American Music by Jane Mendelsohn – Book Review

American Music by Jane Mendelsohn
Published by Knopf, an imprint of Random House

Milo is a severely wounded war vet. Honor is a physical therapist coming to the rehabilitation hospital working with Milo, massaging his back – and only his back, because he refuses to lay on his back. Except something odd is happening whenever Honor touches Milo. Somehow, memories of the past are welling out of Milo’s body when Honor works on him. Not memories of his past, but of seemingly unconnected people, primarily from the last 100 years.

Mendelsohn’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and completely lyrical. That being said, it took me quite awhile to get into the book. Although beautiful, the way the writing is crafted – particularly the lack of quotation marks and, occasionally, other punctuation – served to separate me from the characters and kept me from getting a good feel for them for a good 100 pages. Flashing back to the past didn’t help that, although it did provide the interest in the novel.

I loved the way the stories ended up coming together, for awhile there I wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I must say, I am still slightly unsure how the harem of the Ottoman Empire really connected to the other stories. It just didn’t seem to come together in quite the same way, although I have my suspicions of what we are meant to take from it, but all of the other stories connected to one another in just one way, and this didn’t quite fit the mold.

If you’re a fan of gorgeous writing, don’t hesitate to pick up “American Music.” If you tend to need a good measure of plot and character, stick with “American Music.” You may not be sure about it at the beginning, but the story will grow on you, and it is worth it by the end. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound
.*
Amazon
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This review was done with a book borrowed from the library
* 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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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:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

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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