The Marriage of Opposites Audible Audiobook – Unabridged
From the New York Times best-selling author of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things: a forbidden love story set on the tropical island of St. Thomas 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, lifelong 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 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.
Building on the triumphs of The Dovekeepers and The Museum of Extraordinary Things, set in a world of almost unimaginable beauty, The Marriage of Opposites showcases the beloved, best-selling Alice Hoffman at the height of her considerable powers. Once forgotten to history, the marriage of Rachel and Frédérick is a story that is as unforgettable as it is remarkable.
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|Listening Length||13 hours and 36 minutes|
|Narrator||Gloria Reuben, Tina Benko, Santino Fontana, Alice Hoffman- afterword|
|Whispersync for Voice||Ready|
|Audible.com Release Date||August 04, 2015|
|Publisher||Simon & Schuster Audio|
|Best Sellers Rank|| #22,339 in Audible Books & Originals (See Top 100 in Audible Books & Originals) |
#42 in Jewish Literature (Audible Books & Originals)
#207 in Jewish Historical Fiction
#261 in Jewish Literature & Fiction
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Top reviews from the United States
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While plot typically is driven with events, they become minor points. What clearly drives this story is its protagonist, Rachel. Rachel, as a child, vexed her own mother so, that she damned her with the ages-old curse, of someday being tormented by a child like herself. She was a dutiful daughter--to a point--but clearly, lived her life as she saw fit, defying the tenets of her society.
Hoffman's storytelling excelled for about the first half of the book. Life on the island, its native inhabitants (slaves and freed men), and the European immigrants were fascinating. Descriptions of people, dwellings, foods, tropical plants, politics, clothing, etiquette, customs, medicinal herbs, and travel all brought the reader into this story of historical fiction. We saw life through Rachel's eyes. Then, without warning, the perspective changed. This was no longer Rachel's story. Hoffman brushed her aside to bring us (one assumes) the real reason she wrote her book; namely to introduce to us Jacobo Camille Pissaro, the father of Impressionism--one of her sons. It left me feeling adrift, as if I were abandoned as the solitary inhabitant of an island, watching the ship on which I was traveling, sailing off without me.
Until this moment, this was a five-star book. Then, Rachel's other children were neatly stored away, like so much memorabilia in trunks never opened. As Camille's presence grew, they retreated to ghostly insignificance. Hoffman lost me here. If her intention was to create the background story of Camille's mother, it would have been better done in the form of flashbacks, leaving him as the protagonist. It's not that her writing style and abilities changed, it's that the focus did, and I didn't like it. That dropped my rating to three stars.
If you have enjoyed reading Hoffman's other stories (such as The Dovekeepers), you will like her thorough research, style and adroit storytelling in The Marriage of Opposites. Just be aware of the story's sudden metamorphosis into a completely different tale. Hence, a rating of four stars.
The book begins when Rachel is a little girl in St. Thomas (early 19th c.). The island with its heat, vivid flora and fauna, and multi-cultural history becomes a main character in the book. She wraps us up in elaborate folktales and religious and cultural background. Most residents speak several languages, including French and Danish. There are still slaves on the island, which is a Danish colony. Rachel’s family is Jewish, so they have their own strict guidelines for behavior and ritual, and Rachel isn’t inclined to accept the rules of others. Yes, there’s plenty of conflict, scandal, and hidden secrets.
When Camille is old enough to become interested in art, he shows he inherited his mother’s rebellious nature. The novel shifts toward him as the main character about halfway through the book. Some of the narrative takes place in Paris.
The beginning of Chapter 11, set in 1855, the buildup to the Civil War, chilled me: “There was trouble brewing in America, a lawlessness that sometimes portends war.”
I felt like I had a somewhat personal relationship to the story because several years ago I visited St Thomas, saw the synagogue his family was part of and read the bit about the congregation's rejection of the family.
Top reviews from other countries
But this story held so much more. Persecution of Jews across Europe and their flight to settle on tropical islands where they were given some freedoms. But Jews always seem to be outcasts, and that's also what this book is about. Outcasts of many sorts- Jews, slaves, between classes, and artists aswell. Then there the lush descriptions of St Thomas Island and Paris, in language as vivid as the colours painted by Pissaro himself.