Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review, Claude and Camille, A Novel of Monet




To read this gem of a novel is like entering an Impressionist painting and becoming immersed in its vibrant colors, glistening hilights, and hidden shadows. As a love story, it traces the arc of Claude Monet's life-long passion for Camille Doncieux, the woman who was his sweetheart, his muse, the mother of his two children, and, later, his wife.

The author, Stephanie Cowell
But Claude and Camille also captures the love of art that drives artists to pawn their few possessions for tubes of paint, borrow repeatedly from friends and relatives to stave off creditors, suffer repeated evictions from lodgings, stay outside all day in freezing temperatures in order to capture the play of light on waves or snow covered fields.

In his early painting days, Claude and his friend Fédéric Bazille share a studio in Paris that quickly becomes the hub of activity for several artist friends, among them, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne, Degas. All the young painters are filled with visions of a new way of painting. The future seems promising, despite the fact that most of them are in debt. Almost all of them are artists against family wishes: Claude's father wants him to take over his nautical supplies shop in Le Havre. Bazille's family wants him to become a doctor.

Claude first sees Camille in a train station in Paris. Arrested by her  beauty, he makes a quick sketch of her before she vanishes. Then he comes across her by accident in her uncle's bookshop four years later. It seems destiny. Accepting his invitation to pose for a painting, Camille brings her sister to Fontainebleau as a chaperone. Later, in Paris, Camille poses again for Claude, and the portrait is accepted by the Salon in the Palais de l'Industrie. When he takes her to see the exhibit, convent-educated Camille decides she's in love with him and leaves her family and her fiancé to become Claude's lover and the darling of his circle of friends.

But Camille—Minou to friends and family—is a bundle of mysteries and contradictions: She wants to go on stage. She wants to write a novel. She wants to have lots of children. She has moods. A devoted muse and passionate lover, Camille's life centers around Claude. Or does it? Her own mother whispers to Claude in one scene, "There are things you don't yet understand about our Minou . . ."

This book was so good, I read it twice. The author's rendering of the Impressionists' world reflects her thorough research. Characters and settings come alive. The lives that unfold are entirely believable. This is a must read for history lovers, art lovers and anyone who just likes a good story.

You can order this book at:
Random House
Barnes & Noble
Amazon

For more information about Stephanie Cowell and her other books,
visit the author's website:

You can also contact her at:
https://www.facebook.com/stephanie.cowell.14
stephaniecowell@nyc.rr.com



How about you? Do you have a favorite novel you've read more than once? Do you like fiction based on famous figures in history? (Share titles, please!)






22 comments:

  1. My favorite Impressionist! Reading this article had me tingling. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention.

    Can you imagine the success of an author in today's market who displayed the same passion as these artists?

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  2. I've read the book, and I agree with your assessment. A book that you live through along with the characters.

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  3. Hi, Richard: That was so well said: A book you live through along with the characters. Yes indeed.

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  4. Gail, this is so true! How many starving artists and writers would be able to perservere under such trying circumstances? I think of today's wisdom to beginning writers, "Don't quit your day job." Good advice, but these artists abandoned secure positions in family businesses to follow their hearts. They gave everything to their art.

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  5. I'll add this to my list of TBR possibles. I like Monet a lot, and we visited his house and gardens in Giverny. It's a picturesque place, perfect for an artist.
    Thanks for reviewing the book. I'm interested in it now.

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  6. Thanks for stopping by, D. G. If you like Monet, you'll love this book. It's like entering his world.

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  7. This is a great review and it definitely sounds like something that I would like. Thank you for making me aware of this book.

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  8. Sounds really good. Thanks for the review. Others have liked this too.

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  9. Murees and Sharon, thanks for the feedback. I'm glad you both like the review and I hope you do get a copy of this to read. It's the kind of book you'll want to read more than once.

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  10. Sounds like a good, unique read. I think I've read Robin McKinley's Beauty at least six times. :)

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  11. Thanks, Elizabeth, if you could add yourself to my new blog, http://thecakeandcustardbookshop.blogspot.com it would be a great help.

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  12. Elizabeth, the rare book recommendations I receive from friends usually pan out. Your review is so enthusiastic that I will make it a point to read the book. I am a fan of Monet's work. I am looking forward to getting some insights into him as a person. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  13. Oh wow I love the sound of this book. DEFINITELY adding it to my to-read list.

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  14. Stacy, thanks for the book recommend. Glad this one sounds good to you.

    Gary, this book really does make you feel like you know Monet.

    Carole, my pleasure.

    Misha, when you get the chance, I think you'll really enjoy it.

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  15. Hi Elizabeth, I am adding this to my TBR pile. With all the writing I am doing, I am barely able to make inroads into my books, there is no question of rereading books. Reading them once will be an achievement of sorts.

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  16. Hi, Rachna, Oho, I know that feeling! I have piles of books I want and need to read, but where is the time? But, whenever you do find time for this one, you won't be disappointed.

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  17. Great review, Elizabeth! Thanks for sharing. Monet is my absolute favorite!

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  18. Thank you for the review. Sounds touching.

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  19. Hi, Dawn, Glad you liked the review. I think Monet is my favorite Impressionist, although Berthe Morrisot and Pissarro are close, too.

    Hello Munir, Nice to meet you. Thanks for stopping by.

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  20. This does sound interesting, perhaps more for the wife's intriguing personality. She seems more of an anomaly for her time than he does. Men have always had the freedom to forsake societal expectations for their passion,society be damned. Women who do suffer far more censure.

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  21. Hi, Cathy, I enjoyed your comment. Camille really had almost a theatrical temprament. She did, in fact, want to be an actress at one point. She was a strange mixture of individuality, and yet still constrained by her upbringing. One reason she didn't pursue her acting dream was because she was afraid it would be too difficult for her parents.

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