Thursday, April 8, 2010

Book Club Exchange: Stephanie Cowell & Giveaway

I am so glad to welcome Stephanie Cowell, author of the new historical fiction book CLAUDE & CAMILLE. I recently read and reviewed this novel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought Ms. Cowell did a wonderful job of bringing the character of Claude Monet to life both as an artist and a man.

Ms. Cowell has taken time to write an essay for my Book Club Exchange feature where she discusses the role of book clubs in her life. I love how she not only writes about what it's like to be a member of a book club, but also what it's like to be an author of a book club worthy book!

I have been a member of only a few book clubs and those very briefly. We had one in an office where I worked; we brought and ate our lunches while we talked and I became aware of the minds and hearts of my colleagues in a very special way. Another one I attended I recall for its oddity, for we read a historical novel, and one member bitterly contested the right to a novelist to make up words or scenes for any historical character!

More often I discuss books passionately with close friends by e-mail and over coffee or wine. There is something so intense in discovering that a friend’s heart beats the same way to a particular book. It is a mutual exploration of love.

Most often, however, I have been invited to speak at book clubs and this has opened worlds to me. They have as often as not been held in a private house, and so I enter someone else’s life and the lives of their close friends. They are always very welcoming and I find each one different. I find they have chosen my book for different reasons. It is so wonderful to sit around and discuss why I wrote a book and have the book club members come forth with similarities in their own lives that led them to relate to my novel. There is a bond between people. And then the conversation falls away to the personal lives of the members (babies, jobs, houses, schools) and I get glimpses of communities different than mine. I am amazed always at how a book travels and to whom it travels.

I can remember an amusing incident. I was asked by someone to meet with their book club and, as I don’t drive, she picked me up at the train station. As we made our way through the suburban streets lit by house lamps shining from windows, she confessed that she had time to read almost all my book but the last several pages. Would I mind very much reading it aloud as she drove to see how it ended? I said of course, but it was not a long drive and I never read so fast in my life. I was sort of gasping when we arrived.

Discussing books opens the way to deeper friendships; we meet in a way we might not meet but through the pages of a book. I look forward to the privilege of entering the lives of more readers by phone or in person and sharing my latest novel, Claude and Camille: a novel of Claude Monet. I know there are many Monet lovers out there and I can’t wait to discuss how I saw him as a young man and how they imagine him. We will walk down the paths of our imaginations together.


Stephanie Cowell was born in New York City to a family of artists and fell in love with Mozart, Shakespeare and historical fiction at an early age. She began printing stories in a black and white school notebook at about nine years old and in hery teens wrote several short novels which remain in a dark box. She learned something though, because by twenty, she had twice won prizes in a national story contest.

Then she left writing for classical singing. She sang in many operas and appeared as an international balladeer; she formed a singing ensemble, a chamber opera company, and so on. The translation of a late Mozart opera returned her to writing once more and she now mostly sings while washing the dishes!

Her first published novel was NICHOLAS COOKE: ACTOR, SOLDIER, PHYSICIAN, PRIEST, followed by two other Elizabethan-17th century novels: THE PHYSICIAN OF LONDON (American Book Award 1996) and THE PLAYERS: A NOVEL OF THE YOUNG SHAKESPEARE. In 2004, she returned to her musical background and wrote MARRYING MOZART; it has been translated into seven languages and optioned for a movie.

She is married to poet and reiki practitioner Russell Clay and has two grown sons (one in computer systems design and one a filmmaker). She was born in New York City and is still living there, a short walk away from all the impressionist paintings at the Metropolitan Museum.

A huge thanks to Ms. Cowell for sharing some of her thoughts about book clubs. And I agree that her latest novel CLAUDE AND CAMILLE would make a wonderful pick for a future book club! If you are interested in participating in a future Book Club Exchange, please contact me at bookingmama(at)gmail(dot)com.

Giveaway alert: I just happen to have a copy of CLAUDE AND CAMILLE to share with one of you. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment telling me the name of one of your favorite painters. Don't forget your an email address so I have a way to contact you if you win. This giveaway will be open until Wednesday, April 21st at 11:59 p.m. ET, and I will notify the winner the following day. This contest is open to those of you in the US and Canada only -- no p.o. boxes please. Good luck!


Anonymous said...

"Discussing books opens the way to deeper friendships; we meet in a way we might not meet but through the pages of a book."

That is such a wonderful image, I couldn't help but repeat it. I think it is very true that you see different sides of people you already know through discussing books, or can get to know someone new throught their thoughts on reading. Lovely post!

Laura said...

I would love to win this book because my favorite artist is Monet!


My email address is

Linda said...

I don't feel like I know much about art or artists, but after reading Girl with a Pearl Earring, I became very interested in Vermeer. No doubt after reading this book, Monet will become a favorite. I do enjoy the Impressionist paintings. Thanks for the giveaway.

Mooma said...

Hmmm - so hard to choose! I like Van Gogh!
My e-mail is

bermudaonion said...

Can you imagine anything better than an author reading the last few pages of their book to you as you drove them to your book club meeting? No need to enter me.

Colleen said...

While I've always loved Monet, lately I've been into local artists, like our family friend Donna, who does wonderful landscapes.

colleenmckie at eastlink dot ca

Ruth said...

