Historic verisimilitude cuddles with bodice-ripping fancy in this diverting fictional representation of the Impressionist maverick Claude Monet.... [T]he narrative derives more energy from Monet’s mercurial muse than from an account of his rocky ascent as he endures poverty, disappointment and disapproving parents.... The novel seems convincingly researched, even as it indulges a quaint notion of embryonic genius in which male artists fantasize about fame: “One day our paths will cross on one of the great boulevards or perhaps at the annual Salon. I will be famous then and she will arrive on the arm of her husband and lower her eyes when she sees me.”
Jan Stuart - New York Times
Cowell is nothing short of masterful in writing about Claude Monet’s life and love.... An enthralling story, beautifully told.
Once again the acclaimed novelist Stephanie Cowell deftly takes us into the world of the classical arts with her well researched and beautifully written novel of historical fiction, Claude & Camille. (5 Stars.)
LA Times Book Examiner
Behind every great artist stands a woman driving him to inspiration, aspiration, and desperation, according to Cowell (Marrying Mozart), who bases her latest novel about an artist and his muse on the life of Claude Monet. Beautiful bourgeoise Camille Doncieux leaves her family and fiancé for Monet, whom Cowell depicts early on as a rebellious young man trying to capture in his paintings fleeting moments of color and light before he matures into the troubled genius whose talent exceeds his income. In an art world resistant to change, Camille remains Monet's great love as he and fellow unknowns Renoir, Pissarro, and Bazille struggle to make ends meet, but, eventually, parenthood, financial pressure, long separations, career frustrations, and romantic distractions take their toll, and even after Monet finally achieves commercial success, the couple still faces considerable difficulty. While glimpses of great men at work make absorbing reading, it's Camille who gives this story its heart. A convincing narrative about how masterpieces are created and a detailed portrait of a complex couple, Cowell's novel suggests that a fabulous, if flawed, love is the source of both the beauty and sadness of Monet's art.
One winter's day, a young, frustrated Claude Monet waits for a train on his way to boot camp; through the crowd, he spies a lovely young woman in tears. Captivated, he sketches her face before she disappears with her mother and sister into the bustle of the station. A few years later, he has not forgotten the girl's beauty and is stunned to meet her again in a Paris bookshop. Her name is Camille Doniceaux, and she is destined to become Monet's first wife and greatest muse. Moving through war, illness, prosperity, and poverty, Cowell (Marrying Mozart) writes the couple's love story with an eye for perspective as skilled as any painter's. By novel's end, readers are left with not only the satisfying drama of life among the Impressionists but also a greater appreciation for Monet's art and the driving bforces behind it. Verdict: Though the plot occasionally cries out for greater detail, the story of [a] complex and engrossing relationship compensates.... Rich, artsy read. —Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ
Fleshing out the artist’s biographical outline with fresh imagery, well-paced dramatic scenes and carefully calculated dialogue, Cowell presents a vivid portrait of Monet’s remarkable career. She writes with intelligence and reverence for her subject matter, providing a rich exploration of the points at which life and art converged for one of history’s greatest painters. —Carol Haggas
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