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Book Discussion Questions: Claude and Camille by Stephanie Cowell

Claude and Camille book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: Claude and Camille
Author: Stephanie Cowell
Page Count: 338
Genre: Historical, biographical fiction
Tone: Lush, leisurely

 

1. In the beginning of Claude and Camille, Monet’s mentor Boudin said “The only thing I see you lack Claude, is humility. When you learn that, you will do your best.” Do you believe that Claude ever learned humility? Was it necessary for him to succeed? Would Monet have been as successful if Boudin hadn’t challenged him?

2. Where did Claude Monet first see Camille? What was his reaction to her? Is Camille Claude’s muse?

3. What did  you think of the sexuality displayed in Claude and Camille? Did it surprise you?

4. Do you think Camille ever actually intend to marry her fiancé? What would lead you to that conclusion?

5. Claude and Camille ran off together and spent a week in Sevres (which, by the way, is Mt. Prospects Sister City). Claude had painted a picture of Camille (Women in the Garden) and as it was time to go back, he packed the picture away. He said, “My love is inside there now, my love is rolled away in darkness.” What do you think he meant by that? Was he talking about Camille or was the painting his love?

6. Camille is from a wealthy family and had a life of privilege. Do you think Camille realized how much her life would change when she defied her parents to live with Monet? If she had realized do you think she would have made the same choices?

7. What did Camille see in Claude? Why do you think they lived together and didn’t immediately get married?

8. What did you think of Camille’s parents’ attitude towards Claude? How would you feel if she were your daughter?

9. A recurring theme throughout Monet’s life is his refusal to take a job and his insistence on pursuing his art fulltime. What did Camille think about this? What do you think of this? Did you ever admire or agree with Claude’s choice to remain solely an artist? As an artist, do you think he could have achieved the success he did without solely concentrating on his art?

10. Do you think Claude’s father should have helped him more financially? What would you do if you had a budding Monet?

11. Did you wonder if Camille was mentally unstable?

12. When Camille thinks she is pregnant, Claude is clearly not happy, why is that? Why didn’t Claude and Camille marry when she discovered she was pregnant?

13. Claude goes to Le Havre to ask his father for more money after they learned of the pregnancy but he stayed there for quite some time. Why? What did you think of Camille’s reaction?

14. Camille’s first lover was Frédéric Bazille. He lets the cat out of the bag on the day Claude and Camille get married. Why then? Were you surprised to learn who Camille’s 1st lover was? Does Claude have a reason to be upset? Do you think Camille would have had a “better” life had she married Bazille?

15. There is a suggestion that Bazille was in love with Monet and Monet accepts this. What are your thoughts?

16. Was there any way that Claude could have prevented Bazille from going to war? If Frédéric had not died in the war would they have resumed their friendship?

17. Camille tells Claude that she gave up the Theatre for him. Is this a true statement? Why or why not?

18. After Claude and Camille’s argument at the house in Le Havre, Claude goes off to paint and Camille leaves the baby and goes to the shack where they made love. Claude comes home to find the baby crying and cold and angrily goes in search of Camille. What are your thoughts on both of their actions? Who do you sympathize more with?

19. After his suicide attempt, Claude writes Camille the most passionate letter of his life and then he leaves her to go to Le Havre. Why did he leave her? Why doesn’t he take Camille with him?

20. Camille’s uncle suffered a heart attack and she takes over the book store. She and Jean move into the rooms above it. Claude has been writing her sporadically. He writes her passionately and she is silent for three days and then her letter, when it comes, is “cautious.” How does Claude react to this? What does his reaction say about him?

21. How did you feel about Claude taking his family to London to wait out the war? Pissarro said, “…Our friends are safe and so are we….living our lives with the sole justification to paint…” What did you think of the artists? Do you think they were more important than common workers?

22. Monet and Camille were happy when Monet gets a lucrative commission from Ernest Hoschedé to paint some panels on the wall of the gazebo at his wife’s chateau. While there he becomes attracted to Alice Hoschedé. What do you think attracted him to her? Was she attracted to him?

