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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Book Review: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell
ARC, Paperback, 352 pages
Crown Publishing
April 6, 2010
Genre: Art Historical Fiction

Source: Received from Crown Publishing for HFBRT April Event
“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.
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.
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.”
Claude Monet was a struggling young artist who was part of a burgeoning movement – living from sale to sale of his artwork, collaborating with his fellow painters: Frederic Bazille, Auguste Renoir, and Alfred Sisley. Camille Doncieux was a flowering young woman from the upper crust of society who was set to follow the path laid out for her by her parents – the way all respectable young women should. When these two accidentally cross paths, both of their lives change in ways that they could never imagine.

I loved the way that this story was framed – there are sections from the past lives of Claude and Camille, each laid out with dates, and interludes of Claude’s later life in his beautiful home/garden in Giverny. There are intimate details revealed in the interludes that explain parts of the back story. From the very beginning, which is set in one of the interludes, you get the feeling that there is a great sadness in Claude’s life – something which happened that he is held responsible for. You can feel his pain and sadness, and even though you know that something terrible is going to happen and you think you are prepared for it, I would be very surprised if you don’t shed a few tears upon the reveal.

I was never a huge fan of Monet’s artwork – I can appreciate it, but I’m not a fan of the Impressionist movement as a whole. Not being a fan, I had never thought to consider looking up anything about his life, but after reading this novel, I was very interested in the life of Claude and Camille. While parts of the novel are fictionalized for the sake of the story, I thought that it only added to the allure of Monet. I know that the beautiful cover was initially what drew me to this book (this is not the current cover, but I am so thankful to have received the ARC copy with my favorite cover) and I am so glad that I picked it up – one of my top reads so far this year.

This was a beautifully written story and this would be one of those books that I would read again. I am going to move Marrying Mozart by Stephanie Cowell up my TBR list because of how much I enjoyed this book.

To whet your appetite more for Claude and Camille, you can watch this beautiful book trailer:

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:
Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Stephanie Cowell:

Marrying Mozart

The Players

Nicholas Cooke

  Find Stephanie Cowell: Website | Blog

Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. So glad you liked this one so much. I should be starting it this weekend and I'm looking forward to it!

  2. Great review, Heather! And thanks for posting the video to it as well. I was one of those that was intrigued by the Impressionistic style, due to some old art book in my father's library. I had always been fascinated in particular by Monet's Japanes Bridge and Water lilies paintings and have several gifts depicting those. It is liek Moent and I are both searching for that perfect image of it.

  3. Loved the review Heather and video clip!

  4. Fabulous review Heather!

    You and I had the same idea (shocker!) and will be reading Marrying Mozart soon. Cowell is an excellent writer.

    Some of my favorite Monet paintings are the ones of Camille and now when I look at them I have a little smile on my face.

  5. This one looks so good...and of course, what beautiful cover art...

  6. Great review Heather! I really like the sound of this and the one about Mozart really has me curious. I learned a bit about him and his wife. Such a tragic fellow.

  7. I love how honest you are in your reviews, Heather. It definitely makes reviews stand out from the others when reviewers inject a bit of themselves into their reviews...i.e. your stating that you were never truly a fan of Impressionist art, but that you will look at Monet's work with new-found interest after reading the book. I like that. :)

    I look at Monet's paintings completely differently now, too! Knowing the back story totally changed things for me.

    I am definitely going to pick up Marrying Mozart after reading this book, I agree with you that the writing made me want to read more of the author's work.

  8. Thank you for this interesting review, and the book trailer is lovely! So many good things have been said about this book. Another one for the TBR pile.....

  9. Being a huge fan of Monet's works I truly want to read this book.
    Thank you for the review.

  10. I read Marrying Mozart a year or so ago, and enjoyed it. I think I will like this one even more. Thanks for the wonderful review.

  11. A wonderful review! I love historical fiction, but as an added treat I am a fan of art history and will enjoy reading about Monet! From the chatter I've been hearing about the book, I didn't realize who Claude or Camille was! Thanks for sharing this wonderful book with us!

  12. Thank you for the review. After looking at more of his paintings, I find I prefer his works including people to his landscapes. Unusual for me since in most cases I'm a landscape person. After all that has been presented on this book and on the two main characters, I can't wait to read it.
    Love the video. The music is fantastic. I've been playing it constantly while reading your post and writing this. I need to put in some of my classical CDs. I need to find out what piano piece that is.

  13. Librarypat - I find that I am the same way. I had only seen his landscapes previously, but I do like his works with people better. I will see if I can find out what that piano piece is.

  14. Thanks for the review-glad to see that you enjoyed the book even though you are not a fan of Monet.

  15. Great review! I am sort of like you in that I'm not a huge fan of Impressionism, but that's mostly because I'm not into art history much. I did, however, love this novel! You don't have to be an art lover to enjoy it :)

  16. You are so right about the deep sadness in his life. I too enjoyed how past and presant were woven together. I guess I was always drawn to his later pieces, like the gardens. I want one like that too and I might just add some water lilies to my pond in the name of Monet.


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