Sunday, April 3, 2011

Review: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Book source: Received a copy from the author in exchange for a fair & honest review.
Release date: Hardcover April 6th 2010
                        Paperback April 1, 2011

Book synopsis: Sometimes he dreamt he held her; that he would turn in bed and she would be there. But she was gone and he was old. Nearly seventy. Only cool paint met his fingers. “Ma très chère . . .” Darkness started to fall, dimming the paintings. He felt the crumpled letter in his pocket. “I loved you so,” he said. “I never would have had it turn out as it did. You were with all of us when we began, you gave us courage. These gardens at Giverny are for you but I’m old and you’re forever young and will never see them. . . .”

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, Cézanne, 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.

A vividly-rendered portrait of both the rise of Impressionism and of the artist at the center of the movement, Claude and Camille is above all a love story of the highest romantic order. – Crown

Review: I started this book knowing very little about Claude Monet’s background and his love for the charming young Camille. All I knew about him was his painting of the Water Lilies and that’s it so I had no idea if I was going to just like this book or if I was going to fall in love with it. I chose the latter! I absolutely loved it! Like wow!

The author, Stephanie Cowell, did an amazing job telling Claude and Camille’s love story, but it wasn’t just a love story for me. Stephanie really portrayed what it was like to be a struggling artist in Paris. Like most artists, you start out having to prove yourself to the world, which is exactly what Claude Monet had to do and it was not an overnight thing. He really struggled to make it and he had a lot of ups and downs and many bumps in the road. What I really enjoyed about this book was learning how artists would stick together back then. They really had each other’s backs, which to me seems odd. Stephanie describes how Claude and his friends had to sleep in tiny rooms where one would sleep on the bed, one would have the couch and the others had to sleep on the hard floor. There was one scene where Stephanie describes Claude’s friends sleeping under their easels and then waking up in the morning to continue their paintings. To me that’s dedication!

Stephanie told a very honest story, which stayed true to the facts. Little is known about Camille, which really gave Stephanie room to explore and create the extremely complex and fascinating character of Camille. As I continued to read and learn more about Monet and his many struggles I really questioned how any woman could put up with him and live in such squalid living conditions for as long as she did. Claude could not have been an easy man to live with. He was constantly gone on a painting excursion, therefore, leaving Camille to fend for herself and the baby throughout the day. But then I realized why this is such a wonderful love story. Camille really supported and encouraged Claude’s work that was one of the things that she really loved about him. Yes, if you read this book you will see that no relationship is perfect and this one was far from it, but that is what makes this book so captivating! Every detail was aired out for the reader to witness. Stephanie didn’t sugar coat anything, therefore, making it one of the most honest and awe inspiring books I have ever read.

This book is highly recommended! It took Stephanie Cowell five years to write and research this novel and it is definitely apparent. This is probably one of the best books I have read this year!

If you would like a chance to read this book I have 3 books up for grabs! Giveaway ends April 15th and open to US residents only. Click here to sign up.

1 comment:

  1. Oh this book sounds fabulous!! Going on my to-read list for sure!