Claude & Camille by Stephanie Cowell | Book review

Written by on May 3, 2019 in Book Reviews And Interviews

Front cover of a book called Claude & Camille about the artist Monet and his wifeClaude Monet, the impressionist painter is one of the most famous artists that ever lived. Many people visit his house and beautiful gardens at Giverny, in Normandy, and fall in love with the artistry present in the garden’s beauty. I, like many, associate him with his famous paintings of the lily ponds there. When I think of him, it’s as an old man, standing proudly in his garden.

An artist’s passion

This book was conceived because of a visit to an exhibition the author, Stephanie Cowell, attended at the New York Metropolitan Museum in 1997. Entitled ‘The Origins of Impressionism’ it was a collection of paintings by young artists at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Century. These humble, impoverished artists were passionate about their art. Sometimes ostracized by their families for refusing to take their ordained career paths, they pooled their resources and enjoyed each other’s friendship.

One of the artists featured in the exhibition is the main character in this book, the now famous Claude Monet. He was born and raised in the beautiful fishing village of Le Havre, in Normandy. Even as a young man Monet was passionate about his painting. Refusing to work in his father’s nautical supply shop, he went to Paris, stayed in the heart of the artists’ district and followed his dream.

There, he met the other love of his life, the beautiful Camille. This book is the story of their passionate, turbulent, and loving life together. Not the old man in his garden, but the young man starting out and falling in love. The unknown artist struggling to survive…

Millions flock each year to the artist’s quarter in Montmartre, and watch the talented artists drawing, sketching, and selling their paintings. The atmosphere is amazing, and when you read this story you’ll realise that it’s hardly changed for centuries. The vividly descriptive writing of the author makes you feel how it was to be alive in Paris at that time. The story reveals the passion of the artists, their comradery and determination. It also tells of the sacrifices they, and the ones they loved, had to make in order that they could follow their profession.

A stormy relationship

That Claude and Camille loved each other is certain. However, their strong characters, ideals, and changing circumstances made their relationship stormy at times. As the reader lives with them, through their fortitude and stubbornness, you really get a feeling for how much they really loved each other. Despite the challenges they faced, they were drawn to each other time and time again, regardless of how difficult life was.

Entwined through the story is the mystery of the secret letters Monet desperately wanted to gain possession of. Camille gave the letter to her sister Annette, and their content tormented Monet in his later years. And you’ll have to read it to understand why…

Looking at a ‘Monet’ having read this excellent book, I will see it with fresh eyes.

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a love of history, romance, France and art. It’s without a doubt the best book I have read of this genre.

Related Articles

Winter in the City of Light by Sue Harper

After years having a successful career in Canada, retirement ought to have been something the author, Sue Harper should have looked forward to. However, work-life has structure and purpose; what would life be like without it? Sue’s partner Bonnie, an artist who retired 6 month earlier, was happily enjoying the opportunities this stage in her […]

Continue Reading

Review of Le Glitch by Philip Ogley

I have got to start this review by saying that if you are looking for a book about ‘real’ French life, told from an unusual angle, and which will have you laughing your socks off, then this is the book for you! I also have to add that it was so good that most of […]

Continue Reading

Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table by Carole Bumpus

Part culinary memoir and part travelogue, Carole Bumpus gathered this compilation of intimate interviews, conversations, stories, and traditional family recipes in the kitchens of French families as she travelled throughout France. Reading Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table you’ll join her as she explores Champagne caves/wineries and historic cathedrals, local farmers’ markets, […]

Continue Reading

Are we french yet by Keith Van Sickle

A series of of short vignettes details the lives of Keith and Val, a couple of Americans living a double life. Half the year they’re in Silicon Valley, California and the other half they spend in St Remy de Provence, France. After several years of to-ing and fro-ing, learning French, making friends and really digging […]

Continue Reading

French Farce by Stanley George | Review

Stanley George, his wife, and two dogs Fritz and Truda took a leap into a new life in France thirteen years ago, after enjoying many holidays there. Both retired, house sold, with the world their oyster they hadn’t decided on the region they were going to live in, however they knew it would be a […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top