The Marriage of Opposites

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Living in an insular community of Jewish refugees on the tropical island of Saint Thomas in the 19th century, Rachel yearns to escape to the misty streets of Paris. Her childhood is shaped by a difficult relationship with her mother — whose affection she replaces by bonding with Adelle, her family’s maid, and Adelle’s daughter Jestine. As she grows older, Rachel is forced to marry a widower and become stepmother to his children. But when she meets a passionate man from France, her rebellion brings scandal to her whole community and changes her life forever.

Filled with fascinating characters, including historical figures like the famous artist Camille Pissaro, The Marriage of Opposites is a family epic that centers around one woman who refuses to live her life quietly.

“People who came here from Europe often claimed they couldn’t tell the difference between winter and summer on an island as mild as ours. They clearly didn’t know this island. We had times of rain and wind, blue nights when a cold thread coiled through all the houses, punching the babies and making them cry. On such nights the fish in the ponds turned black and floated to the surface. The leaves of the jasmine curled up like little frogs. But in summer, everything turned white-hot and bright in an instant, with sparks in the air that were as hot as flames. The heat stunned people who weren’t used to it. Women who accompanied their husbands here from France on business often fainted moments after disembarking from their ships. They were given a drink made of palm bark and sugar water, yet many could never abide the bright light, not if they stayed here for years, not if they spent their whole lives here.”

Alice Hoffman is an American novelist and children’s book author. Her books include Practical Magic, The Drowning Season, The Ice Queen, The Dovekeepers, and The Marriage of Opposites. She lives in Boston, Massachusetts.

Published: 2015
Length: 371 pages
Main Setting: St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
Secondary Setting:
Paris, France