Une Femme
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 From French author and producer DelbÇe, a fictionalized biography of current French feminist martyr Claudel, whose ill- starred life has also been the subject of a 1989 movie (Camille Claudel), as well as a play by DelbÇe. Reflecting its theatrical origins, the novel proceeds in a series of set pieces to tell the life of a talented woman doomed by a famous brother and even more famous lover. Born in 1864 to an ill-assorted couple, with a mother, provincial in habit and outlook, doing all she could to crush her daughter's spirit, Camille was determined from childhood to be a sculptor. Encouraged by her father, she took lessons and, when the family moved to Paris, was apprenticed to the much older Auguste Rodin, who--though immediately recognizing her tremendous talent--was equally ready to use it for his own ends, getting her to work on such pieces as the famed Burghers of Calais and Gates of Hell. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Paul, went on to become a famous poet. Camille soon became Rodin's lover, exhibited some of her own pieces, but found herself the subject of gossip and unkind speculation--her powerful and original work was thought to be really Rodin's. Rodin himself, unable to leave his loyal mistress, the aging Rose, was congenitally unfaithful, as well as overly demanding of Camille's assistance in his studio. He also seems to have stolen Camille's ideas, using one of her most cherished concepts for his famous statue of Balzac. Poor, unable to afford expensive sculpting supplies, and neglected by her increasingly famous brother, Camille began in 1906 a downward spiral into a madness that could confine her for 30 years to an asylum, where she died in 1943. A sorry tale of a wasted talent and life that deserves something better than this melodramatic, impressionistic account-- an account long on effects and short on insight. (Includes 16 pp. of original photographs of Claudel's work and life.)

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1992
ISBN: 1-56279-026-9
Page count: 320pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1992


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