Marriage of Opposites
by Alice Hoffman
2015/ 384 pages
read by Gloria Ruben and others 13h 26m
rating 6 / historical romance
Once in awhile I need a book which just does NOT cut it. It makes me appreciate the good ones more. So let’s hope this is it for awhile – I’ve had my fill in the last few weeks.
Anyway, the Inquisition resulted in many Jewish people leaving Spain and some of their descendants got to the Danish colony of St. Thomas in the 17th century. That’s the geographical setting for the largely imagined life of of Rachel Pissarro – historic mother of Camille Pissarro, the important French impressionist. But the story takes place in the 19th century.
Too many lost mothers, some odd and unbelievable magic with the descriptions of realism, forbidden love across generations, and completely 21st century attitudes except for the witchcraft spells and fortune telling. “Haint blue” is a light turquoise green – it wards off evil – it’s important in A Marriage of Opposites.
Finally, it’s a good story the author couldn’t leave alone and turned into a family saga for some reason – the kind where too many people “love too much.” Are there sources for this? For a fair amount as turns out.
In Part 1 the history is basically reduced to the time frame – 1800 – 18? – in St. Thomas and a sand floor Synagogue. There’s a bit more on Pissarro – After Camille is born there’s more biography. (So if I want biography and history I should go find a non-fiction book – right? – lol – yes.)
But I didn’t get interested in the story itself until about 1h 30m into it. I suppose that would convert to around 50 pages. At that point Rachel meets her future step-children.
In Part 2 the scene changes to Paris in 1840s, the July Monarchy – Louis Philippe, a Bourbon cousin, took the throne after Charles X abandoned France. There’s a lot of turmoil so also a curbing of liberties as well as difficult economic times. Louis splits and Louis Napoleon (nephew of the Bonaparte) manages to become Napoleon III.
And in about Chapter 9 the story just wanders away from itself – that’s all I can say. There are some interesting moments in the last 20-25% but the tension is gone and for the most part the major characters are either different people or have changed enormously and it sometimes gets hard to follow.
And if all that’s not bad enough, the narrator reads with this whispery drama stuff –