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Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet


Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet Cover

ISBN13: 9780307463210
ISBN10: 0307463214
Condition: Standard
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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.

About the Author

STEPHANIE COWELL is the author of Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest; The Physician of London (American Book Award 1996) and The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare. She is the also the author of Marrying Mozart, which was translated into seven languages and has been optioned for a movie. Visit her at www.stephaniecowell.com and http://everydaylivesfrenchimpressionists.blogspot.com.

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chocolateandcroissants, July 6, 2010 (view all comments by chocolateandcroissants)
Cher ami, the more I live, the more I regret how little I know.
-Claude Monet, In a letter to Frederic Bazille

Even before I opened the cover of Claude & Camille I knew that I would fall in love with author Stephanie Cowell’s latest novel. Cowell has painted her own canvas giving readers an unique look into Monet’s life.

I first became familiar with Monet as a 20 year old backpacking through Europe. My girlfriend was much more culturally aware than I as she dragged my from museum to museum in Paris. The Musee D’Orsay is where I was treated to my first Monet and the term “impressionism”. While I did not immediately appreciate what I had been introduced to, my passion for Monet was born.

For myself, the name Monet, conjures up images of an older man with a white beard, standing before his famous waterlilies, Les Nympheas. Monet was much more than this collection.

In Claude and Camille, Cowell takes readers on an artistic tour as she paints a portrait of a young Monet struggling to establish himself as a painter in 19th century Paris. Readers are introduced to Monet’s bohemian lifestyle and his friendship with the masters of his time, Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, Manet and Bazille. This group of men, would share a studio and together create what became known as Impressionism.

Central to Monet’s story is his muse and future wife, Camille Doncieux. Having first caught a glimpse of her in a Paris train station, Monet introduces himself to her after stumbling upon her in a Parisian bookstore. Their story is one of love, selfishness and unfulfilled promises. After a failed attempt to be displayed at the State salon Palais de L’Industrie it is Monet’s painting of Camille in her lovely green promenade dress (The Women in the Green Dress)that is accepted.

Cowell’s true gift is her ability to bring to life Monet’s paintings. As I read the book, I saw Monet’s canvasses before my eyes. I could imagine the light flickering over the Thames through the London fog, Camille standing in the garden, the trains at Gare St. Lazare. For me, being able to envisioning the studios were Monet painted, walking the streets of Paris to the cafes were he spent time with his friends and being able to feel I was standing before his works is a sign of a wonderful book. It is an unique talent for an author to conjure up the imagination of a reader.

Claude and Camille left my heart fluttering as I turned the pages. As I read the last words of this magnificent story I was broken hearted it had come to an end. I was left with a longing to return to the great museums of Paris and soak in the beauty of Monet's canvasses. Cowell's story will forever be etched in my mind when I think of Monet.

To truly enjoy the book, pack a picnic with a fresh baguette, some strawberries, and cheese. Spread your blanket out under the twilight of summer and watch the colors change as the sun falls from the sky, illuminating it with the last rays of the day.
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Susan Dormady Eisenberg, April 6, 2010 (view all comments by Susan Dormady Eisenberg)
Forget dry biographies of Claude Monet and his lover-muse, Camille Doncieux. If you want to climb inside Monet's mind and heart, look no further than Stephanie Cowell's luminous novel, CLAUDE & CAMILLE, a brilliant follow-up to her last lovely novel, MARRYING MOZART. If God is in the details, Ms. Cowell creates a divinely nuanced portrait of the great Monet, first introducing the artist as an old man, then flashing back to the signal events and people who nourished his greatness.

Monet's love for the young, enigmatic Camille becomes the touchstone of his life and work as he and his Impressionist colleagues--notably Renoir, Bazille, Degas, and Manet--struggle to impress the Parisian art establishment in the mid-1800s. Ms. Cowell's book reads like a lush literary LA BOHEME as Claude, Camille, and their cohorts battle poverty, parental opposition, professional rejection, and political turmoil. The author paints her book's canvas with passion, making the novel impossible to put down. I will never view any painting by Monet the same way, now that I understand the emotional cost of his art. And perhaps more importantly I will never cease to admire Camille's patience and persistence. She was "the woman behind the man" who encouraged Monet to shine for the ages.

I recommend CLAUDE & CAMILLE to anyone who loves a fast-paced, beautifully crafted historical novel with tragic love at the core.
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Product Details

A Novel of Monet
Cowell, Stephanie
Stephanie Cowell
Biographical fiction
Painters -- France.
Historical - General
General Fiction
Fiction : General
Literature-A to Z
Publication Date:
Grade Level:
9.52x6.58x1.17 in. 1.22 lbs.

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