I have to admit that I am more a music person than an art person, but I do enjoy Michaelangelo and Vincent Van Gogh.

Carol D. said...

Well, of course, I love Monet, but I also have a large print of Paris Street, Rainy Day by Gustave Caillebotte in my office. The real painting is huge, and I saw it at the Kimbell museum in Ft. Worth. I fell in love imagining the stories behind all the people walking on the rainy Paris street.

Laura at Library of Clean Reads said...

I like Renoir paintings. How wonderful to have the author guest post about book clubs. I lead one and I think it's wonderful to get together and discuss books we love to read.
Please enter me in the giveaway.

Heather said...

It's so hard to pick! I love Vermeer, Van Gogh, Monet, I adore Asian styles, Renaissance styles, Impressionism, oh goodness I don't know Julie! I think today I'll say Seurat. Georges Seurat. That's my final answer. For today anyway. :)

hsfargis @ bellsouth . net

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this with us! Such a lovely post! I'll enter to win the book, but I know I will be seeking it out in any case. My favorite artist is Georgia O'Keeffe. I love the vivid colors.


Unknown said...

My favorite artist is Vermeer.
amandarwest at gmaildotcom

traveler said...

Thanks for this lovely giveaway. My favorite artist is Mary Cassatt. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

holdenj said...

I actually have a print of the cover piece in my living room. As much as I love Monet, I also like Raoul Dufy.

Darlene said...

Hi Julie, I've got this posted at Win a Book for you. No need to enter me.

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite painters is Andy Warhol :) *Thanks* for the giveaway!

Jenny Girl said...

Monet is one of my favs, but I also like John William Waterhouse, and John William Godward. There paintings are so beautiful.

Thanks for the contest and lovely review.

Stephanie Cowell said...

from the author of CLAUDE & CAMILLE: What a lovely group of comments! I love all the impressionists; they each speak to me. I have a blog about them with little stories called Everyday Lives of the French Impressionists: lots of things like the Morisot sisters and Renoir's wife and etc. Their lives were so shared. You can find the url on the back of the book jacket or on line. Anyway, thanks very much for all your posts and to Booking Mama for hosting my guest blog on her site! -- Stephanie

Unknown said...

Renoir :-)


Pam said...

Although I like Monet, I really love the work of the Group of Seven.

melacan at hotmail odt com

Amused said...

Thanks for hosting another great giveaway! I've always loved O'Keefe.

enyl said...

There are so many painters that I admire, here are just a few: Pieter Bruegal,Albrecht Durer,Raphael,Titan,Paolo Uccello, Jan Van Eyck,Thomas Hart Benton, Archibald Motley,Reginald Marsh,Henry Ossawa Tanner,Jacob Lawrence Mariso Escobar,and Salvador Dali.

Anna said...

Oh, how I would love to have an author read his/her books to me while I'm driving. Sounds better than the typical audiobook!

Actually, Monet is my favorite painter. I like several others that I learned about in my college Art History class, but that was so long ago I can't remember their names.

Diary of an Eccentric
diaryofaneccentrict at hotmail dot com

Unknown said...

Claude & Camille sounds like a wonderful book to read. I have always treasured Monet's art and have a few pieces on my walls.
Another great book that I would like to suggest is "Bedlam South," written by Mark Grisham. The story is about the Civil War and even though the focus is on the tragedy of war there is also an element of romance that is very engaging. The story is very moving and keeps you involved with the characters. There's a surprise twist at the end as well.

Kelly said...

My favorite painter would have to be Monet. I love his take on water lilies.

Anonymous said...

Would love to win this one. The speed reading car ride is a hoot!


GaryPaulson said...

Would love a chance to read & review this book!


Gary Paulson
Dogberry Pages
gary -- gmail -- com

Esme said...

My favorite painter is Claude Monet-I love Giverney and go to all museums that have his work on display.

Benita said...

I have to say Picasso, particularly his Blue Period and his early Cubist paintings.


Rachel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rachel said...

My favorite painters are Raphael and John William Waterhouse. Thanks for the giveaway!

Sandee61 said...

I have always enjoyed Vermeer, Monet and Renoir. I love art and there are so many artists, its hard to pick just one.



Nancye said...

I like Monet and Van Gogh

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

How did I miss this giveaway??!!
Love Edward Hopper!!
Please enter me!

DiRt said...

I am always looking for great new books to review, share with my students, and to enjoy. It would be great to win one, and save some of the teacher's salary money!

Margie said...

I like the works of Renoir.
Thanks for the giveaway.
mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

deirdre04 said...

Ooh, my faves are Vermeer and Dali, though I like Monet quite a bit, too.

Thanks for the giveaway!


Anonymous said...

I love the Impressionists and Monet is my favorite, so I would dearly love to read Ms. Cowell's book.


Finding My Muse

Kristen said...

I really like the Impressionists a lot but I also like the artist of sveral pieces in my parents' house. They are done by an 80+ year old French woman and they are generally of sailboats but they are amazingly cool with huge daubs of paint that create texture.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Pat said...

Monet has been my favorite artist since I was in my early 20s. Oh my, what a long time ago that was!