Sunday, April 24, 2011

Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet by Stephanie Cowell

Claude and Camille: A Novel of Monet. Stephanie Cowell. Crown Publishing Group (pb). April 2011. 352 pp. ISBN #: 9780307463210.

Claude Monet, an early 19th Century artist, refuses to take over his father's business and suffers from his passionate compulsion to become a renowned artist. Initially a mentor indicates to him that he lacks discipline, a fact to which he responds with openness. Forced to earn money because his family will not support him and lacking a patron, Monet moves to Paris where he forms a strong bond with other emerging artists such as Renoir, Cezanne, Pissarro, and Manet. Each artist's work is characterized by unique qualities such as Renoir's portrauts, but Monet is riveted by a desire to accurately depict the different variations of light and shadow he observes in city and suburban landscapes. He and his friends live, dine, and work together, inspiring and arguing with each other about the new forms of art they are trying to create and which they hope the public will acclaim.

It is only when Claude meets Camille that his painting begins to manifest the passion, mystery, and beauty she represents to him. Yet he is slow to realize that Camille has dreams and secrets of her own, although little by little she claims that he is all she desires. As they begin to live together and have children, Camille sacrifices her dreams of becoming a famous author, singer, and actress so that Claude will be free to immerse himself deeper in his art. Living in destitute conditions, they struggle to maintain that dignity and hope that for too long seems elusive. Misunderstandings with colleagues and secrets about clandestine relationships threaten to destroy what they have, beginning with the Great War which drives their colleagues to different parts of Europe for different reasons.

Finally, the public begins to accept the "Impressionists," as these artists label their group. It's a bittersweet victory as the years of loneliness and struggle take their toll on all, yet the deep love between Claude and Camille survives the vicissitudes of their own weakness and world affairs, revealing a momentous love story that remains for sure the greatest force behind Claude's creations.

If you're looking for a story that goes beyond the proverbial "struggling artist" stereotype, this is a superb novel. Claude and Camille evokes the powers of observation and emotional sensitivity vital to the creation of magnificent art. Stephanie Cowell is a master at slowly revealing the essence of central characters, depicting artistic pieces in a way that mekes one want to run to see the actual works and presenting the day-to-day ups and downs of endearing yet stormy relationships that totally engage readers. This novel is one more example of this author's immersion in great art and music that so easily emerges as a literate love story of a renowned artist and his muse. Wonderful!!!

No comments:

Post a Comment