Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell – Book Review

Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude Monet was an impetuous young man, determined not to spend his life in his father’s store. Originally a caricaturist, when Claude is challenged by a painter friend to try landscapes, he falls in love with painting and knows he has found his life’s work. Although Monet was convinced of his own talent and that of his friends, Parisian society failed to recognize them in the same way. The artists were always short of money and hounded by their debtors. In the midst of his attempt to make a living from his art, Claude met a beautiful young woman named Camille working in her uncle’s bookstore. Convincing Camille to model for him begins a great, loving, and often rocky relationship between the great painter and his muse.

Okay, I really enjoyed this book. I know it is sort of trendy for people who are serious about art to hate on the Impressionists these days, but I love them. Actually, Impressionist works are pretty much the only paintings I like to look at. However, apart from learning about pointilism in 4th grade (we learned about and tried our hand at many Impressionist styles, but pointilism is the only one I distinctly remember), I really knew almost nothing about the Impressionists, and particularly about how the movement began. In a day when one can buy Monet’s water lilies emblazoned on almost anything, it seems strange to think that he was not an immediate success in his art. In fact, though, the entire school of Impressionism failed to meet with success for quite some time.

I think Monet’s lack of initial success was the most interesting aspect of the book for me, because it so strongly informed his relationships. For instance, Claude loved Camille deeply, but his lack of ability to provide adequately for them put a strain on their marriage that was exacerbated by her bouts of depression and her childhood growing up very well off. The other major set of relationships in the book was between Monet and his Impressionist friends. I loved the tension between them supporting one another with their limited resources and their pain over their lack of success as young men.

“Claude and Camille” gives historical context to Impressionism, contains a (complicated) love story, and includes equally complicated and yet rich relationships between friends, what’s not to like? Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for a blog tour.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran – Book Review

Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran

Auda’s birth is a difficult one. Eventually the midwife is faced with the choice of either saving Elena (possibly), or her baby. In a somewhat graphic middle ages c-section, Auda is born and Elena dies. Not everyone is sure that the choice was the right one, however, as Auda is albino. A superstitious midwife’s assistant grabs baby Auda and runs to the river with her, slicing out her tongue and throwing it into the waters so she can no longer tell the devil’s lies.

Luckily for Auda, her father and older sister accept her for who she is. By the time she is reaching adulthood, though, things are becoming dangerous in southern France as the Inquisition is raging, hunting out the heretical Good Men. A father who is a papermaker in a time of parchment and a daughter who is a mute albino are bound to draw attention from the Inquisitors, so Auda’s father arranges for her the protection of the Vicomte’s household. Unfortunately, it isn’t always easy to protect someone considered so different.

Auda was a fantastic character. She had great depth and really came to life. I kept finding myself forgetting that she was mute and albino, not because Sankaran wrote anything that didn’t work with the continuity of the store, but because Auda was simply Auda, not her disabilities. Sure, when she walked through the market place or couldn’t communicate with people who couldn’t read her notes and didn’t understand her signing I would remember her lack of a tongue.

I loved the details about paper making and how controversial paper was, but I think that “Watermark” could have been a tighter novel if more about the Good Men was mentioned earlier in the book. They had so much to do with the climax of the action, but they seemed less than totally important during the first half of the novel. This resulted in the ending having a bit of a rushed feeling, because the Good Men swept into the plot and were central, then the book ended.

Despite having somewhat of a rushed ending, I think that “Watermark” is worth reading for the strength of Sankaran’s main character Auda, as well as for the details of paper making in France in the middle ages. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews.  Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.

Monday, April 5th: Bibliofreak

Wednesday, April 7th: Savvy Verse & Wit

Thursday, April 8th: Serendipitous Reading

Monday, April 12th: Wordsmithonia

Tuesday, April 13th: Book Nerd Extraordinaire

Wednesday, April 14th: Rundpinne

Monday, April 19th: Raging Bibliomania

Wednesday, April 21st: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord

Thursday, April 22nd: Devourer of Books

Monday, April 26th: Café of Dreams

Tuesday, April 27th: Starting Fresh

Wednesday, April 28th: A Few More Pages

Thursday, April 29th: Reading, Writing, and Retirement

This review was done with a book received from the publisher for this TLC book tour.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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TSS: Themes in My Reading – Le Havre

Hello! My Sunday Salon is very late this week, because I’ve been gone for the past 36 hours, we were down in Indianapolis for my grandma’s surprise birthday party. It was lots of fun and Daniel was a big hit.

What I really wanted to talk to you all about, though, is something that popped up in my reading a whole lot this week: Le Havre, France. I have never before heard of La Havre, but it popped up in THREE different books I was reading this week.

First, it was the home of Claude Monet and his family before he left his father and siblings to go to Paris and pursue his art in “Claude and Camille.”

Then, I was following Madame Leon Grandin and her husband from France to Chicago for the World’s Fair in “A Parisienne in Chicago,” her travelogue.

That it was in those two books was strange enough, but once I finished those, I thought I was done with Le Havre. Imagine my surprise when I started the audio of “My Life in France” and Julia and Paul Child voyaged from the United States to France by way of Le Havre as well.

That many instances in so few days and I had to learn something about the place! Here are some highlights from Wikipedia:

  • Founded in 1517 by King Francis I, originally called Franciscopolis in his honor (thank goodness they changed the name!)
  • Le Havre literally means ‘the harbor’ in French, which explains why Madame Leon Grandin and Julia Child both traveled through there on ship.
  • 12th largest city in France
  • The city was destroyed by the Germans during WWII and rebuilt in the modernist style, then declared a World Heritage Site in 2005.

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