Friday, September 9, 2011

Book Review: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

  • Claude & Camille

  • By: Stephanie Cowell

  • Pub. Date: April 2011

  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

  • Format: Paperback, 330pp  

  • ISBN-13: 9780307463227

  • ISBN: 0307463222

  • Source: Library copy

  • 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. (Image and synopsis from

    My Review:

    Claude & Camille is the story of young Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter. First, I'd like to say that while I would not consider myself that knowledgeable about art, Monet is my favorite artist and Impressionism my favorite style. I love the Impressionist gallery in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

    Monet, along with his friends Bazille, Renoir, Degas, Manet, Pissarro, and Cezanne, are poor starving artists. They believe in their artistic vision even though no one else is the least bit interested in their work. They are considered too modern and are often turned down at the yearly Salon art exhibit in Paris. Many of them have left their families and potentially stable futures in pursuit of the ever unstable world of art.

    Along the way, Claude Monet meets Camille Doncieux, a privileged girl already expecting a proposal from a  well-to do gentleman. Claude and Camille throw caution to the wind and fall in love with each other and move in together. This book shows their relationship and how two people who truly care for each other can still go through both good times and bad times. Their bad times are often compounded by their continual lack of money, Claude's artistic depressive episodes, and Camille's manic-depressive disorder (although never diagnosed, this book makes it clear that she has MDD).

    I think Cowell's best aspect in this book was accurately portraying life. As I've grown up, I've realized that life is not easy and there will always be hard times and hard decisions but there will also be good times that make life worth living. Cowell portrays that through Claude and Camille. They have their own very hard times and they make mistakes but they also have their great times in life. They also have their days where they are just living and going through life.

    I enjoyed all the aspects of Money's life and I particularly enjoyed learning more about my favorite artist. I hadn't realized how close he had been to his fellow contemporary artists. It was fun to see all of them interact and grow up.

    My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

    1 comment:

    1. I have been hesitant about reading this book, nervous that I wouldn't like it. But your review has me wanting to go the library right now to check it out!