birth, for it took three days for me to arrive in the world." Her independence and daring ultimately results in a torrid and forbidden love affair that has long-reaching consequences for everyone in her life, most of all Camille.

St. Thomas proves a worthy playground for Hoffman's signature blend of folklore and family, intrigue and magic. She constructs an intricate world where pirates have "more than a dozen wives," parrots "speak four languages" and shells not only "reveal pearls," but also "birds as tall as men who danced for each other in the marshes." Juxtaposing this dreamscape are (literal) ghosts haunting descendants of Spanish and Portuguese Jews expelled by Queen Isabella during the Inquisition.

In her 35th book, Hoffman continues to delight not just our imagination, but our senses as well. You can taste the coconut cake and feel your nose tingle from the island's jasmine and sea breezes. As for that Bucket List, thanks to The Marriage of Opposites, I have honed up on my French and art history all in a single setting. And there are many more payoffs from having experienced this treasure of a novel.

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Member thoughts

All (81)
All (81)
Love (45)
Like (30)
Dislike (6)
85 ratings
  • 53% Love
  • 35% Like
  • 7% Dislike
  • Dearborn, MI

    Full emotional involvement. Alice Hoffman has such a gift for weaving a tragically human story into the kaftan of history. That being said, I do not know if too many men would be into this book. :)

  • Hattiesburg, MS

    Alice Hoffman creates a magical reading experience. I feel like it was the most satisfying book I have read in a long time. Complete without giving too much. It let my mind wonder and explore!

  • Miami , FL

    Absolutely loved this book. One of my favorites!! The writing is amazing, so detailed I felt like I was there. A beautiful love story and the story of a strong woman and great mother.

  • St Louis Park, MN

    I haven't met an Alice Hoffman book I didn't like, but this one was quite special. I love how it played on history and the way it wove lives and stories together unexpectedly.


    Alice Hoffman's writing is beautiful. I could see the flamboyant tree and smell the coconut cake through her words. This book made me laugh, cry and think.


    I fell completely, irreversibly in love with this book. From the characters to Hoffman's amazing and magical descriptions of the island.

  • Montrose, CO

    Alice Hoffman shines again as a great storyteller of the life of painter Camille Pissarro and his mother tumultuous and passionate life.

  • Bellingham, MA

    A great read. Early 1800's on the island of St Thomas. It is the story of Camille Pissarro's family. (famous impressionist)

  • Bloomfield, IA

    I loved this book! It has been a while since I read it, but I do remember loving the story and the female protagonist.

  • Greensboro, NC

    Incredible book exploring family relationships, community ties, and hidden stories of our world.

  • Los Angeles, CA

    An epic, sweeping novel. Such description and imagery. One of my favorites of the authors.

  • Stamford, CT

    Amazing book! Totally captivating story

  • Silver Spring, MD

  • south daytona, FL

  • Horace, ND

  • Bloomington , IN

  • Dublin, OH

  • Kansas City, KS

  • Erie, PA

  • Staten Island , NY

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