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Apr 8, 2010

HF Bloggers Round Table Review: Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell and Giveaway!

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell
April 6, 2010 by Crown Publishing
Hardcover: 352 pages
Review copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
The Burton Review Rating:Four and a Half stars!

"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."

The inspiration and the beauty behind Claude Monet's paintings have intrigued me for years. His impressionism style is a fantastically elegant thing that is really indescribable. When the news came that Stephanie Cowell was writing a novel about Claude and his lover Camille, I was so eager to get my inartistic hands on it. I had visited a Monet exhibit once in Las Vegas, and I am so glad I had the opportunity to go, but I wish I had spent a longer time there. Like for a few days, perhaps. But, the line moves you along and boom your $30 bucks is spent. I just love his paintings and have for a long while, and I do own several Monet inspired gifty items.

Beginning to read the new novel, I had the feeling of something like a secret was about to be revealed to me. I could only hope that it lived up to my high expectations, and that of others. And it did. I found the read to be very pleasurable as Stephanie Cowell took me on a journey through Claude Monet's life and into his heart as he struggled to reach his muse's heart. Claude first saw Camille at a train station, and the visual of her plagued him for four years until he found her again, where she defied her family and stayed with Monet.

Instead of the somewhat tedious biography style type of read, the author Stephanie Cowell introduces Claude Monet to us as he is just another young man, struggling within the confines of a strict family. He is portrayed as the sensitive type, as expected, and is hurt badly when his mother dies. His father takes awhile to come around to Monet and to accept his artistic leanings, but we still empathize with the older man as he is forced to deal with the fact that his son will not be his father's shadow. We witness Monet's artistic tendencies as they develop and we meet some of the other famous painters of the time such as Renoir, Sisley and Bazille, and we learn of the struggles of the new impressionistic style of painting that he and his friends created.

We are weaved through the story of Claude as he struggles and continues to struggle, for in the whole book it seemed there was not an easy time for Claude Monet. He traveled from rented place to rented place, counting on hospitality and charity.. and through it all, his dearest inspiration Camille stuck by him. Camille, the girl who was bred to be a fine lady, fell in love with the artist and his dreams, and indulged Claude endlessly. The two seemed made for each other and it was a wonderful story to read about as I felt I had gotten to know part of the real Claude Monet through this writing of Stephanie Cowell.

I really enjoyed the small interludes the author inserted as the story briefly returned to Monet towards the end of his life, and I also felt that the author did well with the Parisian settings and the war. The imagery and visualization were quite palpable, as well as the utter despair and anguish that Monet repeatedly seemed to endure.

Since I shared a love for the French language with my father, I enjoyed the snippets of French words that the author inserted. Most of the time when the words were inserted, the English translation followed directly after, so that we would not be distracted at all with the french words there. Although, merde was said a lot, and the translation was not there, but that was the one cuss word that I had learned when I was twelve, with the admonition that it was used for luck for entertainers. I really enjoyed learning about the life of Claude and Camille, and I wish that it had been easier for him and his artistic friends.

I can totally see where readers of Claude and Camille who are current artists would relate to the same artistic frustrations of Monet, such as painting light and shadows and landscapes that shift with the wind. For that reason, I would not hesitate to recommend this artists as they can feel a kinship with a great painter of the past. I also recommend it for those who would enjoy an equally heart wrenching and heartwarming blend of romance, history and art.

Also today on the schedule is Author Guest Post w/sponsored giveaway at
Visit my guest post featuring the author, Stephanie Cowell, here, and find your chance to win your own hardcover of Claude and Camille with that post, open to everyone in the USA.

And for now, we have a different type of giveaway! In honor of Claude Monet, I have a little Monet goodie pack to go out to one of my current followers, valued at over $15:

A brand new Monet bookmark featuring The Seine at Argenteuil
A brand new Monet Book of Postcards featuring 30 different images of his paintings
A brand new Monet magnet featuring his popular water lilies art
THIS IS NOT FOR THE BOOK!! This is for the items in the picture!

This is a special giveaway open to my current USA followers only.
Tell me you are a Current Follower, and leave your Email Address.

If you would like extra entries please do the following:
+2 Post the above Graphic on your blog's sidebar, linking to this post, leave the link to your blog.
+1 Tweet this post, using the Retweet button at the top of the Post, leave a link to your tweet.

Good luck!
Ends April 16th
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