They were both astonished to have found each other. You are not a dream, they whispered to each other in the middle of the night.
Huff. When I did my review of Sunflowers: A Novel of Vincent van Gogh (Sheramy Bundrick), Holly brought the novel Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell to my attention. And I was ExcitedPants. I like Monet; he was involved in key parts of my childhood: My mother used to have a ginormous print of his in her office, and later he moved to the dining room. The painting as witness, and all that jazz.
But Claude and Camille easily became rather disappointing for me. I couldn’t finish it. I tried, dammit–I’ve been reading this book for weeks. I just gave up on it, decided to give up on it. Partly because of such high expectations not being met and the familiarity and fondness for Monet and his works. Partly because, well, I thought that the novel–beyond any preconceived notions I may have–just didn’t work. It wasn’t a very good novel, let alone a novel about an actual person.
Off the top of my head:
- Claude and Camille never transcended being characters–and they weren’t very well-written characters at that. There’s the struggling artist whose rather Meh, and there’s the woman he loves whose characters is defined as The Women Monet Loves.
- There’s nothing remotely romantic about this. In theory, it offered all–a novel of great passion and grand love, and so on. But when you hardly glance at the characters, you’re definitely not getting any romance.
- The language refused to move fluidly, even in scenes where it’s supposed to. I mean, I would have forgiven–even welcomed–some purple prose in, say, scenes of declarations of undying love. But I got a lot of clunk. I place high significance on how language is used in the text. I like language, I like words. And it just Clunk, Clunk, Clunk.
[Such a lackluster elaboration on my lackluster reaction to this lackluster book. Someone over at Amazon has more fire in him. And since I’m feeling meh and lazy about all this, you have to go there–I completely agree with everything he says.]
BUT I think I’m in the minority. Taking a look around book blogs: Jenn of Jenn’s Bookshelves called it “a well-rounded novel.” Julie of Booking Mama thought the characters were “extremely interesting and very well-developed.” Dawn of 5 Minutes for Books thought it was “wonderful.” And Amy of Passages from the Past thought that the novel was “by far one of the most beautiful books I have ever read.” So yeah. Just pointing that out.
I think maybe, partly, it’s a case of “not the right book”–hell, I wanted it to be the best book for me, waiting for this book to come out was like a peeing-my-pippets kind of thing. Obviously, I was not satisfied. But, but, but. Yeah.
From my Book Dump to yours:
If anybody wants my copy–near-pristine hardcover–just tell me in the comments. I feel like someone out there would love this book more than I do. Mae wants it, and yay, I’m sending it over. :) Thanks!
Reading begets reading: I saw Elizabeth Hickey’s The Painted Kiss in the bargain bin last night, and I really really really wanted to buy it–Gustav Klimt is probably my most favorite artist evahr. But my experience with Claude and Camille has made me antsy about reading more historical fiction on painters. Until I decide (having strategically hidden the book), I’m keeping the Amazon customer reviews in a window. Bah.