23. Claude claimed to love Camille deeply. He had the example his father set of what happens to a relationship when there is infidelity and yet Claude had a tryst with Alice? Your thoughts?

24. Claude seemed very upset at the idea of Alice’s husband mismanaging her fortune and losing all those things she held dear. How is this different from how Claude took Camille away from her life of privilege and why does he feel so badly for Alice?

25. Claude eventually married Alice. Why? How was Claude and Alice’s relationship different than Claude and Camille’s?

26. Claude seemed genuinely upset over the death of Camille. He was an artist and he painted her on her deathbed as a way to keep her with him. Why was Camille’s sister Annette so horrified to see the picture Claude painted?

27. In the first  interlude Monet  is an old man working on his famous Water Lillies. He is having a difficult time and says, “What can these paintings of water lilies which are such a struggle for me have to do with my long lost love?” What do you think the lillies had to do with Camille? And why were they such a struggle for him?

28. Monet is writing to Camille’s sister Annette asking if she knows about Camille’s old love letters.  Why does he want to see letters written to another man? Why did Annette hate Claude? Why did Annette blame Claude for Camille’s death?

29. Did reading this novel affect how you regard Claude Monet? How?

30. Do you think it is necessary to understand art to love it? Can learning too much about an artist ruin your art appreciation? Explain.

 

Other Resources
Stephanie Cowell’s official book discussion questions
Lit Lovers‘ book discussion questions
Chocolate and Croissants interview
Huffington Post interview
Passages to the Past interview
Monet documentary

Be sure to stop at the second floor Reference Desk to ask about Claude Monet art history and coffee table books.

 

If you liked Claude and Camille, try…

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Hidden in the Shadow of the Master: The Model-wives of Cézanne, Monet, and Rodin by Ruth Butler
The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

The Painted Girls book cover     Hidden in the Shadow of the Master book coverThe Art Forger book cover

By Readers' Advisor on April 23, 2014 Categories: Art, Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Historical Fiction Books

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•   The Wives of Los Alamos by Tarashea Nesbit

•   The Winter King by Alys Clare

•   Somerset by Leila Meacham

•   The Daring Ladies of Lowell by Kate Alcott

•   Butterfly Palace by Colleen Coble

•   Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

•   A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger

•   Motherland by Maria Hummel

•   The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

New: Romance Books

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•  Betting the Rainbow by Jodi Thomas

•   Melting the Ice by Jaci Burton

•   The MacGregor’s Lady by Grace Burrowes

•   Huckleberry Hill by Jennifer Beckstrand

•   Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare

•   True Love by Jude Deveraux

•   The Seduction of Miss Amelia Bell by Paula Quinn

•   Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

By Readers' Advisor on March 28, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Fiction: Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley

Scarlett book coverYou may know that there is an authorized sequel to Gone with the Wind, but did you know that part of it takes place in Ireland? Not even quintessential Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara can resist the lure of the Emerald Isle. Leaving the Civil War and Reconstruction behind, Scarlett decides to explore her father’s working-class Irish roots in Scarlett: The Sequel to Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. Historical romance author Alexandra Ripley was hand-picked by Mitchell’s heirs to continue the epic story of Scarlett and her determination to embrace tomorrow. That journey leads her across the Atlantic to a very different life among the O’Haras of County Meath, but even the lush landscapes can’t fully distract her from the man who walked away.

By Readers' Advisor on March 17, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, Romance

Fiction: The 2014 Reading List Awards

Every Friday the Library will bring you short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

This week we invite you to check out The Reading List, which honors outstanding titles in the most popular categories. Here are the featured winners, and you can follow the link for the other finalists and readalikes.

