Camille Claudel: A Novel, by Alma H. Bond
2006. Publish America ISBN 1-4241-1670-8
Psychoanalyst Alma H. Bond has used the powerful medium of historic fiction to bring alive sculptress Camille Claudel, who endured a life of repression due to her sex. This novel is particularly poignant as it is written by the sculptress in first person, while Camille endured her last 30 years confined as insane in the asylum at Montdevergues, France.
Dr. Bond shows considerable skill in entering the mind and heart of the talented young lady, acquainting the reader firsthand with the thrills of discovering artistic talents in sculpting mud and then seeing it washed away just as many of us remember with our first sand castles, usually built too close to the waterline. And yet, through this device, and the readerís memory of such moments, she marries the reader to her heroine until we feel an intimate acquaintance and pity for the grand rewards this sculptress fully deserved but could never receive.
Instead, as Dr. Bond paints a tapestry of words, the reader sees this womanís awareness of her own talent come into play against family relationships and societal limitations on what a woman could accomplish. Her fascination with rocks, fabric, and the human form help the reader explore a few of the artistic challenges she met.
In her younger days she agrees with her brother, who says, "We will be the great ones of our time." Iíll be the great thinker and youíll be the great artist." But her brother is not always her full supporter, and, alas, the stature of greatness a male could enjoy at the time was not to be extended to this woman.
At the same time, we see this womanís passion for her work and great masters, especially the married sculptor Rodin, with whom she finally achieves her dream of becoming his lover. This lasts for ten years, and she carries a dream of marrying him for the rest of her life. Through her artistic travails in his studio, she comes to her highest achievements, and yet is pulled away until she is forced to fade into obscurity.
Dr. Bondís commensurate skill at entering the minds of her characters is on display throughout this delightful novel, which carefully accounts for every action and thought. If your interest is in just reading fiction, take this book home and enjoy it. And if your interest is also to witness society in France in the late 1800s, or to better understand Rodin and his mistress Camille, this book is a true treasure.
Bruce Cook, Ph.D.