Sunday, April 10, 2011

Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

What's the story?:

From Goodreads: "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, C├ęzanne, 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."

The Poppy Field by Claude Monet

My two cents:

I have always been fascinated by the Impressionist artists and Claude Monet is among my favorite artists. I didn't know much about his life and typically when I hear about Monet, I think of the great bearded artist in his latter years and not Monet as a young man.

It was really cool to see Monet as young man just starting out in his famous art career. It's so easy to look at great artists and only look at the art but not who they are as people. Even though Claude and Camille is a fictional book, I still think it shed a lot of light on who Claude Monet was as a person. It's hard to imagine that he had to struggle for so long in order to become recognized when his paintings are now recognized the world over.

Claude Monet in his latter years.

The relationship between Claude and Camille is interesting. Camille becomes Claude's greatest muse and greatest supporter while still remaining a mystery to him in many ways. She seems to never be truly comfortable in her life with Monet. She can't give up her metropolitan city life for provincial life no matter how hard she tries. Their relationship is often tumultuous and negatively affects both Claude and Camille and their two children but you can see how they could be in love. You also can see how after Claude loses Camille, he is almost haunted by her for the rest of her life.

This is really a great book for anyone who loves an epic love story or anyone interested in art!

Mode of receipt:

I picked this book up from the library.

My rating:

4 out of 5 stars

Have you read this book? What did you think?


  1. I have been seeing this book around a lot lately. It looks really interesting, thanks for the good review.

  2. @Anne Thanks for stopping by! You should definitely pick up the book :)


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