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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My review of Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet 
About the book:

In the mid-nineteenth century, a young man named Claude Monet decided that he would rather endure a difficult life painting landscapes than take over his father’s nautical supplies business in a French seaside town. Against his father’s will, and with nothing but a dream and an insatiable urge to create a new style of art that repudiated the Classical Realism of the time, he set off for Paris.

But once there he is confronted with obstacles: an art world that refused to validate his style, extreme poverty, and a war that led him away from his home and friends. But there were bright spots as well: his deep, enduring friendships with men named Renoir, C├ęzanne, Pissarro, Manet – a group that together would come to be known as the Impressionists, and that supported each other through the difficult years. But even more illuminating was his lifelong love, Camille Doncieux, a beautiful, upper-class Parisian girl who threw away her privileged life to be by the side of the defiant painter and embrace the lively Bohemian life of their time.

His muse, his best friend, his passionate lover, and the mother to his two children, Camille stayed with Monet—and believed in his work—even as they lived in wretched rooms, were sometimes kicked out of those, and often suffered the indignities of destitution. She comforted him during his frequent emotional torments, even when he would leave her for long periods to go off on his own to paint in the countryside.

But Camille had her own demons – secrets that Monet could never penetrate, including one that when eventually revealed would pain him so deeply that he would never fully recover from its impact. For though Camille never once stopped loving the painter with her entire being, she was not immune to the loneliness that often came with being his partner.

My review:

This book was interesting. The writing was a bit of a challenge for me at first because the style was pretty old-fashioned and literary and there was a lot of telling involved. But the more I got into the story the more I could hear the characters talking in my head and could envision the drama of their lives. The story was beautifully tragic and shows just how flawed humans are even when they try their very best to live a good life. Yet despite their mutual transgressions, Claude and Camille loved each other. It was interesting to me how many times they lost it all and had to start over again, and how often they had to borrow money just to survive. Sounds like a writer's life to me, so I could relate. I liked how the depression Camille experienced was realistically shown. There were sexual situations in this book, but nothing too graphic that it didn't fit the story. The dialog felt a bit stilted at times, but I think that had more to do with the author's writing style than anything. Overall, I enjoyed this book despite it's rather sad ending. If you love art and historical painters/impressionists, you'll enjoy this book.

Claude and Camille
was published by Crown and released in April 2010.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

Great review! I have had this on my list for some time now, and feel as though I should go and buy it.

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