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Claude & Camille: A Novel of Monet Paperback – April 5, 2011
"The Swans of Fifth Avenue" by Melanie Benjamin
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Aviator's Wife comes an enthralling new novel about Truman Capote's scandalous, headline-making, and heart-wrenching friendship with Babe Paley and New York's society "swans" of the 1950s. Learn more | See related books
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From Publishers Weekly
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More About the Author
Art has been in my life since my first memories; both my parents were artists and I grew up with the smell of oil paints and was taken to art galleries; the stories of the impressionists' lives and works are among my earliest memories.
I was born in New York City and fell in love with history, music, Shakespeare and art almost at once. I loved all things English and European.
I started to write stories very young, and by the age of twenty had won prizes twice in a national story contest. In my early twenties, I left writing and began to train my voice for opera, and as a lyric coloratura soprano sang many roles, including a great deal of Mozart. I also became a balladeer with a specialty in English folk songs, a lecturer on English social history, formed a classical singing ensemble and an opera group called Strawberry, for which I translated Mozart's "La Clemenza di Tito." This led to my return to writing.
"Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest" was published by W.W. Norton in the fall of 1993; it was followed by "The Physician of London" in 1995 and "The Players: A novel of the young Shakespeare" in 1997. "The Physician of London" won an American Book Award. "Marrying Mozart" was published in 2004, and has been translated into several languages: French, German, Italian, Polish, and Portuguese.
I am married to the poet and spiritual director Russell Clay. We make our home on the Upper West Side of New York City where we live in an apartment with thousands of books.
To me, being an historical novelist is one of the best things in the world!
Top Customer Reviews
The parts of this novel, which most impressed me, were those that were not only evocative of Monet's life with Camille. I love reading about Monet's interactions with his contemporaries, and I was immediately caught up, once more, in the Café where Renoir, Bazille, Pissarro, and other great artists met to discuss their plight, possible strategies for recognition, exchange of ideas, concepts, etc. [I would like to add that I was pleasantly surprised to see Courbet make an appearance.]
I am quite interested in the alliance between Bazille and Monet. I am most grateful that Stephanie Cowell expanded on this friendship. Bazille is depicted as emotionally, as well as financially supportive of Monet's work. Monet appeared to be rather dependent upon his kindness and generosity. Additionally, I enjoyed reading about Renoir's pragmatic attempts to engage Monet. It almost seemed as if Renoir wanted to protect Monet. I so love the work of all of these artists, as well as other great masters.
As mentioned above, the most engaging and authentic parts of this novel [for me] involve Monet's friendships, his need - dedication at all costs - to be the groundbreaking artist that he was. I simply joined them and reading parts of this novel were effortless. I derived much pleasure from accompanying these artists at the Café, standing on line with them, and hoping that their work would be accepted at the prestigious Salon.Read more ›
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.
There's a great deal more to Claude Monet than can be known from a casual glance at one painting. He was a young man once, in love with a girl even younger. Stephanie Cowell imagines them as a pair of dreamers: the man dreams of fame and wealth and the girl dreams that a poor artist in debt will give her a life of plenty someday. Their love is rocked again and again with each loss of faith. _Claude and Camille_ is the story of how it endures, until death takes the muse away from the man.
As fictional biographies go this one puts more stress on 'fiction' than 'biography,' with only the barest bones of Camille's life and character known fact. The rest is speculation, or pure imagination, as it would have to be with so little known about Camille today. I respect that Cowell told me this in the book's acknowledgements. I'm still a little uneasy with some of the liberties taken: certain plot points or scenes are good for drama, but whether they do a disservice to Camille's memory... well... it's something I could argue. I wish there were a way to know what Camille was really like. I think I probably would have liked her better in life.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
It was very slow paced. I love the Impressionists, so I persevered.Published 7 days ago by Lynn Maui
I've always been a fan of the Impressionist Period, but through this brilliant account, both real and imagined, I fell in love with the artists. Read morePublished 13 days ago by Colleen M. Dagenhard
Story of Monet's relationships with women, his artist friends, and supporters, with a lot of emphasis on his drive to paint and how it dominated and conflicted his decision-making... Read morePublished 18 days ago by Susan Andersen
The romance of Claude Monet and Camille, his lover and muse, was a very intriguing and well-written story. I loved it.Published 21 days ago by Marj Cullen
I loved this book. You felt you could actually see and know the hows and whys of the paintings that the Impressionists did. The love story was good, and ended sadly as it began.Published 25 days ago by Nancy Smith
A very enjoyable read and very informative about the lives of the impressionist artists.Published 27 days ago by Karen Herceg
This book continues to haunt me. You wanted to know these beautiful artistic people. I felt the timeless love of Claude and Camille and so understood that no matter how much... Read morePublished 1 month ago by janet norris
I enjoyed the background of the Impressionist movement. The love story was delightful. There were some historical inaccuracies that bothered me but it made me want to look up... Read morePublished 1 month ago
Tender, gritty, colorful and fascinating. Cowell paints a memorable group portrait of the artists/friends living in Paris, who were later dubbed the Impressionists, as they shared... Read morePublished 2 months ago by GoldenLightGirl