My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Hard as it is to fathom today, Claude Monet spent the first twenty years of his career as the proverbial starving artist. (It’s also hard to believe that his name was Oscar!) Stephanie Cowell tells the story of his relationship with the love of his life, Camille Doncieux, who gave up a life of privilege to be with her Claude. The novel is a series of interconnected vignettes depicting Monet as an elderly man recalling his life with Camille. His passion for painting in the new style called Impressionism, and the role Camille played not only as his wife and model, but also his muse, form the core of the book. The Monets lived the expected Bohemian lifestyle, and there are plenty of scenes in which they interact with the other artists in the movement and their friends and relations.
Unfortunately, there are some novelists who are adept at showing rather than telling, but Cowell, alas, does not seem to be one of them. Perhaps her style might best be described as prosaic, lending a sort of flatness to a narrative that might have been alive with fervor and excitement (see Susan Vreeland’s Luncheon of the Boating Party, on Renoir, for comparison.) This weakness does not prevent Claude and Camille from being and interesting story, just a great one. Worth reading, however, for anyone who loves the art of Claude Monet.
This review is based upon an advance reader copy provided by Amazon.