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     -  AdrenalineRed Sparrow by Jason Matthews
     -  FantasyVicious by V.E. Schwab
     -  Historical FictionThe Outcasts by Kathleen Kent

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     -  Horror Last Days by Adam Nevill
     -  MysteryMurder as a Fine Art by David Morrell
     -  RomanceAny Duchess Will Do by Tessa Dare

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     -  Science FictionLove Minus Eighty by Will McIntosh
     -  Women’s FictionMe Before You by Jojo Moyes

By Readers' Advisor on March 14, 2014 Categories: Awards, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Horror, Lists, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense, Romance

Staff Pick: Gosford Park

Diane D.Are you hooked on Downton Abbey? Did you know the series was inspired by Robert Altman’s film Gosford Park? Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, won the Oscar for Best Screenplay for Gosford Park. Check out Maggie Smith as Countess of Trentham before she became Downton Abbey’s Countess of Grantham!

By Readers' Advisor on February 25, 2014 Categories: All Staff Picks, Historical Fiction, Movies and Television, Picks by Diane

Fiction: The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker

The Big Crowd book coverIf you want historical fiction set in New York, Kevin Baker is the author for you. His latest novel, The Big Crowd, explores the life of Charlie O’Kane – a real immigrant who came to NYC and worked his way up from beat cop to district attorney to mayor. Tom, Charlie’s younger brother, sees Charlie as everything good in a city that’s gone bad. The brothers live the high life…until Charlie is accused of murder and Tom sets out to clear his name. A sprawling family saga intertwined with a mob mystery, The Big Crowd is a great read for those who like dramatic historical fiction, The Godfather, or chronicles of New York.

By Readers' Advisor on February 20, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Historical Fiction Books

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•    Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival by Jenniver Chiaverini

•    The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell

•    An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris

•    Motherland by Maria Hummel

•    The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon

•    The Ghost of Mary Celeste by Valerie Martin

•    I Shall be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

•    Nostalgia by Dennis McFarland

•    The Lion and the Rose by Kate Quinn

•    The Kept by James Scott

New: Romance Books

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•    The Scandal in Kissing an Heir by Sophie Barnes

•    Hope Flames by Jaci Burton

•    Dark Wolf by Christine Feehan

•    How to Master Your Marquis by Juliana Gray

•    Sugar by Jenna Jameson

•    The Bride Says No by Cathy Maxwell

•    Wuthering Nights by I.J. Miller

•    First Love by James Patterson

•    Sweetest Mistake by Candis Terry

•    What Nora Knew by Linda Yellin

By Readers' Advisor on February 14, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance

Book Discussion Questions: Homer and Langley by E.L. Doctorow

Homer and Langley book cover

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points, if you have not read the book.

 

Title: Homer and Langley
Author: E.L. Doctorow
Page Count: 208
Genre: Historical fiction, Biographical novels
Tone: Lyrical, dark, complex

 

1. In an interview on NPR, E.L. Doctorow said that the first line of this book was pivotal for him; he could not have done this book without this 1st sentence. It implies the texture of the entire text. Does anyone remember the 1st line? What is its importance to the reader?

2. Given this opening, how do you think Homer emotionally and physically handled his blindness? Do you think it was a “normal” reaction?

3. Homer went blind in his last 14 years of life from a stroke, not in his earlier years. Does this change your opinion of him?

4. Do you remember the description of their house? Do you think of the house as a character as well as the setting?

5. Do you think the house’s condition reflects the brothers’ own physical and mental conditions?

6. How would you describe Homer at the beginning of the story? What about Langley? What were their parents like?

7. What events happen in Homer and Langley’s lives that change everything?

8. What was Homer’s reaction to his parents’ death?

9. What effect did the WWI have on Langley? Did it change him? How would the brothers’ lives have been different if there had been no war?

10. What was Langley’s “Theory of Replacements”? Does the theory have any merit?

11. Langley is obsessive in his quest to create one universal newspaper of “seminal events”. What categories were used by Langley so that the newspaper would be “eternally current”? Why was this project so important to him?

