" 'I'll pretend to be who they want me to be.' He grinned then, and she saw his youth. 'But it won't work. In the end I'll have to disappoint someone. Either them, or myself.' "
I have been looking forward to reading this book since it was released back in August. I have read two of Alice Hoffman's books: The Dovekeepers (which I LOVED) and The Museum of Extraordinary Things (which I didn't really like all that much). I was so hoping to love this book and am so glad it was as good as I thought it would be.
This is the story of Rachel Pomie Petit Pizzarro - the mother of Camille Pissarro, an artist and one of the main leaders of Impressionism. Living on the small and private island of St. Thomas, Rachel dreams of leaving her life behind and traveling faraway to Paris. Rachel is a difficult child and rarely gets along with mother and her only salvation is her spending time with her father in his library and her friendship with Justine, the maid's daughter. Her parents are Jewish in the refugee community and she too must be an example. There are strict rules to live by and Rachel struggles to follow them. She sacrifices everything for her family when she agrees to marry a widower with three children to save her father's business. When he passes away, Rachel finds love for the first time but her love is condemned because goes against the strict practises of her religion and her community. Over next several decades her children and grandchildren suffer the consequences of their parents decisions.
Alice Hoffman is a wonderful storyteller who is able to get into the very depth of the reader's emotion. There are several sub-stories in the novel as well that are connected to Rachel's story that emphasis the idea of the generation gap. The author was spot-on with her portrayal of the complex relationships between parents and their children. I was so hoping that Rachel would be more accepting of her own children considering what she went to in order to marry the man she loves, but these situations are not always as simple as they seem. This is a historical novel, but many of the story's issues can still be scene in the world today. We are not fully accepted by our parents (for one reason or another), but then we do not give this same acceptance to our children. We want the very best for our children, but sometimes our idea of what is "best" is not what our children want or need.
I felt like the middle dragged a bit, but other than that, I can not say enough good things about this wonderful book from an amazing author. A very powerful and important novel and one that will stay with me for a very, very long time.