The Marriage of Opposites

S. & S. Aug. 2015. 384p. ISBN 9781451693591. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781451693614. F
In this lovely and imaginative fictionalized biography, Hoffman (The Museum of Extraordinary Things) reenvisions the mother of Camille Pissarro, the "father of impressionism." Rachel's Danish Jewish family fled Europe for the safety of St. Thomas shortly before her birth in 1795. At 17, she is forced into an arranged marriage to a widower with small children in order to save her father's fortune. Several years and a few more children later, she is widowed, and despite her keen business sense, the law dictates that only a blood relative of her husband can take control of the estate. When her late husband's nephew, Frédérick, arrives from France and sees Rachel, his heart is immediately hers. Their lifelong passion defies Jewish law, which forbids their marriage for many years. Camille, one of Rachel's four children, struggles well into adulthood against his mother's cold dismissal of his artistic brilliance, which was evident from an early age.
VERDICT Hoffman brings into focus the birth of impressionism and the forces that shaped Pissarro's artistic drive through the complicated, rich, adventure-filled life story of his fiery mother, fueled by her love for her family, her stubborn flaunting of society's rules, and her deep loyalty to her friends. [See Prepub Alert, 2/9/15.]
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