Friday, April 16, 2010

"Claude & Camille"

Stephanie Cowell is the author of Nicholas Cooke: Actor, Soldier, Physician, Priest, The Physician of London (American Book Award), The Players: A Novel of the Young Shakespeare, and Marrying Mozart.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Claude & Camille, and reported the following:
Page 69 in Claude & Camille: a novel of Claude Monet is actually an interesting page. The 25-year-old Claude, a struggling artist, has managed to get the lovely upper-class Camille to come to his studio alone to model for him. He’s trying to show her that all he wants to do is paint her (not quite true) and the first thing she sees on the wall is a female nude by his friend Renoir! Her parents don’t know she’s there; his roommate is away. There’s the early beginning of a great deal of sexual tension. Some short scenes later they will end up in his bed and she will live with him and enter into a life of great passion and great difficulties.

The book covers such a large span of time (from Claude’s first attempt at landscapes at age 17 to his rising against tremendous tragedies by the end of his 30s) that it is hard to say if this one page is typical. The novel begins when he is nearly sixty-nine in Giverny and on the cusp of his first great exhibition of his water lily paintings. He is also trying to make peace with his past and has written to Camille’s sister who holds him responsible for Camille’s early death. There is a great deal about Claude’s penniless painter friends (such as Renoir and C├ęzanne) who will, by the novel’s end, be known as Impressionists. The novel asks a question: is poverty and suffering and struggle for the artist and those who love him worth the art? Without it, would Monet have created his masterpieces?

So page 69 is one of the pages where you see how they are drawn together. The painting he begins on that page, The Woman in the Green Dress, will bring Claude his first great success. He cannot touch her because he has to stand aside to paint her as his ideal woman. She romanticizes loving an artist and he is very handsome; he is her ideal and she is his. It leads into the rest of the novel.
Read an excerpt from Claude & Camille, and learn more about the book and author at Stephanie Cowell's website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue