The Marriage of Opposites

The Marriage of Opposites

“A luminous, Marquez-esque tale” (O, The Oprah Magazine) from the New York Times bestselling author of The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on a tropical island 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 mother, a pillar of their small refugee community of Jews who escaped the Inquisition, has never forgiven her daughter for being a difficult girl who refuses to live by the rules. Growing up, Rachel’s salvation is their maid Adelle’s belief in her strengths, and her deep, life-long friendship with Jestine, Adelle’s daughter. But Rachel’s life is not her own. She is married off to a widower with three children to save her father’s business. When her older husband dies suddenly and his handsome, much younger nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France to settle the estate, Rachel seizes her own life story, beginning a defiant, passionate love affair that sparks a scandal that affects all of her family, including her favorite son, who will become one of the greatest artists of France.

“A work of art” (Dallas Morning News), The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, bestselling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. “Her lush, seductive prose, and heart-pounding subject…make this latest skinny-dip in enchanted realism…the Platonic ideal of the beach read” (Slate.com). Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Frédérick “will only renew your commitment to Hoffman’s astonishing storytelling” (USA TODAY).
  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 400 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451693607 | 
  • June 2016
List Price $16.00
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Reading Group Guide

Introduction

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things comes a spellbinding tale of forbidden love, family secrets, and unimaginable beauty. Set in St. Thomas in the early 1800s, The Marriage of Opposites follows one of history’s lesser known women: headstrong and rebellious Rachel Pizzarro—the mother of one of Impressionism’s founding artists, Camille Pissarro.

 

Topics and Questions for Discussion

1. Discuss the title. Which marriage or relationship does “The Marriage of Opposites” refer to? Where in the novel do you first recognize the title’s significance?

2. In Chapter 1, Rachel says, “Perhaps that was what my mother disliked most. I resembled her. I could not help but wonder if for some women, that was the worst sin of all.” Discuss Rachel’s relationship with her mother, her own stepchildren, and female relationships around her. What sort of resemblance does she mean? Compare these relationships with the one Rachel has with her son, Camille. 

3. “. . . on this island, strength was a necessity” (page 22). Consider the power dynamics in the novel, from mental strength to willpower, physical strength versus financial dominance. Discuss what is meant when Rachel’s father tells her that her marriage is “a combining of strengths&r see more

Articles About This Book

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Posted on Off the Shelf

Posted by Off the Shelf Staff

As the summer comes to an end, we’re spending every waking minute with our favorite books. Here are some of the stories we’re squeezing in while the sun is still shining and the beach still calling. And to help you end your summer right, we want...

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About the Author

Alice Hoffman
Deborah Feingold

Alice Hoffman

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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