Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Book Review: The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

In this work of historical fiction, Alice Hoffman elaborates upon the life history of artist Camille Pissarro, growing up in an outcast Jewish family on the island of St. Thomas.  Instead of helping with the family business, he finds himself drawn to art.  Hoffman describes his vision as such: “ I had always looked at the world as if it were a puzzle — whether it was a scene, a landscape, or a person — the pieces dissolved inside my mind so that I could then put them back together to form a whole.”  He draws and paints the vivid color-filled island scenes, then eventually travels to Paris to paint the city scenes there.

The Marriage of Opposites is a story about loves lost and found, families’ long held secrets, island life and the myths that perpetuate through generations.  Ghost stories, spirits and werewolves spook characters’ imaginations.  Magical realism is sprinkled throughout. The color Haint Blue plays an important role — “blue kept unwanted spirits away; ghosts and demons could not cross over water, nor could they enter a room that was the color of the sea.” Now I know why so many porch ceilings are painted this light blue-green color.  Haint blue, I’ll have to add it to my palette and will be reminded of Camille Pissarro and this haunting book whenever I use it.  Enjoy Alice Hoffman’s lush prose, engaging story and learn a little about one of the art world’s most famous painters.

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