Thursday, February 12, 2015

Rodin's Lover by Heather Webb

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours/Netgalley
Read: February 11, 2015

A mesmerizing tale of art and passion in Belle Époque France. As a woman, aspiring sculptor Camille Claudel has plenty of critics, especially her ultra-traditional mother. But when Auguste Rodin makes Camille his apprentice—and his muse—their passion inspires groundbreaking works. Yet, Camille’s success is overshadowed by her lover’s rising star, and her obsessions cross the line into madness. Rodin’s Lover brings to life the volatile love affair between one of the era’s greatest artists and a woman entwined in a tragic dilemma she cannot escape.

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Camille Claudel and Jessie Lipscomb
It's rare that I pick up a book with a premise I know nothing about, but that's exactly what happened with Heather Webb's Rodin's Lover. Before cracking this fiction I'd honestly never heard of Camille Claudel and the only thing I knew about Rodin came from Catherine Zeta Zones in 1999's The Haunting. A virtual blank slate, I had no idea where this story would take me, but I loved watching it come to light in Webb's hands. 

Camille was a difficult character for me to appreciate, but I liked Webb's interpretation of her just the same. This is a woman who is dedicated, imaginative and driven to succeed on her own merit, but she is also flawed. She is prone to jealousy and anger and suffers demons few if any can understand. She is complex beginning to end, an individual whose creativity is stifled by mental illness and I stand in awe of how Webb brought that concept to life. 

I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of time Webb spent in both Camille and Auguste's workrooms. I remember being disappointed with The Queen's Dollmaker and Madame Tussaud for the lack attention paid the heroine's craft, but Webb didn't gloss over Camille's passion, not by a long shot. She actually dedicates several pages to the art of sculpture and I think that went a long way in developing Camille's creative personality and illustrating how much of an anomaly she was as female artist in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Speaking of Rodin, I thought Webb's decision to alternate between Camille and her lover one of the most inspired aspects of the narrative. Unlike Abelard in The Sharp Hook of Love, Rodin's motivations and interest in Claudel are tangible and concrete. There is no ambiguity in his emotions or conflicting loyalties and I think Rodin's Lover a stronger piece for it. 

There is a large supporting cast, but I particularly liked Jessie Lipscomb. She is like Camille in some ways, remarkably different in others, but what I liked is that Webb didn't paint her as weak or inferior to Claudel. Jessie has a particular personality, a strength that contrasts and challenges Camille's and I thought that very interesting. There is a tendency to paint women as dominant or submissive, independent or reliant, and I liked how Webb's approach acknowledged the grey area in between and touched on the idea that people can vary and that doesn't necessarily make one better than the next.

The novel is long and slows in places, but I enjoyed the time I spent with Rodin's Lover. The material challenged me, but I don't think a bad thing and would certainly recommend the piece to fans of both historic and romantic fiction. 

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 She did not regret her suffering or the perception it had brought; it had taught her everything— it was a gift, even, allowing her to know, to absorb the emotions of others in all their intimacy, so she might depict their joys or exquisite pain. The beauty— that which she left behind— would transcend the tragedy of her life. This truth tingled in the depths of her soul and somewhere within she was proud.
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Check Out All the Stops on Heather Webb's Rodin’s Lover Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, January 19
Review & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Tuesday, January 20
Review at Broken Teepee
Spotlight at Boom Baby Reviews
Wednesday, January 21
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, January 22
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Friday, January 23
Review at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More
Monday, January 26
Review at Poof Books
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, January 27
Review at Library Educated
Spotlight at The Lit Bitch
Wednesday, January 28
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Thursday, January 29
Review at Book Babe
Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter
Friday, January 30
Review at Book Drunkard
Monday, February 2
Review at Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, February 3
Review at Caroline Wilson Writes
Interview at Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, February 4
Review at Brooke Blogs
Thursday, February 5
Review at A Book Geek
Monday, February 9
Review at A Literary Vacation
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Tuesday, February 10
Review at The True Book Addict
Wednesday, February 11
Review at 100 Pages a Day – Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Thursday, February 12
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Spotlight at Historical Readings & Reviews
Friday, February 13
Review at The Maiden’s Court
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection

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