Rodin’s Lover by Heather Webb
Paperback, 320 pages
January 27, 2015
Genre: Historical Fiction, Art Fiction
Source: Received from publisher for review for HFVBT blog tour
“A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France.
As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness.
Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.”
I love the historical fiction sub-genre of art fiction. You get not only the atmosphere of the time period being explored, but are also treated to the beauty of the artist’s pieces. It requires that the author be both knowledgeable of the time period and art. It is not an easy feat to describe through words what a masterpiece looks like – it is so much easier to just look at it – but that is what the author must do here. It’s an extra challenge and can add so much depth to the narrative.
In Rodin’s Lover, Heather Webb does an admirable job of meeting this challenge. I have no prior knowledge of the works of Camille Claudel, however I do have some knowledge of the works of Rodin to draw from. Webb draws comparisons between the two artists, tutor and pupil, which allowed me to create enough of a visual in my head to imagine Camille’s own art pieces. Additionally, the setting was well modeled, creating a tactile experience to Paris which is lacking in some other novels that I have read of the period. There is one scene that stands out in particular in my mind that perfectly illustrates this skill – when Camille takes her brother Paul to his first salon experience. There is an opium smoke filled room, lovers in dark shadows, ample imbibing of alcohol, and more. A beautifully expressed scene.
Webb also crafts very real characters – all with their own types of flaws. You can respect Camille and her desire to make a name for herself in a male dominated world, but at the same time be pulled in the direction of the heart as well. She is a brutally honest, no-nonsense type of woman, who will tell you what she thinks – and she isn’t someone that you exactly like all of the time. Rodin I sometimes found to be whiny and clingy, despite his great artistic drive and desire to try to enhance Camille’s art. But these are the things that make characters on a flat page, have three-dimensional depth.
Heather Webb has knocked this book out of the park and I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.
Author Heather Webb also has written Becoming Josephine. You can visit Heather’s website or blog for additional information about the book. If you would like to preview the story before reading it, why not try out this excerpt of the book?
My reviews of other books by this author:
Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
If you are interested in see some images of Camille’s works, you can check out the Musée Rodin.
You can follow along with the rest of the tour by visiting the HFVBT site or on Twitter with the following hashtag: #RodinsLoverBlogTour.
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