Synopses & Reviews
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
From the author of The Beautiful American comes a richly imagined novel about historical figure Beatrix Farrand, one of the first female landscape architects.
Raised among wealth and privilege during Americas fabled Gilded Age, a niece of famous novelist Edith Wharton and a friend to literary great Henry James, Beatrix Farrand is expected to marry, and marry well. But as a young woman traveling through Europe with her mother and aunt, she already knows that gardens are her true passionplanning them, nurturing them, digging deep into their soil, and cultivating their lush greenery.
This highborn woman with unconventional views and a distrust of marriage escapes the dictates of society to become the most celebrated female landscape designer in the country. Despite her association with much-acclaimed men in her field such as Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius behind New Yorks Central Park, her path is not easy. How she becomes a woman for whom work and love, the earthly and the mysterious, are held in delicate and satisfying balance is the story of her unique determination to create beauty and serenity while remaining true to herself.
Beatrixs journey begins at the age of twenty-three in the Borghese Gardens of Rome, where she meets beguiling Amerigo Massimo, an Italian gentleman of sensitivity and charma man unlike any she has known before....
From an award-winning novelist described by Hilary Mantel as "one of those writers who can see into the past and help us feel its texture," the story of the exotic wife of a Scottish aristocrat who is not what she seems, set against the backdrop of the cultured drawing rooms and emerging tabloid culture of late Victorian London.
is set in Victorian Britain; at its center is Maribel Campbell Lowe, the wife of a Scottish M.P. and a self-proclaimed Chilean heiress. But Maribel's life is based on a web of lies, and a newspaperman's uncommon interest in her could prove disastrous" —New York Times Book Review
London 1887. For Maribel Campbell Lowe, the beautiful bohemian wife of a maverick politician, it is the year to make something of herself. She is torn between poetry and the new art of photography. But it is soon plain that Maribels choices are not so simple. As her husbands career hangs by a thread, her real past, and the family she abandoned, come back to haunt them both. When the notorious newspaper editor Alfred Webster begins to ask pointed questions, she fears he will not only destroy Edwards career but both of their reputations.
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.
From the Hardcover edition.
Reading Group Guide
Claude & Camille Reading Group Guide
1. Do you think Claude should have found some sort of work to support his family? Was he right in his insistence on following art only? Was he not capable of compromise? Do geniuses live by special rules? Would you have seen the situation differently from his father’s point of view, not knowing the end?
2. Camille was a very complex girl: loyal, secretive, and duplicitous. What do you think drove her secrets and lies? Could she help herself? Back in 1865 people did not know much about the workings of the mind. Discuss the complex reasons for her behavior.
3. Do you think Camille would have been happier if she had left Claude for Frédéric?
4. Do you think Claude compromised his career and artistic focus by breaking away from his friends to pursue his relationship with Camille?
5. Do you think Claude’s artistic achievement would have turned out differently had he not suffered so much hardship and loss? Would he have been able to create such complex masterpieces as the Water Lily series? Why or why not?
6. Annette holds Claude responsible for the death of her sister. Is there any justification for that? Do you feel perhaps in any way that she was envious of her sister’s ability to live a free life?
7. Could Claude have prevented Frédéric from going to war? How could he have behaved to prevent his friend’s tragedy?
8. There are may different turning points in the novel—Claude leaving for Paris, the first time he meets Camille, Bazille enlisting in the army.
Which do you think had the most profound effect on his life and career? Which do you think resulted in the most growth?
9. Monet’s paintings of his water lily pond and gardens are arguably the most beloved paintings in the world. How and where did you first find them? Everyone sees them in his or her own way. What do they mean to you?
10. Have you visited Monet’s house at Giverny or would you like to? Now that you know some of the hardships Monet endured before he was able to make his garden and paint it, will you see it in a different way?