12. There was an eclectic assortment of people who came into Homer and Langley’s lives. Do you feel that the brothers collected people the way that Langley collected objects? Did these people have anything in common?

13. Besides Homer and Langley, who are the most memorable character for you and why?

14. At one point, the Collyer brothers host tea dances in their home and charge their neighbors for the opportunity to drink and dance. Are the tea dances connected to Homer and Langley later becoming reclusive? Were they ever raided? If so, what happened after they were raided?

15. When WWII begins, the Hoshiyama’s, American born people of Japanese descent, are persecuted. What happens to them? Why? Is this based on history? What was your reaction to their persecution?

16. After the Hoshiyama’s were sent to an internment camp Langley said, “…We are not free if at someone else’s sufferance…” What did he mean by that?

17. After Harold Robileaux is killed in Africa, Grandmamma goes to New Orleans to be with his wife and baby. “Grandmamma had been the last connection to our past. I had understood her as some referent moral authority to whom we paid no heed, but by whose judgments we measured our waywardness.” Do you think things would still have gotten so bad is she had not left the brothers?

18. What did you think of the gas masks Langley bought? Why did he buy them?

19. Do you think the Collyer brothers tried to be completely self-reliant? What were their tactics? Were they successful?

20. Do you think the brothers were any crazier than the people around them?

21. Why do you think the press became so interested in their predicament?

22. What is the importance of Jacqueline? Did she remind you of anybody of that era? Do you think Jacqueline actually existed?

23. Do you think it was a sacrifice for either brother to stay in the house?

24. As is often the case in historical fiction, the author took liberties with known facts about the Collyer brothers. Why do you think E.L. Doctorow made these changes and how does it affect the dynamics between the two brothers? Do you think these changes made the characters more sympathetic?

25. How heavily did the hoarding take up your attention as a reader? Do you think hoarding is an unsettling disorder to observe? Why or why not?

 

Other Resources

E.L. Doctorow’s website
Lit Lovers book discussion questions
Cornell University book guide
Weber State University book discussion
WNYC radio interview
Inside the Collyer home
Collyer brothers Wikipedia

 

If you liked Homer and Langley, try…

Spooner by Pete Dexter
Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things by Gail Steketee

Spooner cover     Keepsake coverStuff book cover

By Readers' Advisor on February 12, 2014 Categories: Book Discussion Questions, Books, Historical Fiction

Audiobook: Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin

Dangerous Women Playaway coverDanger can be alluring, frightening, and exciting all at once, and you won’t find a better illustration than in Dangerous Women, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. Whether your taste runs to female desperadoes, Scottish highlanders, warrior queens, femmes fatales, or modern magicians, you will be wowed by a carnival of choices offered by the best fan favorite writers of today. Diana Gabaldon, Jim Butcher, Lev Grossman, Sherilynn Kenyon, Carrie Vaughn, and Brandon Sanderson are among the standout contributors, and fans of Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series won’t want to miss the creator’s featured novella “The Princess and the Queen”. Intensify your thrills by listening to Dangerous Women in Playaway format, an easy-to-use portable player that holds an entire audiobook. Skip to the stories and narrators that tempt you most, but don’t be surprised if you devour them all.

Curious about Playaway and what the format has to offer?  Join us for Playaway Day on Saturday, February 1, 1-4 p.m., for giveaways and more information.

By Readers' Advisor on January 27, 2014 Categories: Audiobooks, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Historical Fiction, Mysteries/Thrillers/Suspense

New: Historical Fiction and Romance

Every Friday the Library will bring you two short lists of buzz-worthy books in a rotating series of popular genres.

For these and other fresh reads, stop by the second floor Fiction/AV/Teen desk. While there, talk to a Readers’ Advisor about new and old titles tailored to your taste.

Get your reading glasses on, because here we go!

New: Historical Fiction Books

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By Readers' Advisor on January 17, 2014 Categories: Books, Historical Fiction, New Arrivals, Romance