Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman ***

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman is a 19th-century historical novel about Camille Pissarro, French Impressionist. The story starts in St Thomas and ends in Paris. Hoffman writes poetically with a mixture of mystical fantasy and imagined memoir. The result is a protective fog blurring the social ills of the period, such as antisemitism, slavery, prejudice, and strict social stratification, which are integral to the story.

"Based on a real story" can be the biggest challenge to an author. One the positive side, the "real story" delivers many of the elements of a novel, such as plot, setting, and characters. However, real life is nothing like a novel. Reality tends to be chaotic and meaningless, while a novel is orderly and structured. This novel follows the life and times of Camille Pissarro, the reader might not.

Given the subject, the book could have been a harsh commentary on the brutality of the time, but instead it is a poignant love story. Page by page, Hoffman is a wonderful writer and a pleasure to read. However, I found the book a bit hard to follow.

We arrived in Marseille, where we spent a few days at a hotel on a bluff overlooking the cold Atlantic.
I can't imagine why this city was moved from the warm Mediterranean to the cold Atlantic.

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