The Marriage Of Opposites Book Review

There is always more to art than meets the eye. There is the life of the artist and the people who influenced them.

In Alice Hoffman’s 2015 book, The Marriage Of Opposites, Rachel Pomie is a young woman living on the island of St. Thomas in the early 19th century. A member of the tight-knit Jewish community who barely escaped the Inquisition, Rachel is the strong-willed, educated daughter of a loving father and a disapproving mother. When her father’s business begins to the falter, Rachel agrees to marry Isaac Petit, a much older widower who has three small children. Within a decade, Rachel will give birth to four children.

Then her husband dies and Rachel must be mother and father to her children and her step-children, whom she has raised as her own. The problem is that the inheritance laws state that women cannot inherit.  Rachel’s property belongs to her late husband’s nephew, Frederick Pizzarro.  Frederick arrives on St. Thomas only knowing that he has just inherited his late uncle’s property.

He does not expect that he will fall in love with Rachel, who is his aunt by marriage and not much older than he. The community shuns them, but despite the outsider status that has befallen them, Rachel and Frederick stick together and raise their children as if nothing is new or different from their neighbors. Among their children is the famed painter Camille Pissarro, who is one of the most respected impressionist painters of his era.

To be honest, this book is a little slow to start. In fact, it is a lot of slow. Rachel is the protagonist for most of the book, we only switch points of view and see the world through Camille’s eyes just after the halfway point in the narrative. While I admire Rachel’s strength and conviction to follow her heart, I just could not connect with her as a heroine.

When a book is slow, I would hope that it builds up steam and explodes, plot wise at some point. I was left with a pitiful puff of smoke.

Do I recommend it? A maybe, possibly leaning toward no.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History

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